My Book Club: Start-Up Basics and Personal Benefits
By Katie Barry
Earlier this year a group of my neighbors and coworkers formed a book club. We weren’t entirely sure what a “book club” would mean for us; only one person had ever been in one. I read all the time, so I joined primarily as a way to get to know these women better (our group happens to be all women). I got much more out of it than I expected.
Here are some defining elements of our book club:
- There are six of us. The group isn’t too big nor too small. We can all participate in conversations, but still enjoy breakout moments in smaller groupings.
- The evening’s host picks the book. As not everyone likes to read in print format, we look for books that can accommodate everyone’s reading preference (e.g., Kindle and audiobook format).
- We read both fiction and nonfiction. We didn’t set any guidelines beyond the host making the choice, but in the past six months, fiction choices have outpaced nonfiction by 2:1.
- We meet at 6 p.m., with the evening’s host providing a main dish and beverages. The rest of the book club members fill in the blanks with appetizers, salads, desserts, and more drinks!
- Our actual discussion time ranges from just a few minutes to longer periods for a more in-depth exploration of the characters and themes. Some months we talk more and some months we talk less depending upon how the book—and the evening—moves us.
- We meet monthly, generally on a mid-month Monday.
What’s been fun for me is reading outside my norm. During the day, I edit nonfiction; think marketing collateral (e.g., advertisements, press releases, executive summaries), business (e.g., leadership, technical), and educational content. In the evenings, when I primarily read for pleasure, my taste tends toward mysteries and novels, with a good biography now and then. This book club has moved me beyond my comfort zone into novels and a memoir that I wouldn’t have selected—and I’m the better for it!
In case you need some inspiration for your reading or your book club’s next choice, here are my book club’s selections thus far:
- An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
- Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
- Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde
- The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
- The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
- When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
- Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
I’ve always enjoyed reading, and as much as a cozy mystery is right up my alley and a variety of news magazines keep me engaged in the world, I’ve been in a reading rut. (It’s a quite enjoyable rut, but a rut nonetheless.) My book club partners expand my horizons, which I feel is improving my ability to read and synthesize information, making me a more versatile editor.
Ours is an informal group and suits us. But there are many other ways to approach running a book club. Some other common books club elements include the following:
- Invite a guest who is somehow related to the book or topic. Take the discussion beyond the book itself.
- Be prepared to disinvite a member who dominates choices or discussion. Mixing a number of personalities is a crap shoot—the first grouping won’t always be the best grouping.
- Take turns so that each person is ensured time to have his or her say.
- Meet outside a home—consider a library or church with meeting rooms.
- Make use of book club question/discussion prompts provided by certain titles—check online if they aren’t included in the version at hand.
Have you been part of a book club? Do you find it’s changed your reading habits? Has it improved your writing and editing skills? Please share your experiences in the comment section below.