Starting a Book Club

“A book discussion group is a forum where readers can come together and talk about books and the reading experience … There are adult groups, student-led groups, mother-daughter groups, father-son groups, and parent-child groups, to name just a few."

 

“Giving Readers a Voice: Book Discussion Groups,” by Anna Healy. Book Links: February/March 2002 (v.11, no.4)

If you're looking for a book club to join, check with your library. Libraries often provide meeting space for book clubs and many administer their own book discussion groups. 

Thinking of starting your own book club? Learn how to get started and find tips about structuring your meetings, facilitating a great discussion link, and finding the right books.

Answer these 10 questions and you're on your way!

1. What type of group should it be? Decide on an orientation: we suggest targeting somewhere between highly social and seriously academic.
2. What kind of books should we read? Choose a literary genre or a mix of genres: fiction (current, classic), poetry, drama, mystery, sci-fi, current events, history, or biography.
3. How many members should we invite? 8 to 16 members are best: enough for a discussion if several are absent, but not so many that discussions become unwieldy.
4. How often should we meet? Monthly works best for most clubs. Some meet every 6 weeks. Once you choose a schedule, try to stick with it.
5. When should we meet? Whether weekday evenings or weekends, this will largely depend on the job/childcare schedules of your members.
6. Where should we meet? Some good meeting places are: homes, clubhouses, public libraries, churches, local Y’s, and restaurants.
7. What should we call ourselves? Try to give your club an identity so that members will be accountable and engaged. For example: New London Literary Lions, Red Hat Readers, or just the Lakewood Book Club.
8. How do we keep in touch? Send out monthly meeting reminders. If not everyone in your group uses email, mail postcards instead. When you start the group, distribute a list of phone numbers and addresses.
9. How can we keep memories? Record your group’s activity with a club journal—this can be as simple as a 3-ring binder to keep track of the books you’ve read; also plot summaries, discussion highlights, and members’ opinions. (This also helps bring new members up to speed.)
10. How can we give back to our community? Collect dues for a scholarship or annual literacy award at a local school. Purchase books for your local library, or become involved in a tutoring program.

Structuring Your Meeting

Learn about some basic book-club ground rules including: how much time to alot do's and don'ts for selecting books, holding a discussion with and without a leader, and stucturing the format of the meeting. Read more about structuring book group meetings.  

Facilitating Discussion

It’s important to have someone in charge of leading the group’s discussion in a diplomatic way that will benefit all group members. Read more about facilitating book group meetings.

Finding Book Ideas

Most book groups have a rotating selection of books. However, a number of cities, schools, churches, organizations, and conferences have used the “One Book, One City” model as a starting point for book discussions. Resources are also available from The Library of Congress Center for the Book, American Library Association Public Programs Office, the ALA Library, and ALA’s Booklist, which has a number of lists of adult, children, and young-adult books. Read more about finding book ideas for your book club.

Further Resources

There are many types of book clubs and many things to keep in mind when organizing a group. Special consideration should be given to things such as how to select titles, negotiate group dynamics, and lead and facilitate intelligent discussion. Below are our favorite books and websites to get you started. Read more about resources for your book club.

 

2014 Youth Media Awards Press Conference

Winners of the 2014 American Library Association Youth Media Awards respond to receiving the honor.

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