How to Start a Book Club You’d Want to Be Part Of

While you know the perks of meeting regularly with your tribe to talk literature — the community, the friendship, the continuing ed! — not all book clubs ultimately gel. Rosemary D’Urso, a school librarian turned stay-at-home mom who loves sharing the joy of reading via her blog, gave us the secrets to forming a successful club.

By Rosemary D'Urso
woman with book on head


The laid-back approach

While book clubs can be the perfect way to socialize and stimulate your brain at the same time, it can also get unduly stressful — That’s where my laid-back book club approach comes in. Although books are the obvious focus of our meetings, they can also serve as a jumping off point for discussions on society, trends, philosophies and our personal lives — not to mention becoming an essential night out for many of our members.

Ready to start your own laid-back book club? Follow these simple tips and suggestions:

Set expectations of whether or not members actually need to finish the book before attending a meeting

This may sound counterintuitive — after all, it’s called a book club, not a chapter club — but life can get pretty busy. And as much as people want to read, sometimes they just keep falling asleep three pages in. Despite not finishing the book, however, many members just enjoy listening and are often able to participate in conversations adding valuable insight from their own life experiences. If someone never  comes prepared, however, then it may be time to talk about commitment to the club.

Create a no-judgment zone

Much like French salons, book clubs can be an excellent atmosphere for having interesting philosophical and personal conversations. Viewpoints may differ and it is important for everyone to respect others’ opinions. 

Choose a consistent time and date

It is much easier to stay committed to something when you know the date in advance. Working around everyone’s schedules simply isn't realistic.

Know the responsibilities of the host

The main responsibility of the host is to select a book, lead the discussion with a few simple guiding questions, and provide a place to meet. By taking turns hosting, everyone gets a voice in what they want the group to read.

Food and drinks are a must

You don’t need to serve anything fancy, but calories tend to fuel a good discussion. Since our book club meets at night, we often supply appetizers and desserts with wine and cocktails. To make it even easier for the host, you can make it a potluck. 

Make it a theme night!

While it is never required, a theme can add fun to the meeting. By theme, I’m not talking about everyone dressing in period attire when you read a historical fiction. However, serving food from the region the book takes place can be a nice nod to the book. For example, when we read The Lost Girls of Paris, I served French cheeses and champagne. Awww.

Don't be a book snob

Just because you are embarking in a literary endeavor doesn’t mean you need to read War and Peace — Choose something entertaining or thought provoking that will make for a good discussion. Here are five of my book club’s favorite selections, which lead to great conversations: 

The Lost Girls of Paris  by Pam Jenoff

When Grace discovers an unclaimed suitcase at Grand Central Station in 1946, she is shocked to discover it contains numerous pictures of female spies. This sets her off on a life-changing adventure to find the owner of the suitcase. This fascinating story of a ring of female secret agents in France during World War II is inspired by true events.

What Alice Forgot  by Liane Moriarty

When 39-year-old Alice wakes up from a head injury, she believes she is pregnant with her first child, happily married and 29-years-old. She quickly discovers that she actually has three children and is facing a divorce. Alice must uncover how her life drastically changed over the last ten years and reconstruct the life she thought she wanted. 

Educated  by Tara Westover

Raised by a survivalist family in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover shares the true story of her isolated upbringing — and her transformative journey to earn a Ph.D. from Cambridge University. 

The Rosie Project  by Graeme Simsion

Don Tillman is a scientist — so when he believes it is time to find a wife, he creates an experiment to find the perfect partner. His social ineptness leads to several hilarious scenes. This is not your typical romantic comedy — While it is a love story, it also has depth and will likely prompt a fascinating conversation on who we fall in love with and why we fall in love with them. 

Before We Were Yours  by Lisa Wingate

In this unforgettable story, readers will be shocked to learn of the true-crime scandal surrounding The Tennessee Children’s Home Society in the 1930’s. While they will be outraged by the horrendous crimes that took place, they will be captivated by this fictional tale celebrating the strength of family ties.  

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