Sometimes reading can be a solitary affair, and usually that’s the way I like it. Just me and a good book snuggled up with a warm cup of tea, or actually a glass of wine, and no one around to disturb me. But there are often times where I would reach that moment at the end of the book, not wanting it to end, and after I’ve slowly closed the cover, I would think, man I wish I had someone else to talk to about this right now!
Sure there are online forums you can share and post your thoughts about books, even sites like Good Reads offer this, but it is not the same as sharing it with other people, or hearing first person accounts about a book you just read. I was certainly surprised to realize that I even missed my old University English classes, where the books you read each week would be discussed in such great detail, opening your mind to aspects of the book, or themes that you had not even considered.
Book clubs can certainly fill this void, and they are wonderful ways of keeping the publishing industry alive and well, and books alive and appreciated. I was lucky enough to have been invited to join a book club alongside a group of women who attended Centennial College’s Book and Magazine Publishing program with me. We don’t have a special name or a website of our own, but I would say we are a fairly successful book club and here are my reasons why:
- First and foremost, we are a group of close friends
You don’t have to be close friends with members of your book club, but it certainly makes attending that much easier. The monthly sessions become just as much about catching up and updating your friends on your life as it does about the book. We were not as close when we first started book club, but it soon became clear, that meeting up once a month to chat with people who love books just as much as you do, is bound to bring you closer together. I am so grateful that it did, my book club is one of the closest group of friends I have. We attend each other weddings, we are closer than close.
- Make the meetings manageable and be flexible
Our book club opted for monthly meetings and we originally tried to make them the second Monday of every month. However, it soon became clear that having a set day was not going to be sustainable. But instead of dismantling bookclub, or dealing with poor attendance, we opted to be more flexible, so every month we take a poll and offer a few possible dates. Whatever the majority picks is what we go with, and we generally attempt to make sure that every member can attend. We also wanted to ensure that enough time is given to in fact read the books, because after all, we all lead exceptionally busy lives, and not everyone is a crazy voracious reader like I am!
- Picking the book
This is pretty much the most important part of bookclub, and I’d like to think that my group of gals has gotten this down pat. Like scheduling the meetings we use a poll on our Facebook group to give every member an option to vote for a book that they like. Each month one group member hosts book club, they also are responsible for providing options for books. So far, I think this is a fairly democratic solution and has been working really well. We even have an order, with one of our members keeping track of who is next to host.
- Multiple Genres
It is also important to mix up the genres of your book choices. That is probably one of my favourite things about book club; the fact that every member will select book options that you might never consider, and therefore you are exposed to genres that you might normally shy away from. I for one am not a huge fan of horror but twice Stephen King novels have been the book of choice in my book club, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. There is no written rule that you must only stick to traditional novels, explore other options like plays, poetry books and of course autobiographies. So yeah…try new things!
Here are some things that you shouldn’t be worrying about when starting or trying to maintain a book club:
- Having more than 10 members
10 is already a lot, and my book club is actually down to 9 at this point. More members than this, and you risk having members lose their voice, or be unable to provide an opinion about the book considering, that many of us only have two hours on a given night to even attend. Plus, more members sometimes means a hierarchy is inevitably established, and honestly when that and politics enters your book club, it’s not really about the books anymore.
- Penalizing people who don’t read the book
This in my mind is a big problem. A book club’s longevity relies on its members getting along, and the last thing you want to do is make individuals feel uncomfortable or excluded because they did not read the book. There are members in my club who sometimes don’t finish the book or don’t read it, but still attend book club night, and that’s great. Everyone is busy, and sometimes, the book is not that interesting for certain people. These are all valid, and in fact can be a big and important part of the discussion. Why someone does not like a book is just as interesting as someone who adores one.
- Trying to make your book club famous.
This just should not even be a priority. It’s great if you have a successful book club, but in my opinion the success should come from the discussion points, the new found interests, and the development of your group as readers. It shouldn’t be about creating a website, or photo shoots, or just plain old advertising. Perhaps there are some book clubs out there that work just fine this way and are “famous,” but I just don’t think it’s the way to make one live on and maintain members.
If you are on the road to creating your own book club or have just recently joined one, I’d love to share with you some of my top recommendations. These are books that are sure to spark discussion and they traverse an array of genres.
- How Should A Person Be? by Sheila Heti
- The Dinner by Herman Koch
- Carrie by Stephen King
- The Girls by Emma Cline
- The Defining Decade by Meg Jay PhD
- Scorched by Wadji Mouawad
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
- Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews