I’ve been a bibliophile from birth and have always found comfort in a teetering to-be-read book pile. Probably because books have always been there for me. I moved around a lot as an adult, and with every relocation I struggled to settle into new routines, jobs and friendships. Luckily, once my boxes and bags of books were unpacked, I’d know how to build confidence in my surroundings and find courage to make new friends: book clubs.
Forging friendships as an adult is awkward, and finding a reason to read can be tricky. We all want to “read more,” but who is holding us accountable? Book clubs are the perfect answer. As it turns out, “Have you read … ?” and, “Read anything good lately?” are perfect questions to dive into the adult friendship pool. Most of my book clubs have been more about friendship than critically dissecting the literature, but I enjoy those types of clubs, too. The best clubs focus on what the members need. Maybe it’s a deep dive in the plot; maybe it’s simply gathering with good food and wine, talking about the magic of life. Whatever you’re looking for, you can find it in a book club. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re ready to start one:
Ask yourself why you are starting this club. Is it for friendship and connection? Academics and intellectual conversation? Just for fun? In the past I’ve started book clubs with coworkers who turned into dear friends, thanks to our book club. A virtual book club helped me feel less homesick during the pandemic, and my current club brings me joy each month as I connect new and old friends with one another. My ‘why’ has always been based on friendship, but there are so many other reasons to have a book club. Once you narrow down why you want to start a club, you’re ready to find the right people to join you.
The beautiful thing about book clubs is that they can be with any group of people, for any reason. Maybe it’s a book club with your coworkers focused on professional development and building your craft. Maybe it’s with a group of old college friends who gather to read Reese’s Book Club picks. Maybe you’ll decide to bridge the generational gap and have a grandma/granddaughter or parent/child book club. Or maybe you’ll choose to organize an eclectic group from your community to read totally random genres each month where no one is too disappointed if you don’t finish the book and sometimes you meet at a karaoke bar… or maybe that’s just me. Now that you have an idea of who to invite, you can start to think about what to read.
Deciding what you want to read is full of possibilities. Will it be a specific genre? Theme? A series? I’ve heard about book clubs that read only banned books;cookbook clubs, where members each bring a recipe to share; one-star book clubs, based on Goodreads or Amazon ratings; clubs dedicated to books written by or about celebrities … the list goes on. Follow your passions and interests to create your book club’s focus. I promise, you’ll find other readers. Book clubs should also consider who makes the choice each month. Maybe you take full responsibility for your choice, or you could do a vote between two choices, or rotate picks each time. There’s no wrong way to do it.
When and where
Figuring out group logistics is the next step. Determine when would be a good time to meet. Are you a fast reader looking to meet twice a month? Once a month? Every other month? Do you want to meet over Zoom? In person? At someone’s house? At a restaurant or cafe? It all depends on personal preference. My current club meets at the same restaurant, around the third week of each month, on the same day and time. This has been the best fit for our schedules, but we change it as needed. I call it “friendly flexibility.” A dear friend of mine is in a cookbook book club that meets every other month, and members bring one or two dishes from the book to someone’s house to share. How delicious.
Pro tip: If you’re considering a public space, make sure you try it out before inviting your book club. Some places are too noisy for a good discussion.
Decide how you’ll communicate with your group. I’ve found Google Forms and email to be a good combination for my groups, but you might use Facebook Messenger, Discord, Slack or even text. However you get the message out, make sure it’s easy for your group to respond and connect.
However you decide to organize it, your book club will help people in your life celebrate reading and get together in friendship. What could be better than that?