For some people books are truly an addiction. Forget cigarettes or alcohol, get them a book. They get excited when walking through the library and make any excuse to go to a bookstore. They love reading and they love talking about reading. If you are one of these people, you may want to consider putting together a book club so that you can socialize with others who have this bibliophilic illness. Actually, you don’t have to be a bookworm to love a good book club. In fact for some non-reading obsessed people, book clubs are a good way to find good books to read and have a reason to actually read them. If you are considering putting together a book club, there are a couple of things for you to decided.
First, you should check to see if there is a book club in the area with similar interests. Before you take the time to put together your own, you may want to see if what is already available suits you. If you can’t find a club that suits your interests, time schedule, etc, then you can begin the process of planning your own.
When setting up your book club, you will need to envision your ideal end result. What age would you like participants? Would you like the participants to me mixed gender or single gender? (Mixed gender may bring you a wider variety of experiences and comments, but it can also stifle the openness of the conversation.) How many people would you like to participate? (I have found under 6 too small and difficult to assure enough people to actually discuss a book and over 12 to be too large and impersonal, but you may want to experiment with the number that works for your group.) You may also wish to consider the age of your participants. Most importantly, you will need to determine what kind of books you are going to read. You may just wish to leave it to reader’s choice, but usually a group has a reading identity. Does the club tend to read religious, mystery, or popular books? Maybe you want to keep the options broad or maybe you wish to be very specific: 18th century poetry, the works of William Shakespeare, or such. You will also have to figure out where you are going to meet. Homes, public buildings, and even religious institutions are great places to hold meetings. It is probably best if you can arrange yourselves in a circle or other open shape to encourage conversation. I personally like a relaxed atmosphere with couches and comfortable chairs, but have sat in my share of hard seats for a good conversation too. Some people are even planning book clubs in local coffee shops or rotating through restaurants from month to month. The arrangement of your book club is only limited by your creativity.
Once you have the basics established, you will have to think of some other important issues. How often will you meet? Many book clubs meet monthly, but some meet much more often or much less. Some clubs discuss the whole work at each meeting. Others may meet more frequently, but only cover specific sections of the work i.e. chapters 1 – 4. You will also have to decide how works will be chosen and how you will get multiple copies of the work. If people are buying the books, it may not be an issue how early you choose titles, but if you are trying to get multiple copies from a library, I would highly suggest talking with your librarian and giving them your titles well in advance to ascertain their availability. Regardless how you gather the books, it may behoove you to choose books several meetings in advance.
It is important to note that while a book may be a good read, it may not be good for conversation. There are plenty of sites that can lead you in the direction of good book club books. I also suggest you talk to your librarian, other book lovers, and always be aware of what other book clubs are reading.
Once you have a book, it is suggested that you either create or find some questions related to the book to kick off the conversation. While I do not recommend sticking to a predetermined question list, it is always good to have one to kick off the conversation or to pick up the conversation during a lull. There are numerous sites online with prewritten questions for specific titles and some sites have more broad based questions. It is usually helpful to have someone in the group facilitate the conversation and depending on the background of the book, this facilitator or someone else in the group may want to do some additional research on the book, the author, or some interesting facts that may help you all understand the book more deeply.
Once you get the group together and set up all these ground rules, you will find that the club takes on a life of itself and takes very little planning after that. Then you can start focusing once again on the important part of a book club – an intimate conversation about a good book.