Our How to Tips
Starting Your Group
- Your first task is to recruit members. Think about how many people you want to participate. The size will likely be dictated by the place where the group meets. If you plan on hosting meetings in your living room, for example, you may find it difficult to accommodate more than seven or eight members.
- Once you have your members it's time to set some guidelines for your group. It is a good idea to do this at your first meeting.
- How often will the group meet? Most book clubs typically meet once a month and discuss one book per meeting.
- Decide on a process for choosing the books your group will read.
- Set a consistent time and place for meetings, so that you do not have to go through the process of scheduling each meeting.
- While a living room may be the first choice for your meeting. If size becomes a factor you may want to consider meeting at such places as a library, restaurant, or community center.
Choosing Your Book
- Your group should decide on a procedure for book selection.
- Most often the group as a whole votes to narrow down a pool of suggestions that were made by various members. For example, each member might submit an idea she has for a book and then the group would discuss the selections and vote.
- It’s a good idea to think about how far in advance you want your books to be chosen. Keep in mind that deliberations can be lengthy. Choosing books several meetings in advance will prevent you from wasting too much time in each meeting trying to figure out what to read for the next one. Some groups dedicate one or more meetings to choosing books for the next several months. This approach gives the group members plenty of time to pick up their books at the local library or through bookstores.
What Books Do You Consider?
- A good place to start might be a book you have already read and really enjoyed. Remember to take into account the tastes and interests of members. Is there a particular genre that people seem to like? Many book groups focus their discussions on one particular genre.
- Another consideration should be books that have been well reviewed by other readers and critics alike. Best-seller lists and book reviews make excellent resources for book clubs in search of titles. Another good place to look would be online book clubs, where past reading schedules and reviews of past books are often posted.
- Keep in mind that there are many excellent nonfiction titles that make for excellent discussion. Biographies, memoirs, essays, and historical accounts can all be very good reads, with topics ranging from politics and religion to science and technology.
- Don't forget the classics as possible choices for your book club. Works that have survived the test of time usually make for great discussion.
- The best place to turn for help with the discussion are reading group guides. These typically provide a brief summary of the book along with several discussion questions written specifically for a given book.
- Sometimes you will be unable to find a reading group guide for a particular book. In that case, you'll have to be a little more creative.
- If you are unable to find a reading guide for the book your group is reading, have each member write down a question before the meeting. Good discussion questions are typically somewhat open-ended and debatable, but are try to be specific enough to promote the discussion.
Sample Discussion Questions for Fiction
- What was unique about the setting of the book and how did it enhance or take away from the story?
- What specific themes did the author emphasize throughout the novel? What do you think he or she is trying to get across to the reader?
- Do the characters seem real and believable? Can you relate to their predicaments? To what extent do they remind you of yourself or someone you know?
- How do characters change or evolve throughout the course of the story? What events trigger such changes?
- In what ways do the events in the books reveal evidence of the author's world view?
- Did certain parts of the book make you uncomfortable? If so, why did you feel that way? Did this lead to a new understanding or awareness of some aspect of your life you might not have thought about before?
Sample Discussion Questions for Nonfiction
- What did you find surprising about the facts introduced in this book?
- How has reading this book changed your opinion of a certain person or topic?
- Does the author present information in a way that is interesting and insightful, and if so, how does he or she achieve this?
- If the author is writing on a debatable issue, does he or she give proper consideration to all sides the debate? Does he or she seem to have a bias?
- How has the book increased your interest in the subject matter?