by Hannah Brown, jaBlog! Blogger
Artwork by Lucy Zhang
In May, I wrote a post entitled How Book Clubs Can Help Your Writing. The sad thing about book clubs is that they are beginning to dwindle in numbers and are often at times, such as during the middle of a school day, which younger people can’t get to, and are intended for older people anyway. Young readers can feel excluded in their community at moments like these, so why not just take the matter into your own hand?
Whilst setting up a book club may seem like a daunting task, in reality, it isn’t. There are a few things you must do, a few that are optional, but most of all you have to remember the aim: to have fun and read new books with your friends.
So here it is: my step-by-step guide to setting up a book club.
Step 1: Find members.
This may seem obvious, but it’s important to find people who will read the book of choice and then attend the club. Whilst your friendship group may seem the most obvious go-to, they may not be as willing as you’d like. You don’t just want members, you want enthusiastic ones, so even if this means branching out beyond your close friends, you may as well try it. It’s no fun having people turn up, even if they’ve read the book, who aren’t enthusiastic about being there.
Step 2: Find a venue.
You probably thought I was going to put something actually about books next, but no! See the thing is, you need somewhere to hold your book club. Unless you’re going to do it online such as over Skype, in which case your bedroom would be perfect, you might not have enough room in there for a whole host of people.
My book club and I, personally, set up a rotation between our houses, and we go to a different person’s each month. You might find that one person has the perfect size living room, or, for example, you might be able to persuade a local Scout leader to let you use their meeting place.*
*In this section, there should probably be a footnote about drinks and snacks. You don’t need anything fancy, just a bottle of squash, a packet of biscuits, a few glasses, and some water should be enough.
Step 3: Choose your books.
Now for the exciting part! But, funnily enough, this can actually be quite tricky. Personally, our group all wrote a list of books we’d like to read, and then I and a couple of other friends went through and picked the books we would read over the course of a year. You might decide you want to pick the book for the next month at the end of each meeting, or the leader (I’ll get onto this in a minute) could choose for the group as a whole. Whatever you decide, make sure everyone wants to read the book.
Step 4: Make a timetable – and stick to it (as much as possible, anyway).
Making a timetable, even if it’s just a grid with a date and venue (putting the book of the month next to it might be helpful too) means that everyone knows when the club meets, and this means you’re likely to get a good turnout! It doesn’t take long, but it is o-so useful.
I suggest running the actual meeting how you want to––there is no right or wrong here. Perhaps you’d like to go around the group and have everyone say their opinion of the book, or maybe you want to throw in a question or theme and let the members discuss it. Most of all, just remember to have fun. That’s what groups, especially with people you want to be with, are there for!
Hannah’s Quick Tips for a Successful Book Club Meeting
A couple of light debates are good, so if you find your group is getting a little heated, let it play out and see what happens. If you find it’s getting too heated, though, then perhaps you can gently steer them away. You don’t want any falling outs!
Back to the leader thing. Having a leader like a teacher would probably make the book group seem like a classroom, and you probably don’t want it to be like that if you’re meant to be voicing your own opinions and having fun. In my group, I try and steer the conversation to keep it on topic, or I throw in new topics to keep it fresh, but we don’t have a designated leader who sits us down and says, “Right, folks, today we’re going to discuss…”
If someone hasn’t read the book, suggest that they skip that session. It won’t be that much fun for them, and it won’t be for you, either, if they’re disinterested.
Keep drinks and snacks ready if people want them. It’ll keep energy levels up and make it friendlier.
Make sure anyone who wants to talk gets an opportunity to do so, but don’t force people to say something when they’d rather just sit and listen. Saying that, try to include everyone.
Attending a book club can be an incredibly rewarding experience, so if you have the opportunity to do so, even if it’s stretching the limit of your social abilities, I say go for it and have fun setting up your book club.