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  • Heather McDorman

Building a Fulfilling Book Club in 10 Easy Steps


Four women chatting about a book over coffee and treats.

Are you a book lover looking to connect with like-minded people and dive deeper into your favorite reads? Starting a book club might just be the perfect solution. A well-organized book club can bring people together, spark engaging discussions, and create a strong sense of community.

I’m very fortunate to be a member of two small book clubs. I enjoy the people and the selections in both clubs, but they are different – and that’s fine with me.

One book club is a long-standing group in which I’m the newest member. My friend, Laurie (Friendsville Square guest blogger extraordinaire) invited me to join (I was stoked). The group (6-7 women strong) has known each other several years, and they welcomed me with open arms.

I’ve enjoyed getting to know the women and exploring some more sophisticated book titles than I might have chosen. I also appreciate that there is a lot of flexibility and grace among these ladies – they do not judge you if you don’t finish the book (or just couldn’t get into it). We enjoy a nice meal, engage in good book conversation, and generally catch up with one another. Unlike some clubs, they don’t subscribe to a strict meeting schedule. So we may meet every other month, or it may take a few more months to get us together (schedules are tough, right?).

Book club number two is a tight-knit group of four women who happen to meet pretty regularly at six-week intervals. Book selections are typically a bit more mainstream, which I really like, too. It’s nice to have some variety between the two clubs, so that’s two thumbs up from me. In this group, we are all retired, so schedules are much more pliable. Book discussions have been fun, and it’s been a blast trying out new dining options for our meetups. Recent tidbit … this month’s book was a thumbs down for each of us. Via text, we all agreed to dump it before our scheduled September gathering (and, no, I’m not sharing the dumpee’s title – no judging, ha).

I share all this to say that if you're ready to embark on this literary adventure, I don’t think you will regret it – reading books sparks the mind and meetings with your fellow readers feeds the soul. Want to start a club of your own? I offer these 10 easy steps to help you put together a fulfilling book club.

Step 1: Define Your Book Club's Purpose and Vision

A successful book club starts with a clear purpose and vision. Ask yourself: What do you want to achieve with your book club? Is it about exploring diverse genres, engaging in thought-provoking discussions, or simply having fun? Define your club's goals and the kind of atmosphere you want to create.

Step 2: Gather Enthusiastic Members

Reach out to friends, family, coworkers, or even online communities to find potential book club members who share your passion for reading. Aim for a diverse group to bring in a variety of perspectives and insights. Keep the group size manageable — around 6 to 8 members is ideal for meaningful discussions (although smaller can work well, too).

Group of people talking about the same book.

Step 3: Selecting the Right Books

Choosing the right books can help keep your book club engaging. Rotate genres, authors, and themes to cater to different tastes. Take member suggestions and vote on upcoming reads to ensure everyone's input is valued; or the group can simply rotate who decides on each month’s book. Keep a balance between challenging reads and lighter choices to keep the discussions interesting.

Step 4: Establish a Reading Schedule

Decide on a reading schedule that works for everyone. A monthly meeting is often a good starting point. This gives everyone ample time to read the chosen book without feeling rushed. Some groups need longer timelines – it just depends on your group.

Step 5: Create a Comfortable Meeting Space

Whether you meet in person or virtually, ensure the meeting space is comfortable and conducive to open discussions. If meeting in person, consider rotating meeting locations to give everyone a chance to host. If you like the restaurant idea, you can keep it low key or try to find a spot that fits with the theme/location of the book. For virtual meetings, platforms like Zoom or Google Meet can provide seamless communication (these platforms kept us going through the pandemic).

Man engaging with book club using Zoom.

Step 6: Prepare Thoughtful Discussion Questions

To fuel engaging conversations, prepare a list of discussion questions before each meeting (check your book – there may be questions for book club discussions at the end of the book). These questions might range from character analysis to exploring the book's themes, symbolism, or just meaningful passages. Open-ended questions encourage deeper thinking and help avoid one-word answers.

Step 7: Foster a Respectful Environment

Encourage all members to share their thoughts without fear of judgment. Respectful disagreement can lead to the most enlightening discussions. If needed, you could establish ground rules for discussions, such as taking turns speaking, avoiding spoilers, and allowing everyone a chance to contribute.

Woman listening to others share their thoughts at a book club.

Step 8: Incorporate Activities

To spice up your book club meetings, you might consider adding activities related to the book you've read. Consider a themed potluck, a movie night to watch an adaptation, or even a creative project inspired by the book.

Step 9: Embrace Flexibility

Life happens, and sometimes members might not be able to finish the book or attend a meeting. Embrace flexibility and ensure that missing a meeting or not finishing a book isn't a cause for stress. The goal is to enjoy the process of reading and connecting.

Step 10: Celebrate and Reflect

After finishing a book, take a moment to reflect on the discussions, insights gained, and the connections made. This is also a great time to select your next book and a point person who might host the next gathering or make restaurant reservations.

 

Starting a book club is a rewarding project that offers intellectual stimulation, emotional connections, and the joy of discovering new stories. These steps can help you create a book club that not only enhances your reading experience but also brings a vibrant community of readers together.

Happy reading! If you are a part of a book club, tell us what makes your group special in the comments.

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