How to form a new book club in 4 easy steps!
After my recent move, the first order of social business was the formation of a new book club. As I think I’ve waxed poetic about on this site before, I had the unqualified best book club ever back in New York—a wonderful group of intelligent, funny, and deeply engaged women who were all so perfectly different that they each brought amazing new perspectives to the table. These guys are The Best, no joke.
And even apart from the terrific individuals who made up my New York Book Club, the mere fact of having such a club was pretty wonderful. It’s a social gathering organized specifically to discuss books. What could be better? That’s all I ever want to talk about anyway! (Well, and my dog. But since she came to most meetings of the New York Book Club anyway, it all worked out pretty darn well.)
My Nantucket Book Club is now well underway (our first proper meeting, to discuss The Traitor’s Wife, is scheduled for September) and I’m looking forward to some spirited book chat with a new group of amazing women to see me through the long Nantucket winter.
In the meantime, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to form a new book club. What should you think about before jumping in? What needs to be decided? And who should you invite?
1. The Tough Decisions: who should be in the book club
Anyone can be in a book club, but I think inviting people with equal enthusiasm is the most important qualification. You want a group of people who are going to be engaged and excited about the book club, not those who view it as a chore or homework. They may have wildly divergent preferences of genres and everyone will come from a different background, but that’s the spice of book club! As long as everyone is equally committed, it’ll be a great group.
2. The Beginning: schedule an incorporation meeting
Once you have a group of willing and eager book clubbers, schedule the inaugural meeting. This meeting isn’t about discussing books—it’s about making sure everyone is comfy and on the same page with the running of the nascent book club. You’ll eat, you’ll drink, and you’ll merrily discuss how it’s going to go down.
3. The Sticky Wickets: what types of books to read and how to choose them
This, in my experience, is most potentially challenging part of starting a book club. If you can’t all agree on the foundations, it’s a decidedly shaky beginning! So make sure everyone at the incorporation meeting is comfortable with how books are getting chosen and what types of books are welcome in the club. (For example, the New York Book Club had a strict No Melville and No Russian Novels policy. Everything else was a possibility.)
You can opt to take turns going around the club as each member chooses a book or you can do the democratic method (or even a simple majority rules!), but I’ve found that having a list of possible books, contributed to by all members, and then selecting something everyone can agree on is the best way forward. Oftentimes, you get to read books you never would have chosen yourself and they’re amazing, but you also aren’t at the whims of a single member.
4. The Easy Stuff: pick a location, pick a frequency, pick a food
Once you’re all on board with the book club and how it is going to run, it’s time to discuss the relatively low-stress, low-impact, and low-drama topics of where, when, and what to eat!
While we’ve had meetings out in the world, I recommend meeting once a month at various members’ homes (rotate!). It’s homey, welcoming, and gives you the leisure to gab on without the pressure of giving up your table at a restaurant.
And boom! You have a book club!
I’d love to hear more about your experiences with book clubs. It seems anyone who’s ever had one has thoughts on the matter—and often horror stories!—so chime in below!