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Eight Tips for Keeping Your Book Club Alive

Okay, book clubs. Everyone knows they’re a front for drinking wine. I mean, do people actually get together and talk about books or do they just tweet about them nowadays?

I’ve happily discovered there are still pockets of bookish people who are actively engaging in regular book related discussions. Is there wine? Yes. Do they still tweet? Maybe.

I had a chance to speak with four book clubbers, Jenny, Helen, Donna and Shauna. Each belong to a book club that’s been meeting between five and ten years. (I know! Amazing!) Based on those conversations, here are eight tips to keep your book club strong.

1. Always discuss the book. The clubs that stay around make discussing the book a priority. Regardless of how good the nachos are, what’s happening in US politics or what little Johnny did yesterday, they make darn sure to chat about the book.

2. Do not skip the first tip for non-readers. Will everyone read the book selection every month? Of course not, and that’s okay. Yet in a successful book club the majority of members need to be consistent readers. It’s unfair to the rest of the club to not have the chance to talk about the main character’s motivation, the plot twist and even, gasp, the ending!

3. Do schedule meetings in advance. It seems the most successful clubs stick to a schedule. This allows busy folks to plan ahead.

4. Much like the previous tip, successful book clubs make their story selections ahead of time. Knowing what you’ll be reading in advance allows people options for getting their hands on a copy: libraries, watching for ebook sales, borrowing from friends, or ordering from your local bookstore. One person I interviewed meets with a book club within her condo. This makes it very easy to share books…as well as walk home after a few bevvies. How great is that? (Now, if you happen to be thinking: ‘hey Joy, sharing books cuts into authors’ profits, doesn’t it? Guess what: a whole load of stuff cuts into writer’s profits. If you want to help an author out you can post a review online, Instagram a picture of the book cover, or recommend it to others).

5. Keep it fun! All of the book clubbers I interviewed discussed traditions like annual celebrations and themed dinners. One group always enjoys a pot luck meal inspired by their monthly book choice. When they read Orange is the New Black, everyone brought the food item they would most miss if they were incarcerated (um, fun!).

6. Agree to disagree. Not everyone is going to love the same books. That’s cool, right? As Donna (one of my book clubbers) says: “It's not much of a discussion if one person continues to talk over others, or if people are too shy to speak up.” Respect and sociability is where it’s at.

7. Be open to reading books you wouldn’t normally choose. My sources all mentioned a great benefit of belonging to a book club is exposure to stories they might not have otherwise discovered.

8. Bring the book to life. If you are looking for a way to spice-up your meetings, try going to a movie or play adaptation of the book. Other options include connecting with the author or selecting a book set locally and plan your meet-up at a location mentioned in the book. (Tip: this works particularly well if the location serves wine!)

Thank you to Shauna, Donna, Helen and Jenny for sharing your book club experiences.