Why start a book club
Winter is an excellent time to curl up by the fireplace and devour a great book. But even better is to share your reading experience with others to savor the joys of well-written prose or to relive your emotional journey. Starting a book club is a wonderfully social way to share your book experiences and learn from others. Taking a solitary experience of reading and discussing a book’s story with others brings another level of appreciation. The story becomes more memorable when shared with others who might have a different perception or point of view.
Book clubs have been around for over a hundred years or longer. Calgary Women’s Literary Club is Canada’s oldest book club, dating back to 1906. When women could not participate in academia in the early days, book clubs provided reading and learning opportunities.
Starting a book club is a great bonding exercise with friends or new friends where you share interpretations, perceptions, and viewpoints. It allows you to open your eyes to new thinking, new genres, and new ideas.
Sharing the love of books is inspiring, healthy, and good for brain development. “Companionship and intellectual stimulation—and thinking quickly during book club discussions—all of these things are very healthy,” said Michael Roizen, M.D., chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic. In addition, being a member of a book club provides an incentive to read regularly and helps expand your horizons and reflect on life—especially your own.
While book clubs aren’t always life-changing events, getting together to chat regularly can be a lot of fun, even more so with a glass of Chardonnay.
How to start a book club
Starting a book club is more than just reading a book which is a very solitary activity but more about sharing new perspectives and ideas. It’s about sharing your reactions, perceptions, and emotions with liked-minded or other book lovers. There is great satisfaction in collaborating and seeing new ideas and concepts from someone else viewpoint. A book allows the reader to enter a new world built by the author but interpreted by the reader. A book club will enable readers to experience this world outside their minds. Here are seven steps to building a book club:
- Determine book club type: social, academic, genre-driven, educational, discovery, wellness, casual, formal, etc.
- Determine the type of books: Fiction, nonfiction, bestsellers, romance, history, sci-fi, classics, memoir, etc.
- Invite 3-4 people with similar reading interests and collectively set the ground rules. Then, get each person to invite 1-2 other devote readers.
- Set a schedule (1/month), time of day, location (home, library, church, restaurant, or bar) or online, type of food and drink (wine & cheese, dessert & coffee, beer & snacks)
- Give your club a brand name. Set up a private/public social channel (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram) to keep everyone informed. Post books & photos of each event.
- Set up a list of tasks and rotate responsibilities among the club members.
- Continue to check in with everyone to see how the club is evolving. Then, every once in a while, brainstorm to make the experience better or different to keep everyone engaged.
A PDF copy of these steps can be found here.
How to organize a book club meeting
Make the book the hero of the book club meeting. Make every session memorable. Select a location to capture the book’s time period, theme, or locale—inside, outside, park, garage, restaurant, work environment, time of day, etc. Theme the décor, drinks, and food to connect to the book. If a book is centered in a certain period, maybe get everyone to dress in their favorite era costume, like the 60s. Be creative and have fun.
Here are some book club ideas for a Branding Queens reading.
How to run a book club session
Get everyone comfortable
To get the creative juices flowing and establish a comfortable rapport between the book club members, start with a quick icebreaker question to learn more about each other. If possible, tie the question to the book’s theme, location, or main idea. Here are some book club icebreaker questions:
- What would you do if you were a queen or king for the day?
- If you had the resources to start your own business, what would you start and why
- If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
- What is your favorite place in the world, and why?
- What is your dream career?
- What was your worst job ever?
- Who is your favorite (actor, singer, artist, athlete, politician, etc.), and why?
- As a kid, what did you want to be?
- Since our last meeting, what made you laugh the most?
- Tell a strange thing about you and a complete lie and get the members to guess which is the lie.
Get everyone involved in the conversation.
Make sure everyone has the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas. As a host, make sure you go around the room to ensure everyone speaks and contributes to the discussion. Inclusivity and diversity of views make the conversation more profound and enjoyable. As the host, your job is to ensure everyone comfortably contributes to the conversation. If you see someone not contributing, ask them what they think. If you know the conversation is drifting off topic, rein the group back to the topic by introducing a new question.
Ask questions to focus the discussion.
Make sure you allot as much time as possible to ask questions about the book. Questions will help keep everyone focused on various aspects of the book (see next section on types of questions). Again, make sure everyone has the opportunity to share their thoughts.
Leave time to summarize everyone’s thoughts on the book with any final comments. Then, do a final vote as simple as passing or failing or ranking out of five stars.
Make sure there is time to discuss the next book and the following meeting location and who is hosting it. While an entire meeting can be consumed in discussing potential new books, there should be a simple system for members to recommend a book and a voting process. Ideally, this part of the discussion can be done virtually on a social platform where members can vote (by likes or comments).
What are good questions for a book club?
Everyone should come to contribute and share their thoughts and ideas. Make notes or highlight pages or passages that inspire you. If it’s a library book, you can always use sticky notes to call out things that interest you. Avoid questions that are answered with a yes or no. Open-ended questions allow members to expand and get more meaningful answers. Here are some primary thought-provoking book club questions to start the conversation:
- What was your overall reaction to the book?
- What was your favorite part of the book?
- What was your most minor favorite part of the book?
- Is there a passage that impacted you the most that you want to share?
- What surprised you most about the book?
- Did the book impact your mood positively or negatively? If so, how so?
- Did the book change your thinking on a specific topic? If yes, how so?
- Would you recommend this book to a friend? If so, why?
Here is an example of a Discussion Guide for Branding Queens.
What are good books for a club book?
The books that work the best in a community of other book lovers are topics that allow the reader to reflect on their own lives as they transcend from someone else’s experiences—real or fictional. Use trusted bestseller lists, Amazon, or Goodreads to start but don’t be afraid to add more obscure books that you hear from others or through social channels like #bookstagram and #bookTok. Make sure the book is readily available.
The most popular book club reads
What should be your book club’s next read?
Branding Queens is a perfect book for book club readers. It has twenty mini-stories within 240 pages. Each story is about how a woman built an iconic brand that we know and still love today. Although each journey is unique and different, there are commonalities in how they preserved and surpassed their wildest dreams. So, there is a lot to learn and share.
Additional book club resources