1. Think Outside The Book
Liven up the discussion by reading plays or literary magazines that feature essays, art and short stories.
2. Share The Busywork
Leaving one person in charge for too long will lead to her burning out. Instead, every few months, rotate the responsibility of hosting and setting the date for the meeting.
3. Seduce With Food
A juicy three-cheese lasagna can help the discussion of the driest novel.
4. And Yet: Never Serve Vegetarian Pâté
5. Also, Keep Mortie Out Of It
Your cousin Mortie from Montana may be in town for the week, but that doesn't mean he should come with you to book club. Members have a relationship with one another that changes when new people enter. (Example: the shy person who finally opens up during a discussion of Unaccustomed Earth
.) A policy about when and how to invite guests or new members will spare a lot of feelings and avoid frustration.
6. No Books Longer Than 450 Pages
7. Set Up An Online Calendar
The crucial reason being to avoid endless group emails from everybody asking really annoying, repetitive, typo-ridden questions about what night they're supposed to meet and what they're supposed to read.
8. Stay On The Same Page—Literally
When reading classics, plays or foreign translations (our favorite: Anna Karenina
, make sure everyone buys or borrows the same edition. Otherwise, you'll spend the whole night flipping around trying to locate the paragraph or quote under discussion.
9. Beware The Book-Talk Tyrant
She's frequently the most organized and best read of the group, which everybody appreciates, but she's also the bossiest and, at times, dismissive of others' ideas. She picks the book. She picks the page of the book to discuss. She picks the chair that's smack in the middle of the circle and makes everybody feel as if they have to raise their hands to make a comment or go to the bathroom. Talk to her (gently). Or establish a roster of discussion leaders who are pointedly in charge of who talks when.
10. Once a Year, Select a Book From Childhood
Like Charlotte's Web
or Little House on the Prairie
. Reliving why we began reading in the first place is a great way to get everybody motivated to keep on reading.
11. Don't Lose a Member Who Feels Too Stressed Out to Host
The appetizers! The vacuuming! The rounding up of all those chairs! Every now and then, meet at a bar and toast your selection with a literary-themed cocktail like, say, a Great Gatsby.
12. Book Club Is Not Group Therapy
A member who loves
a memoir about drug addiction because she was a drug addict (and then spends the whole two hours talking about her struggles) or a member who hates
a novel about co-workers in a corporation because she works for a corporation (and then spends two hours talking about her boss) have missed the point—and taken over everyone else's evening. Our lives will influence our reading, of course, but the point is to examine the story at hand, not our psyches.
13. Take December Off
Nobody has time to finish a novel during the holidays. Have everyone bring in a short, memorable piece to read out loud, like a poem, a few paragraphs from a novel or article, or even a meaningful personal letter.
14. One Dog Memoir Per Year
We all love dogs. We all even love when the dog dies at the end of the book—as the dogs so often do—which causes us to sob hopelessly all over the final pages. But too many dogs ruin the heartbreak (and joy) we're after.
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