Before you start reading, you need to get your book squad together! The best way to start building a community around books is by word of mouth. Put out feelers to see which of your friends would be interested in joining a book club. Then, have them reach out to book-loving friends, colleagues and acquaintances in their circle so you can include members with diverse viewpoints. One of the most amazing parts of joining a book club is the opportunity to connect with new people. To ensure meaningful discussions, keep your list to a manageable size. We suggest seven to 10 members for a group conversation that still feels intimate.
If you can’t agree on a book, or want to choose new reads for subsequent meetings, you can have members give recommendations. Perhaps you’ll alternate between fiction and non-fiction or new releases and classics. Make sure to allow for plenty of time to read by choosing your books at least a few months in advance, or consider selecting books as a group for the entire year at the end of your first book club gathering. You can also assign each member a month, so everyone gets to select their own pick of the month in rotation.
When it comes to your book club meeting place, choose a distraction-free spot where guests can get cozy. Regardless of the size of your space, aim to make it warm and welcoming—you want your guests to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts during the group discussion. Instead of sitting around a kitchen or dining room table, consider a less formal route and arrange seating around your coffee table. And don’t fret if some of your members can’t play host. Divvy up tasks so everyone can contribute—even if they’re not opening up their home. One member can bring the wine and snacks, and another can help with set-up and cleanup—book club is truly a community affair!
Host your book club after supper, so your event doesn’t become a dinner party. Have guests bring their favourite snacks and pre-set a bunch of bowls and serving dishes, so you can just pour in the munchies when they arrive. Grab a bottle of red and white on the way home from work, and be sure to have non-alcoholic options, like tea and sparkling water.
Light a few candles and make sure there are plenty of shams and blankets scattered about, so guests can relax and unwind. Keep the dress code casual—and encourage guests to bring theirreading socks to get into the book club spirit.
Themes are a fun idea, too. Set the mood by matching your menu to your book. For example, if you’re reading The Paris Wife, serve French-themed fare such as a cheese board with fresh baguette and a bottle of Bordeaux. At the end of your first gathering, make sure to set the next date, host, and book to keep the momentum going. After all, what’s better than sharing a good book with friends?
If you’re nervous that no one will engage in conversation, prepare some questions in advance. Think back to English class, and focus on the characters, overarching themes, the writing style and how the book made you feel. For example, if you’re reading Educated, you could discuss how author Tara Westover’s various family members view formal education, or if you’re reading Little Fires Everywhere, you could explore whether Mrs. Richardson should have pried into Mia’s past. Your discussion may start out conversational, with people chiming in about their likes, dislikes and most moving passages, but preparing questions in advance will help the group dive deeper into topics. Check online for discussion questions—the book’s publisher will have some.
Sometimes life gets in the way and you or your fellow book club members may not be able to finish the book before your next gathering. Relax, it’s okay! A book club is meant to be an enjoyable, life-enriching experience, not a deadline to hit every month. If some members were unable to do all of the required reading, skip the discussion around the plot and character development. Instead, zoom out and look at the book’s overall message and universal themes—it’s sure to get the group chatting and inspire meaningful conversation.