Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How to Start a Book Club That's Fun and Interesting

How to Get a Social Group Together

for a Successful Book Club...

It is not difficult to get a book club started since many of us love to read books and talk about them with friends. The key to a successful club is to keep members actively involved, eager to participate, and looking forward to each meeting. Book clubs are a great social activity that can really enrich your life. Here's how you can start your own:

1. First, think of the kind of group you want to have (nearby neighbors, close friends group, or an open call for new members in your building, people at work, or charitable organisation, etc.)

2. Approach two or three people and ask if they are interested to get the ball rolling, or if you have a great response from the number of people you want, then just get an email list started! Having the number of members under 12 is a manageable size. Anything larger may need a more formal structure, and members to rotate responsibilities. Don't be afraid to ask others to help you.
3. Come up with a book for your first selection just to get the club going and to schedule a meeting. Since you are initiating this, you can suggest a few titles and take a vote. Anything to get the process going quickly while everyone is still interested.
4. If at first you only have a few (or two!) members, don't be discouraged. The word of the club will spread, and it will grow quicker than you might imagine!

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5. At your first meeting, you can discuss the kind of books you'll read, how you'll select a book (random pick from a hat of titles, everyone take turns selecting, anyone can offer a suggestion, etc.), how often you'll meet (once a month, every 8 weeks, etc.), when you'll meet (on Friday nights, Sunday evenings, Thursday nights, etc.). It's important to schedule a day/time that suits all members. Be punctual and end on time. This keeps everyone happy. Encourage everyone to commit a few hours for this activity for themselves!
6. The host can send out a meeting reminder, provide snacks/drinks for everyone, and most of all, a comfortable place to sit and share your thoughts (this means no interruptions from spouses, children, phones, pagers, etc..) Meetings generally last between an hour or two.
7. You can decide to pick a new selection at every meeting, or publish a list of titles and assign the order in which you'll discuss them. Encourage everyone to keep a list of books (or authors) they're interested in reading. The variety of material you read with input from each member helps keeps members engaged in the club.

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8. Some publishers have Book Club reading guides, or Discussion Questions published online or at the end of the book, so make sure you take advantage of that to get a good discussion going. Encourage everyone to read the book and think of what they liked most, and what they didn't like. Encourage the discussion to flow freely, from the book to other events in your lives.
9. Snacks, drinks, music can be based on the theme of the book if applicable. Encourage simplicity, so no one feels pressure to 'put on a great show' when they host, but actually are enthusiastic about doing so!
10. Some meetings can be 'Field Trips' to a play, restaurant, movie, author's book reading, or other venue inspired by the book selection. Although not easy to accomplish very often, group outings are really fun and enrich your experience within the book club.
11. Invite guest speakers to your meetings that have something to say about the book or topic you are reading. You can even request a visit from the author if possible! Guest speakers add a whole new dimension to your club and keeps the discussions fresh.
12. Agree that you can all have very different opinions making group discussions interesting. Encourage everyone to set a non-judgemental tone to the club and provide an open minded forum (or you'll just get everyone simply nodding in agreement and not adding to the dialog.)
Above all, enjoy each others company, keep it light, and don't take it too seriously!
These are some key ideas to keep a club engaging, after all, the whole purpose is to encourage social interaction. With that in mind, your book club should go on year after year!


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