Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Starting a Book Club

Book clubs are a great way to both discover new writers and develop new friendships. Many readers, however, do not have a book club they can easily join, and are unsure how to start one themselves. However, starting a book club is far easier than most would imagine.

All you really need to start a book club is two or more friends or acquaintances who share a love of books and reading. Co-workers, neighbors, and friends from church or other organizations are all people you can ask to join your book club, as long as they share your love of books. They do not have to love the same types of books, however; discovering new books, authors, and genres is part of the joy of being part of a group of fellow book lovers.

It is best to limit the group to a small number at the outset; no fewer than three and no more than eight is probably a good guideline. If there are too few it will be difficult to get a good discussion started, and with too many someone will invariably be a wallflower and never join the discussion. And the discussions will lead you in directions that will both surprise and enlighten you.

Once the membership of the book club has been determined, there a some logistical items than need to be taken care of, such as how often you will meet, where the meetings will be, and in what order people will choose the book the group will be reading. These may seem like insignificant issues, but they are actually critical for the club to run smoothly and keep members interested and engaged.

In most cases, meeting once a month will give time both for everyone to read the current selection and to arrange things like childcare for the meeting night. The order in which people will choose the book to be read can be done in any number of ways, from alphabetically by name to drawing names out of a hat. It may make sense for the person who organized to group to choose the first book, and then follow the decided upon order after that.

Book clubs can meet almost anywhere, from the house of the person who chose the current book to a restaurant or coffee shop. You can also take trips to museums or art galleries if they match up well with the subject matter of the book. Just be sure to leave plenty of time for discussion. The person who chose the current book should have questions prepared before the meeting in order to both stimulate the discussion and keep the conversation on topic.

Over time, usually during the first year, one or more people will drop out of the club and others will be added. As time goes on, you will have a feel for what the right size for your group is, and may choose to either expand it to more than the original number or to keep it at the same size. You will also learn what types of book will or will not work for your particular group.

Finally, while each person will tempted to choose a favorite book to share with the group, one they have already read (and should re-read when the group does), one of the most rewarding things about a book club is discovering new authors, especially ones you would never have chosen if left to pick for yourself. In this way book clubs open up new worlds of reading and expand your horizons, both in the literary sense and in our view of the world. There will inevitably be books most of the group hates, but even this can be a valuable experience, as knowing what you don’t like helps steer you toward what you do like.

So don’t be afraid to start your own book club. Reading is a solitary endeavor, but paradoxically one that can and should be shared with others. Discussing books with friends is a great way to strengthen the bonds of friendship and share something you all love.

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