I’ve been in a book club for years, as a reader. I’m obviously not unique in this membership, it seems most people are in a bookclub or would like to be.  (And yes, there are that bunch who definitely do not want to be in a bookclub for a myriad of reasons – time, they only want to read what they want to read; I get it.)  My bookclub meets loosely, about once per month, reading books by women of color, unless there’s a book that we all agree we will make the exception for, and we’ve been together about 10 years.  We’ve hosted authors in person and by phone (before there was Skype).  Now I’m on the other side, as an author.    Here’s a few tips, gleaned from my experience on both sides of the book for a successful and enjoyable book club.

Read the book.  I realize that expectation becomes a joke for some book clubs, but in truth, that really is the whole point. Of course, life happens and sometimes, even given a month, you don’t get around to reading the book, but do try. Perhaps, by page 25 you didn’t like the book and put it aside. That’s okay, at least you tried.

Discuss what you will read and how you will select a book.  Although people say, “oh, I read everything”, I don’t think that’s actually true.  We all have our preferences and dislikes. Me? I don’t read horror or anything particularly violent (yes, I’m a scaredy-cat).  Your group might settle on a theme of what you will read or what you won’t.  Then decide – will the group come to a consensus on the next selection, will you select several months/meetings head, will the host get to choose?

Set your rules. How often will you meet? Will there be refreshments? A meal or coffee and cake? Who will host or where will you meet? Is there an attendance requirement, do you have to RSVP?  How will you communicate in between meetings – FaceBook, evites, email, by phone?

Decide who can join and how. Somehow you selected your initial group; what about new members? Do you want to keep your group to a particular size? 6-10 seems like a good number; its small enough for a good discussion and large enough that if a few people can’t make it, you still have a decent number to meet.  Can members just invite a friend to come along or do prospective members have to be approved? One of my current bookclub members used to joke that she was working on her application and waiting for us to accept new members; we really aren’t that tough, but I have found some clubs that do have a formal process for accepting new members.

Discuss your book budget.  Do selected books have to be available in the library or are members willing to purchase every book?  If purchased, will you select them when they are new in hardback, or only when they are released in paperback? Check with your local library about getting bookclub holds on books or your bookstore about reserving a quantity for your members to ensure that they can get the selections.

Keep the book discussion related to the book. Probably the biggest joking comment about book clubs is that they are just excuses to get together and chit-chat about everything but the book.  But if you’ve read that book and really want to talk about it, it’s no fun when the discussion gets carried off to what happened on TV or what’s on sale at Target.  One way to accomplish this is to designate a person to manage the questions and discussions; it could be the host or another member.

Have fun.  That is the whole point, right?

What are some of the rules in your bookclub?