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How to Run a Successful Book Club or Reading Group

Deborah Maclaren

By Deborah Maclaren on 9th July 2020

So, you love reading right? But are you in a book club? Have you always hankered after being part of a reading group? If so, well what are you waiting for? LoveReading gives you some great hints and tips to help you run a successful club to talk all things books!

For the last two years we have run a successful blog series – Book Club of the Month.  This has not been active for a while because of the obvious, but we are starting it up again with a bang!

Research recently commissioned by The Reading Agency has shown that being a member of a book club or reading group makes you happier, widens your reading habits and helps you enjoy books even more. The wonderful groups of book lovers we have featured each month; have shared their own experiences of reading together and have given us all some inspiration for the future!

We think book clubs are a brilliant way to share your love of reading and they give you a unique way to celebrate books and initiate friendly discussion about authors, genres, characters, plot twists and turns – and how it all makes you feel.

If you’re thinking of taking the plunge…here are some helpful hints that we have gathered from our book club contributors, on the things you’ll need to consider:

1. Recruiting your members. There are tons of ways you can recruit your members in this digital age. Which one might work best for you?

  • Post on social media asking if any friends would like to join, ask your contacts to share
  • Pop a flyer up in local high-traffic sites
  • Ask at your local library
  • Once recruited, set up a Facebook Group to share news and updates

2. Decide the frequency of your meetings. Most book cubs we know meet monthly though they only usually manage 10 times a year as August and Christmas is sometimes difficult. Don’t forget, there’s no right or wrong way, just whatever works best for your members and their busy lives.

3. Have a schedule that doesn’t move. Make your club the same time and same day every month so that becomes the regular fixture; and gives less chance of clashes and moves. If a meeting gets cancelled, reschedule it immediately. If they are infrequent, some of our book club friends use apps like Doodle to help schedule their dates.

4. Decide on the format of your meetings.

Where is it going to be?

  • In a local café with coffee/tea and cake if it's a daytime meeting
  • In your local library
  • In a local pub with a reserved table in a quieter spot if it’s an evening meeting
  • Or if it’s a smaller group, would you like to take turns to host in your own homes with wine, nibbles and plenty of chat

5. Decide how you select your books. We have heard of lots of ways this can be done, choose which one works best for your group:

  • Democratically, after selecting a shortlist of new books
  • A different member takes a turn to choose a book each month
  • Every person who comes along enthuses about 1 book (sometimes 2) that they read recently and loved and want to recommend
  • By using a random name picker app; the person selected is tasked with choosing their book within three days
  • All suggestions go in a bag. Whoever hosts the meeting will pick one of the "books" out the bag which we will read that month.
  • Choose ten books a year.  One is chosen from The Booker Shortlist, one is a classic and one is chosen from a 'game’ played.
  • Each December, you could bring along a list of 3 or 4 descriptions of books that everyone would like to be considered. At least one is selected from each members list. This gives a wide range of books to read and means everyone has had a choice. Choosing them in December means there is plenty of time to source them (some members get them from the library, some from charity shops, some put them on their Christmas list, and some add them to their online wish list and buy them when they are on offer). 
  • Everyone has the chance to suggest books to be read. Each month titles are selected which represent a variety of genres and themes. An online vote is set up, and the top title is chosen.

6. Make sure everyone talks. This isn’t the time to push people into contributing but try and make sure that all of your group members get the chance to speak, ask questions, or start a conversation. When more people feel seen and heard, the discussion will flow freely.

7. Craft thoughtful discussion questions. Getting a conversation started can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. When drafting your own talking points, generate questions or prompts that are open-ended. Here at LoveReading we select a perfect book club read every month so if you are looking for recommendations, take a look at our Book Club Recommendation section of the site, and we will supply a ready-made list of book club questions and discussion points to help structure your book chat!

8. Keep notes. The best way to ensure future success is to keep track of everything: meeting locations, guided questions, and more. The more organised your group is, the more likely people will attend your meetings on a regular basis.

9. Keep a record of all of the books you read together. You’ll regret if it you don’t. And it’s a great way of looking back and remembering what you’ve read together and also for choosing a variety of genres (if that’s what you want to do).

And here are some of the top tips our featured book clubs have shared with us:

  • Keep it informal, do not be too prescriptive
  • Make people welcome. Make it clear that it doesn’t matter if they haven’t finished the book (or even started it), they are still welcome
  • Just do it, if you want to be in one, see if there's one you can join or make your own one
  • Be prepared to start small and be open to members of all ages
  • You will read books you may not have chosen, so be prepared to challenge your reading habits and challenge yourself
  • Just go for it. Don't be scared, there are people out there in the same boat as you, who love books and who want to have book-related conversations too 
  • Just do it and stick with it, even if numbers fall 
  • Listen to the group. The books have to pique their interest
  • Be creative with your selection process and try to be open to different styles, authors and genres. 
  • Make sure everyone knows their opinion is valid and carries equal weight, whether they’re a seasoned bookworm or a complete novice. Above all, keep pleasure at the heart of every meeting

If you want to read more about Book Clubs, read our Book Club of the Month blog features.

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