Book Groups * Reading Circles * Book Clubs * Buddy Reads *Bookstagram
Whatever you call them and whatever their form, these brilliant events connect bibliophiles with a shared love of reading and build lasting friendships.
I’ve been in a neighborhood book club for nearly 15 years, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. Over the years, we've lifted each other as we shared births, deaths, new jobs, moves and marriages.
It’s challenging to keep a book group fresh and fun, but I learned a few tricks over the years. Read on to find my top ten tips for starting or igniting your bibliophiles.
THE most important trick
with new or established book groups ...
Get your book group
on the same page
before you begin!
Hold an organizational meeting
and agree up front
on these 10 things first ...
Some groups pick only romance, thrillers or non-fiction or rotate among different genres. Others have a theme, like Debra’s book club, that delved into Newberry Award winners for one year. My book club is flexible, but we agree to stay away from violence, erotica, and divisive religious or political content.
Check out the sample below of our group's picks from the last 14 years.
Which of these novels have you read?
Any favorites on there?
2. Book selection
One reading group I know designates a single person to pick what the group reads. Our book club host, the discussion facilitator, offers 2-3 titles she’d like to lead, and the group chooses one by consensus. That way, everybody has a turn with a book they love, and we discover fab books we’d never consider on our own.
Is a book's length important to the group?
Some people want quick reads under 350 pages. Others are open to longer tomes, like the brilliant The Lincoln Highway and its nearly 600 pages.
How about budget? Book buying gets expensive, so consider books you can borrow from the library. Many libraries even offers book club kits, multiple copies of the same title you can check out for an extended period.
So many options for how to gather these days! Not like when our book club started in 2008.
My neighborhood book group was adamant about rotating monthly meetings in our homes. The toughest part was coming up with dates and times we were all free to meet. It still isn't easy juggling jammed schedules, and we adjust when we need to.
Other bibliophiles don’t want to mess with house-cleaning and hosting, so they meet at nearby coffee shops or book stores.
You can also read with Jenna, Reese, and Oprah, or join one of a gazillion online groups.
Christine, The Uncorked Librarian, from near-to-me Asheville, North Carolina, runs one of my favorite online groups. She features delicious travel/foodie/bookish monthly content and keeps a lively Facebook page that draws book lovers from around the globe.
Our book group switched to virtual during Covid. Zooming monthly with my bookish friends during lockdown was a lifeline!
Carmela is crazy about her buddy read with one other friend.
Aiming for a bigger circle? Five to 15 peeps is best. It’s a manageable number for hosting and conversation. Plus, unless you live in a castle or meet at a commercial site, you’ll need a sizeable space to fit everyone.
If you’re a serious reader, you won’t be happy if you’re dying to talk about the book you love and the group never discusses it because they're too busy socializing.
And if you’re a social butterfly, being with bibliophiles geeking out over their reading experience won’t suit, either.
Our book club does both ...
First, we discuss the novel for as long as it takes (usually 30-45 minutes).
Then we socialize after (also as long as it takes -:D).
6. Communication and Organization
Nobody wants a time-suck.
For me, that would be messing with administrivia, so I was delighted when Margaret Ann was in our book club. She was a one-woman army who loved keeping everything and everyone together.
When Margaret Ann moved away (boo-hoo), Donna found us a free online tool, Book Club. This app coordinates and sends meeting reminders, suggests books to read, tracks book choices, maintains our meeting calendar, manages RSVPs, and can fly us to the moon (just kidding about that last one, but it felt like it could!).
7. No Pressure
Life gets in the way, so make it easy for people to take part.
Our group has an unwritten rule: no pressure.
They understand that I don’t set out fancy food or decorate when I host. Those things aren’t in my wheelhouse, and they stress me out. Instead, I find finger food at Trader Joe's to prep in five minutes, cut a few blooms from my garden, and offer simple beverage choices: water, iced-tea, coffee and wine. That’s it. They’re happy and I’m not stressed.
No guilt if somebody can’t make a reading, either.
Our group encourages people to read book summaries if they can’t finish a novel (gasp!)
just come to relax and mingle with friends if they need a break from work or kids.
Change is a fact of life, so expect it. Over the years, our book group has lifted each other through births, death, marriages, moves, new jobs, joys, and illness. My group even invited me to do author readings and were beta readers for my last book. (Hope they will also beta read my rom com.)
Besides reading, what else do your bibliophiles love? Encourage them to bring those passions into the group. For instance....
Linda decorates a table straight out of Southern Living
and whips up a low-country meal
to match the setting of her Pat Conroy book.
Grace is brilliant at finding author interview videos
for her non-fiction picks
that leave us eager to dive into her fomerly-dry-to-us subjects.
Rosie can't wait to match food, drink, decorations and clothing
to book themes.
Me? I enjoy facilitating (my background before authoring) and experimenting with different ways to talk about books. Once, we kicked off Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven by talking about the most unique skill each of us could bring to a post-apocalyptic civilization and how we'd personally survive.
Another time, I ran Literary Scrambled Eggs. Slipping quotes from our book into plastic eggs, I asked people to guess which character uttered them (it was okay to look in the book - see #7 and #10).
Even if you talk serious book stuff, always leave room for fun.
Our book club gets together outside book club for lunch, coffee, or downtown strolls.
That's a wrap for my top ten book club tricks, so now you know!
If you're in a book group ....
I'd love to know what you enjoy most about it. Which of these 10 tricks have you used or might consider? Do tell what tips you'd add to this list, so we can try them, too.
And if you're not in a reading circle ....
what would your ideal one look like?
Please share in the comment section.
All photos by Cat Michaels except where noted
CAT'S CORNER ON BREAK UNTIL JUNE
I am beyond excited!
I'm hosting a grand family reunion at the end of April...
first time in five years
I can hug my peeps in person
first time ever meeting 3 new Littles!
I'm taking a break to focus on this precious family time
so no Cat's Corner for May. Can't wait to share more -:D!
Catch y'all in June!
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