6 Tips for Starting a Book Club. That's not boring or intimidating

There’s so much more to a book than just the reading.
— Marurice Sendak

Book groups can sound intimidating

Around five years ago, I was keen to  start a book group.  Initially I was inspired by a neighbour who had teenagers. She'd been part of a book club for 10 years. I thought that was brilliant.  They even had weekends away.  While weekends away were not yet on the agenda for me, a night out here and there was.  As a mum of 3, I was ready to get out and talk. But not kid talk.

The problem was a lot of the book groups I'd heard about were really quite serious. In a way I suppose I felt a little intimidated by them.  I didn't think I'd be able to contribute to the discussion and feel relaxed. 

So I decided to set a book group that filled the following criteria.  

  • Fun
  • Not highbrow or academic 
  • Nothing like a senior high English lesson

Researching book groups

There are loads of articles on the internet about 'How to start a book club'.  The thing is, I found that a lot of the make them sound dull.  They tend to outline lots of do's and don'ts.  With a big focus on the rules.   Rules about questions and etiquette and giving each other a turn to talk. 

Some even suggest you schedule a time to clean your house before the event so you can 'relax and enjoy yourself'.  

Don't get me wrong,  I completely understand that for some, a book club should be serious.   It's not a book club without analysis of theme, structure and symbolism.  

Yes, our book club analyses.  Sometimes, but not all the time.  

6 Tips for starting a relaxed book group.

1. Getting the group together.

It's good to spend a few weeks talking to a few people about the idea to  test the water.  You'll probably find a lot of people are keen. They're also likely to suggest other people they know who might be interested.

One you've roused a general interest you can arrange the first meeting.  It's good to send out an email outlining the general structure of the group.  

From the very start everyone in our book group new it would be relaxed and informal .  You can make this clear in the first email you send.  That way you won't raise expectations for those after something more intense.

Our group has found that midweek around 7pm is a good time to get together.  There's less 

2. It doesn't matter if you've not read the book

I think this is really important. Sometimes people have times where they can't fit the reading in.  That's absolutely ok.  We've found this happens for at least one or 2 people each time.  

But even if someone in our group hasn't read the book, they know they can still come along.  And there's no feeling of guilt.   Usually only about a quarter of the time is spent talking about the book.  

3. Choose a page turner

The first meeting is a good chance to warm the group up.  Not everyone may know each other.  It's a good time to  choose a book that's a real page turner.  

Where do you start? Think along the lines of  The Slap, by Christos Tsiolkas or Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.

You don't want silence on night one when you throw around your first few questions.  Aim for free and easy conversation.  You want to be talking over each other.

4. Meet at cafes, pubs and retaurants

Some book clubs meet at home. This can be a lot of pressure on the host.   It means running around tidying and getting the family out of the way.

Our group generally goes to a different restaurant or cafe each time.  It's been a great way of trying new places. Often we choose places where we order as a group so we get to taste a lot of dishes. 

5. Have a rotating organiser 

It's actually really time consuming to organise each meeting.  Lots of texts to chase up who's coming or not.  I originally arranged all of the meetins and it took up a  lot of time.  One of the members suggested we take it in turns.  That has really worked.

 

We take it in turns to bring book suggestions.  That person then arranges the time and venue for the next meeting.  They also ensure the next person on the list will be there with options for the next meeting.

6.  Book club will lead to more.  

Book Group has changed lots of things about how approach life.  It's certainly not been just about the books. I've read books I would never have chosen if I was selecting one for myself.  Books that have had an impact on me

I've also made some really great friends.  Friends I wouldn't have got to know otherwise.

Question: Have you ever been in a book group that wasn't quite you?  Have you thought of starting your own relaxed group?