Yeah, so maybe you don’t like everyone in your book club. But let’s face it, it’s way too much work to find another one that meets when you want to meet, has the same delish Trader Joe’s frozen niblets as yours, and isn’t too far of a drive. Also, maybe you’re in a book club with old friends and you can’t just bail because that would be a crappy move.
As a librarian and certified book club expert, here are some great tips for avoiding the headache that isn’t the result of too much wine, but a fellow book club member suggesting Infinite Jest for the gazillionth time.
- Pick a leader. Maybe this is a no-brainer, but in my experience, no book club works without someone in charge. It doesn’t have to be explicit, but there does have to be a person who is ready with a plan of action and who can draw people back to the plan and approved processes when people start to go astray.
- Choose your genres. The dodgiest part of a book club is that people say they want to read out of their comfort zone, but they mostly don’t. Take a poll on acceptable genres, and have everyone submit five to ten titles that fall within the acceptable genres.
- Stick to a process. When you’ve collected all the book titles, put them into a pool and randomly select the book each month (use an online random picker site, it’s easy!). This way everyone has an equal chance of getting their book picked. This also makes it possible for you to select books months in advance, which makes it easier for people to place library holds or purchase the books.
- Schedule in advance. Pick dates far in advance so everyone can schedule in advance. You don’t want to have to choose a date each meeting, it just means less time for fun chit chat. Also, consider having a backup date. Life happens and people will have to miss.
- Have a contingency plan. Sometimes people can’t finish the book in time. They don’t need to be punished, but make sure you don’t ruin the ending for them during the discussion!
- Rotate location. Don’t burden just one person with hosting duties, they will quickly start to curse the book club and all who attend. No one has the time to clean their house that much, they’re reading!
- Rotate discussion questions. Another good idea to not put all the work on one person. Pair the discussion questions to the person who chose the book picked that meeting.
- Make rules so people will be nice to each other. Any good Google will provide you with a wealth of information about how to offer constructive criticism on a book without hurting the feelings of the person who chose it. It’s going to happen. You will hate a book people love and vice versa, but just keep in mind that everyone has spent their precious free time reading it, so try to focus on the positive.
- Agree to an end time. Some books you can talk about forever, but it’s not always the case. Book club can go longer, but put a definite cap on the talk time of discussion. You don’t want to give people a way to ramble on about their personal connections to the book. Having a set limit allows the leader to kindly move the discussion along by pointing out the time.
- Always bring something. It doesn’t matter if the hostess that month says not to bring something. Always bring a bottle of wine or a snack or some kind. I’ve had success with the stipulation that if you host, everyone else brings the food and drink. It lightens the load and then at least everyone will like at least one food item because they brought it themselves!
- Be cool. Yeah, man, be cool. It’s just a book club. Don’t stress out about hosting. Don’t kill yourself making the perfect hors d’oeuvres or dessert. Don’t finish a book you hate, it’s not school. Most importantly, be open and confident. Don’t feel like you need to check your thoughts because you’re afraid of what others might say. Who knows, you may end up learning more about yourself than the characters in the book, and that, friend, is what book clubs are all about!