Share your tips for running a book club
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Some have been more successful than others, some have very different format than others. Most read the same book each month and return to discuss it but, for example, our SF/Fantasy discussion group, which has been going for almost nine years, come together and share what they are all individually reading. The fiction group often read topically...everyone assigned to read a novel by a Russian author, Canadian or Irish; or "books with a color in the title" whatever we decided.
Best general tips I can give? Make it consensual and fun. Establish together some guidelines for the group right from the beginning. Explore various ways to enhance the groups' readings (i.e. field trips, complimentary food, movies).
So from that experience, I will in future set the meeting times in advance eg first Sunday of each month, and have a backup system for choosing the books, or find a different way. How do other groups do this? Vote? Consensus? In turn?
I agree with you on the regular meeting time though.
There are many ways to choose books. I think having each member take turns choosing demands a real committment from all members and may not work well if everyone doesn't know each other really well. Most of the groups I work with bring suggestions to the table and the group decides by concensus. For example, one member each month presents three or four books to be considered. He/she reads the back of each book, adds any other reviews or notes and then the group decides which one of the four to read. On a slight variation, every few months our classics group members bring lists of books they'd like to have the group consider. Everyone makes their pitch for their choices and again, the group decides by concensus. As it turns out, the end result is usually one book from each member's suggestions.
Much depends on the personality of your group and what you want from your bookgroup. Maybe your group could talk about that first. Most bookgroups are a small community in itself and everyone should be given a place and a voice. If you're just starting out, the group could choose to read off an awards list or a bestseller list. Maybe, at a first meeting, everyone could bring a favorite book or a "book that changed their lives" and talk about why it's one of their favorites (you can learn a lot about each other that way)...
As a matter of note, currently, the hot book in our area for book groups is Memory Keepers Daughter by Kim Edwards; although there are stlll some groups reading Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper.
I've never had experience running a book club, but I've been in one in high school (which wasn't all too long ago). What I can say as a participant is in agreement Akenned5--we were asked to read a certain number of chapters so that we could discuss the book every week, but b/c we also were students and had our personal lives, sometimes ppl did not read far enough into the book and would thus be left out of the discussion.
A suggestion may come from the way one of my tutorials run, based upon a book we are supposed to have read up to, i.e. halfway, and given a reasonable amount of time to get there, like two weeks. Then we would talk about what we liked, what stood out, and normally we'd find ourselves in an engaging conversation.
The key to the success of the group seems to be the regular meeting rather than the relentless reading of books. Book discussion does not need to take place the whole time if there is something more interesting that has come up.
So I'd say in order of importance:
Food, Wine, friendship, regular meetings at predictable times and places, and then book discussion. Some might put the wine higher up there, but that's quibbling.
Oh, and it's all women.
the friendship has grown through the meetings - few of us knew anyone in the group before we joined. but book-lovers are usually great people, right?
We've been hosting most of our book clubs (there are 5 distinct ones in our Los Angeles group) in cafes and small restaurants. Just one is in a book store, a Barnes & Noble, but it's just folding chairs in a side section.
I hosted a book club reading at our townhouse once. Maybe it's time to revisit that. Wonder what name would be appropriate to convey "good wine and good books"??
I have heard of groups where they pick a theme for the year and read books on that theme. Personally, the sameness of that would put me off.
I've read online about others hosting a summer of James Joyce or Hemingway, but like you said, that sameness seems a little too much. And if several folks really don't like or "get" Joyce, for example, it's going to be a long summer. :-)
Our group has had little growth, about one new member every two years, but our group seems happy with it and isn't interested in growing. We've been meeting about eight years now.
Roslyn is hosting a reading of He's Just Not That Into You as part of our "Book Club Lite" selections, and as expected, tons of people signed up. She only wanted a dozen max so she waitlisted the other 10 or so signups.
One thing that's frustrating to her and to me as her mentor is that we sometimes get a lot of last-minute cancels. When she moved down the waitlist to include the others who'd RSVPed, she was told, "I didn't think I was going - so I didn't read the book."
I can kinda understand that when the book is long or a difficult read, but I read this book in an hour.
Does anyone ever run across a problem like this? Or do you have suggestions on what we could do to have a different outcome? It's a little frustrating for her, since this is her first time hosting a book club event. Thanks!
We have been lucky to have the group work out well.
We don't have a rule that you have to read the book to attend, but most members do. We are open to all genres - nonfiction, memoir, biography, poetry. Once in a while we read a book and then watch the movie, which makes for great discussion.
I work full time, volunteer, teach, and do a lot of other things, and I manage to read about 150 books a year. I realize that not everyone is a fast reader like me, but again, one book a month should not be a difficult thing.
I will sometimes direct the discussion back to the book, by asking "What did the author say/indicate about that..."
But that person who hogged the verbal space, and hadn't read the book is out of line. On one occaision I had to say that I wanted to hear from everybody in the group, that this was to be a discussion, when one expert on the topic started to lecture. I also will ask to hear from group members who haven't said very much, making it clear that everyones input is desired.
However, I am the acknowledged leader, so it is easier for me to exert authority over the group.
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When we all lived in the same zip code, gathering was easy. We alternated homes. Now we are spread all over the county, so we meet the every fifth Monday at an eating place of choice at 6 PM. That way those who are working can have dinner before going home. Book conversation is dependent on the one leading the discussion that night....some are weaker than others. Book selection and discussion leading are rotated on an alphabetical basis.
We have read a variety of things but have veered away from classics. Discussion is not boring. This has worked for us.
Secondly, not only is the time element (I live almost an hour away from the nearest Barnes & Noble, which is the main site for book groups in my city) prohibitive, but so now is the cost of gas.
And thirdly, while our local branch libraries host book discussion groups, many of these groups are geared to retired older folks and meet during the day -- when I am still working. And the few I went to at night were rather off-putting; led by one fairly strident young woman who felt, as she had started the group, that she was its undisputed leader -- she resisted input from the rest of us not only on picking books to read but generally on commenting on the book at all. It was a pretty uncomfortable experience, and I stopped going.
Joining LibraryThing has revived my interest in starting a book club or joining an existing one. I do like the idea of having it in someone's home -- as the other uncomfortable part of meeting in the library (much as I usually love libraries) was the very institutionalized setting - no food or drink allowed, gathering around a table in straight chairs -- it was more like taking a test than meeting to discuss literature.
Anyway, I appreciate these tips -- and if anyone out there has any suggestions for me on how to find local book lovers, please feel free to pass them along. Thanks!