How to Pick a Book Club
Pick a book club that is right for you!
By Christi R. Suzanne
We sit in a circle, books at arms length, and ruminate on where to begin our discussion. We all look excitedly around the circle. Someone soon speaks up, “Did anyone else think the characters in the book were pigs at first? I figured it out later that they were human, but I had that impression for a while before I realized it!” We all laugh and a few agree that they did, in fact, think the characters introduced in the first chapter were pigs. The discussion meanders from there. We talk about character development, flaws found in the book, and why we decide we like or dislike the book.
Three years ago a friend of mine asked if I wanted to help form a book club. I jumped at the chance to be in the club. I felt like it would be a great opportunity to read books that I wouldn’t normally pick up, so far this is true. The social aspect of being in a book club and talking about books with people who love books has been a wonderful addition to my life. After college I missed not having formal book discussions with a group of people. Book clubs are great ways to gain a new perspective on a book you’ve read and even get clarifications on what really happened in a particular part of a novel.
Choosing a book club that fits your intellectual needs is important, but so is choosing one that meets your emotional needs. You have to feel comfortable with the people in your group in order to talk about your thoughts and opinions in relation to the book. You don’t want to feel afraid of the rules and regulations book clubs can impose upon your life.
Most people I asked to join the club were hesitant for a couple of reasons. One reason was that the commitment to read a specific book in a certain amount of time was not appealing, and what if they didn’t finish the book? Another reason that kept cropping up was that they didn’t want to intellectualize a book that they were supposed to be reading for fun.
These points of resistance highlighted the fact that there are all types of book clubs out there: from the serious only-read-the-classics book clubs to the less literary only-read-romance-novels book clubs. Each club has different needs and wants to fulfill for their members. Some book clubs make it a point to meet at a bar and talk about the book for five minutes and then proceed to get trashed. Those book clubs use the club as a social outlet. Other clubs take time to critically read and discuss themes, metaphors, and a plethora of other literary devices present in most books. This type of club is heavy on the intellectual aspect.
Each type of book club varies so much that the key is to find a club that matches your needs.
Examples of guidelines for a book club that works for you:
1. Decide what types of books you will read. For example, my club reads primarily fiction novels (non-fiction is allowed on a case by case basis). Some clubs read only science fiction or strictly the classics.
2. Decide on a meeting time and the frequency in which you will read and meet. My club meets the first Wednesday of each month (if more than 2 people can not meet we change the day/time around). One friend of mine is in a mother’s book club, that meets infrequently in person, but utilizes an online forum so they keep reading, but so they are also available to their families more often.
3. Decide how you will choose your books. My club allows each person to choose a book based on their spot in the book rotation. Other clubs use a book list of up to a year ahead of time. They make up their list at the end of the year with everyone’s input.
4. Decide where you want the club to meet each month. My club meets at each member’s house depending on the month. Some meet at bars, libraries, or online.
5. Decide how big you want your club to be. My club is small, usually about six or seven people at a time. I like the size of our club because it allows each person a chance to give insights into the book. Other clubs are as large as 100.
My book club is a mix between intellectual stimulation and getting to socialize with people who like to read. I love being in a book club because it has opened my eyes to books I would never have read. One of my favorite books, Middlesex, is a book that I would never have read, but because of joining the book club I read it and it has become one of my favorite books.
Because I feel comfortable in my book club I do not feel guilty, on the rare occasion, I cannot finish a book, I do not feel bad if I cannot make a meeting, and I do not feel ashamed of my house when they come over for a meeting (especially if I haven’t had time to clean it properly)! Joining a book club should be fun! Good luck finding one that fits your needs.
Hear it from a "book clubbers" mouth!
Reasons to join a book club:
”I joined the club because I wanted to reconnect with friends, make new friends, and have a social and intellectual outlet.”“I joined book club because I love reading, and missed talking about books with people. There are some books that I read solo, and can't help but feel that I was missing something, or my appreciation of it would have been enriched by other people's insights.”“I joined book club because it was a great way to hear about books, whether new or old.” Favorite thing about being in a book club:
“My favorite thing is hearing what people think about the different books.”“I was guaranteed to read at least one book every month, and got to read things I might not have even heard of.”“My favorite thing about book club is going out and doing something that doesn’t involve going to a bar or a loud public place where it’s hard to talk.Challenges of being in a book club:“I think my main challenge is being out on a week night, which is hard because I want to be there and stay, but I have to get up early.”“The biggest challenge is finishing a book that I don't care for.”“Sometimes coordinating schedules is a problem or getting a book from the library on time.”