These tips on how to start a book club include a list of the best books for groups to read and discuss. Learn how to create an interesting, fun, creative book club from scratch!
A friend asked me how to start a book club, because I started a book club in Deep Cove and am volunteering to facilitate a book club at a senior’s home in North Vancouver. Here are my best tips for starting a book club in your community…
If you’re part of a book club – or if you started one – please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts below. You can call yourself anonymous if you’re worried someone from your book club will recognize you – or you can comment under names like Jane Austen or Fodor Dostoevsky.
One thing I’ve never done in my book club is encourage members to wear clothes or bring food that symbolizes the theme, characters, setting, or plot of the book. Except once! When we read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of my fellow Bookworms encouraged us all to wear accessories of the 1920s. We also played the Robert Redford version of the Gatsby in the background, during our meeting. Maybe in the future we’ll take a break from discussing books and watch The Great Gatsby movie with Leonardo diCaprio!
During our last meeting, a Bookworm encouraged us all to bring an object that represented something in the book Cutting for Stone. That was a great idea. See how creative book clubs can be? That’s the first thing to remember when you’re wondering how to start a book club: you are free to be unique and creative.
How to Start a Book Club
Here are a few questions about starting a book club, plus my experiences.
How will you advertise your new book club? I put a notice on Vancouver’s Craigslist, the Community Events section of the North Shore News (our local paper), and my Facebook page. It was just a simple “I’m starting a book club in Deep Cove, North Vancouver” and invited people to email me for details. I also posted a notice at Parkgate library and our local community centre in Deep Cove.
What will you call your book club? The book club I started is called Bookworms, which is easy and cute. I recently joined another book club in North Vancouver, called Between the Wines. The book club I belonged to on Bowen Island was called Overreaders Anonymous, and I know of a book club called Between the Sheets. You don’t necessarily need a name before you start your book club – you can invite members to brainstorm with you.
How will you choose books to read? I encourage my book club members to suggest titles of books they’ve already read or that they’d like to read. I personally would love to read the recent books nominated for prizes like the Orange or Giller, but have found that they’re too difficult for everyone to obtain and read in a month. Which leads me to my next tip on how to start a book club…
Will you use book sets from the library? I just joined Between the Wines, and the facilitator borrows book club sets from the library. She distributes them to each member, so we don’t have to worry about how to get the book for the next meeting! We can start reading right away. This is amazing; it is such a relief to just get the book from her. But, this limits us in terms of what books we read – we are limited to the book club sets from the local library.
Where and how often will your book club meet? So far, all the book clubs I’ve attended meet at members’ homes every month (e.g, the first Tuesday of the month). The host or hostess provides beverages (vino me please!), and everyone else brings an appetizer or dessert to share. The meetings generally last a couple of hours.
Will the meetings be facilitated – and by whom? The book club I attended on Bowen Island (which gave me tips on how to start a book club in North Vancouver) always had a “Presenter.” This person chose the book to read, brought book club questions, and facilitated the discussion. I especially liked when the Presenter shared interview with the author, especially when the interview was “live” (on live radio or tv talk shows like Larry King, George Strombolopolous, Jian Ghomeshi, etc). I think it’s important to have a Presenter, because it formalizes the discussion and information.
Is your book club open or closed? I’ve never attended a “how to start a book club” session, but I know our local library has offered them. I believe one of the tips from that session is to limit the number of people who can join your book club in a given time period. Potential new members are put on a wait list. I wouldn’t do this, because I want my book club – Bookworms – to be open and inclusive. Many of these questions on how to start a book club can be discussed during your first meeting, so you can get a feel from the members about what they’re looking for.
Who will take care of the administrative details? If you’re starting the book club, then you’re probably the person who will gather email addresses, create an email list, and keep members notified of upcoming meetings. You might also create an information sheet that includes members’ physical addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, suggested books, and date they joined the book club. Also, it’s good to keep a list of books you’ve already read as a group.
I like print books better than ebooks, but I have to admit that the Kindle is super handy. The original Kindle is less than $70, and reduces the cost of buying print books.
If you’re not comfortable speaking in front of a group of people, read 5 Secrets of Great Public Speakers.
A list of books I loved discussing with my book clubs:
- Room by Emma Donoghue
- Annabel by Kathleen Winter
- Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
- The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
- We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Resources on How to Start a Book Club
- Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs by Cindy Hudson (an interesting idea for a book club!)
- Your local library or community center
- Me! Ask me questions about how to start a book club below – I’m happy to help out if I can
Phew! Those are my thoughts on how to start a book club. As I mentioned at the beginning, please feel free to share your thoughts on starting, facilitating, or attending a book club.