Share your tips for running a book club

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Share your tips for running a book club

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marraskuu 8, 2006, 6:55 pm

Do you have any good tips for running a book club?

marraskuu 9, 2006, 9:08 am

whoa! that's a broad subject... I'd be happy to pass on any "expertise" from the years I've started and "facilitated" book groups at the bookstore. I've done: SF/Fantasy book group, Jane Austen book group (twice), Mystery & fiction book groups, Classics book group, the Orange Prize book group and book group "networking nights" (that does, face-to-face, what you hope to do here on LibraryThing).

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).

marraskuu 9, 2006, 6:12 pm

My last bookgroup really petered out, so my tips are based on what not to do. We would take turns to choose the book to read. Each meeting we would designate the time and place for the next meeting. This turned out to be a mistake. there was one member who turned up each week without having read the book, then proceeded to dominate the discussion - kind of a bizarre behaviour. He would also suggest books that the 'chooser' should nominate, even when they had already chosen. But when it came his turn to choose, he said he hadn't decided and he would contact us all to let us know the book and the date and time of the meeting. We never heard from him. It was summer, the rest of us were kind of dispirited, so we never got it together again.

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?

marraskuu 10, 2006, 2:59 pm

That's a bummer.

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.

marraskuu 10, 2006, 11:03 pm

This is an interesting topic--thanks for the invite, Jen.

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.

marraskuu 13, 2006, 11:01 am

Our book group meets on a regular basis, usually at the same house. Food and wine are absolutely necessary. Our hostess is kind enough to supply the refreshments, but occasionally one or more of us will contribute something. Although we meet ostensibly every other week, we only discuss an actual book once a month and it is not necessary to read the book to attend or join in the discussion. We are friends first and book discussers second. Books are recommended by members (or their family members). We have an annual retreat where we go away for the weekend and might discuss a book if we have one ready. There is a Christmas luncheon that is traditional where we exchange small and/or homemade gifts.
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.

marraskuu 15, 2006, 5:14 am

friendship, food and wine, and the relaxed atmosphere of someone's home.

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?

marraskuu 21, 2006, 3:29 am

Friendship, food and great wine over book readings - where can I sign up???

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"??

marraskuu 28, 2006, 7:50 am

Our group meets on the same day of the week each time, but meetings can be anything from 4-6 weeks apart, depending on members' commitments, or the length of the book. Each person takes a turn at choosing 3or 4 titles, providing members with synopses, and we vote it down to one book to read (this is done at the meetings). So far this has worked well. We meet in pubs which I find more relaxing than members' homes (I'm not really a joiner, so attending this group is quite a step for me!), although you have to be careful where you go, as a noisy pub can be less than conducive to conversation. We usually pick pubs with food, too, so that if anyone wants to eat they can.

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.

marraskuu 28, 2006, 2:59 pm

I think what you're saying about picking a theme is important, McNorton. My husband and I are leading our first ongoing book club in January, and the closest thing we'd allow ourselves to a theme was a "Winter Winds Trio" - Gone With the Wind, Wind in the Willows, and The Shadow of the Wind.

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. :-)

marraskuu 29, 2006, 12:49 am

My group meets at a local bookstore (one of its owners is part of our group, which makes it easier.) We meet approximately once a month, depending on schedules. We all read the same book. To choose the next book, we usually troop over to the sf section and pull out likely books. I've introduced the Page Fifty page fifty and decide if I like the tone and the language of the book.

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.

tammikuu 23, 2007, 7:51 pm

One question we've run across - that is still difficult to answer - is how to deal with a too-full book club.

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!

kesäkuu 2, 2007, 7:21 pm

Interesting....I've been in a book group that has lasted about 15 years. We have 10-12 members but not everyone attends every meeting, of course. What works for us is to have a "choosing" meeting about every 18 months - each person brings 2 or 3 books to vote on (informally) and we pick the list for the next year and a half. We take turns hosting and usually match the host with book choice. We meet once a month for 11 months, skipping December because people get too busy. Host provides drinks and snacks, but not a full meal. We try not to pick a depressing book for February or March in Maine !
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.

kesäkuu 16, 2007, 5:36 pm

I also wanted to say that it's my opinion that if someone in a book group consistently "can't" read one book a month, they should drop out and get into some sort of social club. One book a month is nothing.
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.

kesäkuu 29, 2007, 10:55 am

In response to people cancelling at the last moment, for any event you have to be prepared for 1/3 to 1/2 not showing up, especially at the very first meeting. Also if you have an ongoing group, the group will gradually add commited members. Good Luck

kesäkuu 29, 2007, 11:09 am

I run a book discussion group where members frequently confess to Not having read the whole book. It is a NonFiction book, and those are usually harder to get through. After I chose the book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed with 575 pages, I became much more comfortable with members Not finishing the book.
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.

syyskuu 9, 2007, 12:26 pm

We take turns to host the meeting which happens on the second Saturday of every month. Good food and wine is essential. We each put R50 (being South Africa) into a kitty which goes to the next host. She/he then uses this money to buy books which in the end, after everyone has read the books, belongs to the purchaser. The host starts the meeting and each of us get a turn to discuss the books we have read. sometimes the discussions are very lively around one particular book and at other times are more general. It is a great way to share and discuss books and to spend pleasant afternoons in each others' company.

18LivelyLady Ensimmäinen viesti
joulukuu 16, 2007, 6:23 am

Our book group of more than 18 years has evolved into something different than the original. Membership has fluctuated from 6-12 with 7 members right now.

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.

kesäkuu 16, 2008, 4:41 am

I read these tips with a great deal of interest. I am an avid reader who has been looking to join a book club for a few years, but have encountered a few obstacles. First, I live pretty far away from the "center" of things (literary things, that is) in my area. Economics forced me to live in a distant suburb of a small city, and frankly, folks in my immediate area don't seem to read much, if at all. If I told you the comments people make when they come into my house and see my bookshelves. . .!

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!