How to Start a Book Club
- Why are you starting a book club? What do you hope to get out of it?
- What type of people will make up the club? Are you hoping that all of you will have something in common (beside your love of books), or are you looking to form a diverse group?
- What types of books will your club primarily read? Fiction? Non-fiction? One particular genre, such as romance, bestsellers or biographies? Will you rotate through themes each month, like Asian literature, travel books or classics?
- Do you want to lead the club? If so, for how long, and how much time can you devote to organizing meetings, refreshments and discussions? If not, will other members be willing to take on these responsibilities?
- What are the minimum and maximum number of members your club can accommodate? (This may be dependent upon where you're meeting—see below!)
- When will your first meeting take place? How often will your club meet afterward? What about the summer months, and during the winter holidays?
When prospective members contact you for more information, explain the purpose of the book club and the number of members you're looking for. Interview them briefly about the types of books they like to read, and why they're interested in joining a book club. Let them know when and where the first meeting will be held, and ask them to bring two book suggestions to the meeting. (Additional materials, such as reviews of their suggestions, are always helpful, too!)
The Meeting Place
The location of your book club meetings—a restaurant, library, or your living room—will influence the number of members in the club and vice versa.
If it's in your home, you might want to keep it to eight or less. Ideally, no one member will have to host every meeting of the club. Club members are often willing—and usually eager—to host a meeting of the club at their house.
Still, no one should feel obligated to host a meeting in their home. Aside from hosting, there are other ways members can get involved when the club gets together. If you're hosting in someone's home, decide if refreshments will be served. Try an appetizer or dessert recipe.
If your library has a meeting room available, you may want to open up the club to 12 or more members. Other options for larger book clubs include meeting areas at bookstores, churches, YMCAs, restaurants or hotels. (Some of these may charge a fee—check before you commit.)
Your Virtual Meeting Place
Online book clubs are growing in popularity, and you can invite friends from around the world to join you. As an Oprah.com member, you can start your own discussion thread anytime. You never have to worry about a meeting space, appetizers or cleaning up—and your favorite people can drop in anytime!
The challenge is to make sure members are reading at roughly the same speed so no one gives away the juicy parts! Before you post a message or answer someone's question, read the responses you've missed so you know how far everyone's read.
Before everyone arrives, take a look at these ideas to help make sure everything runs smoothly. You and the other members will be deciding on a few important issues:
- Who will lead the book club meetings?
- Will it be the same person every time, or the person who suggested the book?
- Is there a price limit to the books you'll be reading? Paperbacks only, for instance?
- Who will keep a record of all the books read, when they were discussed, and who suggested them?
- And if you are meeting in person: Where will subsequent meetings be held? In the same location, at the home of that meeting's leader, or in a community room somewhere else, like a library or bookstore?
- Will refreshments be served? (We certainly enjoy them—try these recipes!) Who will provide them? Will they be connected to the theme of the book being discussed?
Your group may be able to reach a consensus on the first book everyone will be reading. If, however, you haven't reached a decision after 30 minutes or so, try one or more of these techniques.
- Take a vote. After everyone has presented their suggestions take a vote on each title. If you have a tie, have another vote.
- Simply take turns. Go alphabetically, by birthdays, or by whatever order you decide. Whoever's turn it is selects the next book to be read.
- Take a blind vote. This is a little more time consuming, but allows everyone to cast their vote anonymously. Distribute several small slips of paper to everyone at the meeting. Vote on each title under consideration by passing around a large bowl and having everyone put in a slip with "yes" or "no" written on it. The title with the most "yes" votes wins.
- Leave it to providence. Still have those slips of paper and a bowl handy? Use them to write down the title of each book, then put them all in the bowl and have someone pick one (or more).
- Still stumped? Start with one of Oprah's Book Club past selections!
Don't feel you have to talk about each question! If the group doesn't have a lot to say about a topic or doesn't seem interested in the question, move on to a question that gets them talking. Or better yet, see if any one in the group has a question they'd like to discuss.
Looking for some questions to get the conversation rolling? Here are some places to find them:
1. Get printable versions of the discussion questions from some of Oprah's Book Club selections!
2. Many publishers' websites now offer reading guides or discussion questions for their titles. (You may also find author background information, interviews and more!) These links will help you get started:
- HarperCollins (includes Avon Books, Amistad Press and William & Morrow)
- Random House (includes Knopf, Doubleday, Pantheon, Vintage Books, and Schocken)
- Penguin Putnam, Inc. (includes Viking, Dutton, Plume and Signet)
- Time Warner Books (includes Little, Brown and Company)
1. The circumstance that sets the book in motion is called the inciting moment. What was the inciting moment of this book?
2. Describe the character development. Who did you identify with? Did your opinions about any of the characters change over the course of the novel?
3. How does the author use language and imagery to bring the characters to life? Did the book's characters or style in any way remind you of another book?
4. What do you believe is the message the author is trying to convey to the reader? What did you learn from this book? Was it educational in any way?
5. Why do you think the author chose the title? Is there a significant meaning behind it?
6. Is there a part of the novel you didn't understand? Are you confused by a character's actions or the outcome of an event?
7. Do you think the setting, both time and location, played a large roll in this novel? Could it have happened anywhere, at anytime? If so, how would the novel have changed?
8. In your opinion, is the book entertaining? Explain why or why not.
9. What is your favorite passage?
10. How did this book touch your life? Can you relate to it on any level?
If you and several friends are already interested in reading, your book club is well on its way. If you are looking for new members, you could post signs in your library and grocery store, take out an ad in your local newspaper or invite people right here online!
Whether in person or over e-mail, when new members contact you for more information about joining your book club, interview them briefly about their experience with books and why they're interested in joining your club. Let them know about the current members and where your book club will meet.