Book clubs are popular places for book readers, but running a successful book club is not as easy is it may seem. Here are some tips for starting and running a club that meets the needs of its members.
1. Set a limit of no more than 12 people. Why? You want the group to remain small enough so that each member feels comfortable expressing his/her views. Big groups can become impersonal or be dominated by a few people.
2. Set a regular meeting schedule. Once a month should work in most cases.
3. Find non-public meeting places. A group I belong to met in the lounge area of a supermarket for a while. Sometimes it was so noisy we couldn’t hear each other.
4. If you meet in homes, rotate if possible.
5. Minimize the social aspect of the meetings if that means the host is expected to provide food and beverages. Let people bring their own if they need such.
6. Decide on what genres the members want to read. Some groups only read fiction; others non-fiction; others rotate. Within fiction, decide if all genres are acceptable or if you want to eliminate some.
7. Rotate book choices among the members. That puts an obligation to each member to actively seek out good books. It’s not good for just one or two people to make those decisions, and it eliminates having to vote each time from a list of books no one has read.
8. Let the person who nominated the book lead the discussion. This encourages each member to be active and avoids over-reliance on one or two.
9. Avoid starting the book discussion on “like” versus “dislike.” Instead have the discussion leader start by presenting what s/he feels the author was trying to accomplish in writing that book. Then move on to was s/he successful in your opinion and why.
10. It’s okay to read reviews and bring to the discussion what reviewers said about a book. That doesn’t mean they are correct, but reviewers usually offer views worth discussing.
11. Encourage each member to speak…Going around the room isn’t a bad idea especially early in the discussion.
12. Let people know it’s okay to disagree, but based on analysis––not superficial aspects, such as “I had to look up too many words in the dictionary” or “there was too much sex or violence.”
13. Have an established ending time for the meeting. If the meeting is scheduled from 7:30 to 9:00 for example, people come knowing they’d better be ready to contribute or else people will start feeling the group is a waste of time. They’ll also appreciate if it ends on time.
Book clubs can be fun; plus you’ll get to read books you might never have come across on your own. Comments on what you find works best are welcome.