By Cammie Jones
I love to read. I wish I had more time to read and I wish that I would set aside a few minutes a day (not just when I am going to bed!) to sit down and read. However, I don’t. So when I joined a book club about a year and half ago, I loved that “having” to read a book each month allowed me to make reading a priority.
I’ve never been in a book club. I feel as if I am a late bloomer in this category of “book club member” since I am in my 40s with two teenagers and an almost 10-year-old, but it’s never too late to try something new, I guess. Below are some helpful tips for starting your own book club:
1. How to choose members & what is a good number?
Susan O’Keefe, mother of four, has started three book clubs in various cities where she has lived and has some advice for how to choose members for your club. “I would advise thinking of four women you would like to know better, who are different from one another, are from different walks of life such as a working mom, stay-at-home mom, single or divorced, of different religions, ages and walks of life,” she says. If these four ladies agree, ask them to ask two people they may know to join. “Between 10 and 12 members is ideal,” adds O’Keefe.
It is wise to have age diversity because what you may take away from the book is different than an 85-year-old’s thoughts on the book. “Not only do I learn from the book itself but also from the comments from various members because of their particular experiences or points of view,” she says.
2. How to organize your book club?
Once you have your 10-12 members, it is good to plan an introductory meeting where the hostess/book club organizer explains the rules of the book club and gets the ball rolling by choosing the first book. It is important to communicate that this club should be stress-free, easy and fun. Meetings can take place at someone’s home, coffee shop or office, food can be a simple meal, take out pizza or a bag of chips, if that is what the hostess prefers. Try to keep it as simple as possible.
There are a couple of different ways of organizing a book club
according to O’Keefe:
• Each member chooses a book at the beginning of the year and you meet at the same spot each month—e.g. the library or coffee shop—with the person who chose the book to lead the discussion, or
• After the initial intro meeting where the hostess/group leader chooses the book, she will lead the next month’s book discussion at another member’s home. Then, that hostess member chooses the next book to read for the month. She will lead the discussion the next month at another member’s home. This pattern continues each month and ensures that at least two people will show up at the event each month—the hostess and the discussion leader. It also takes the pressure off the hostess. She just has to host the book club at her home that month and choose the book for the next month’s discussion.
3. What time of year should a book club begin?
A good time to start is in January with new challenges and resolutions. “It’s the beginning of the year and after the holidays so there are less conflicts,” says O’Keefe. Other book clubs may follow the school-year calendar and start in August or September and end in May. It’s truly up to the group to decide what time works best but it is good to stick to a schedule that is the same month to month.
4. How to choose a good book?
Rachel Jacobsohn, author of The Reading Group Handbook, suggests choosing titles that stretch the mind or as she says, “take you to places you’ve never been before,” and also warrants collaborative discussion. If this doesn’t work for you, start with prize winners. Another good idea is to Google book club book suggestions. A few good websites are goodreads.com , amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com to find bestsellers and view critic’s comments.
“It is wise to follow certain parameters when choosing a book but you don’t want to be too restrictive,” suggests O’Keefe. She says in her experience novels, especially fiction and historical fiction, are better than reading books about marriage, children, self help, theology driven or science fiction. Again, the type of book will be driven by the type of group that is being put together. It is important to have these parameters in place before you begin the club, just so everyone knows what to expect.
5. What is a good time to meet & how often?
Once a month is the norm and the time can be determined by the group. Many groups meet at night and use it as a moms night out. If you all have young children who attend a mothers-day-out type of program, a morning time may work. If most of the members work outside the home but get a lunch break, meet once a month during lunch.
To keep the meeting within the time frame it is important to set a schedule of sorts. For example, if your group meets from 6:30-8:30 p.m., segment time into 6:30-7:30 p.m. for socializing and eating and then the discussion can be from 7:30-8:30 p.m.
6. What is the best form of communication?
The book club I am in uses email as our source of communication but text messages and even a private Facebook page may work. Basically, a reminder is sent a few days before the club meets with details about the date, time and address of the hostess, asking for RSVPs. Another email is sent out after the club meets with title and author of the next month’s book as well as the next month’s hostess’ information.
Remember, being a member of a book club is a commitment. You are required, as a member, to read the book and take part in the discussion. Come prepared to the meetings. If you are leading the discussion, find discussion questions for your book. As the saying goes, the more you put into it the more you get out of it!
This article appears in the August 2016 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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