How to start a book club

book club

Talking about books with others and meeting new people, these are what make book clubs special. If you can’t find a book club in your area, then why not start one yourself? Here’s how.

Determine the type of book club

What is the purpose of the book club? Do you only want to talk about books or, for example, eat together first? Does everyone really have to read the book(s)(completely), or is that not so important? In short: before you start it, how do you envisage the book club? And is it clear to future members what to expect? Also consider whether you want to start an online (for example via Goodreads or Instagram) or offline book club.

Which genres?

Do you only want to read thrillers or historical novels, or are you interested in multiple genres? This is also useful to determine in advance, so that you can invite people who also like to read such books.

The size of the group

Do you want to keep the group small or invite lots of people? The advantage of a large group is that you get to hear many ideas and opinions, and that the conversation will not end quickly. A disadvantage may be that not everyone will be able to have their say so easily. It is also harder to find a suitable location. Smaller groups are a bit more intimate and you can just meet at someone’s home.

Invite people

Next, you can start inviting people. If you don’t know anyone in your area who loves to read, ask if you can hang up an advertisement at the local library, café or bookstores.

Choosing books

Now the question is: Which books will you read? Do you want to determine that together amongst yourselves (for example at the end of every meeting) or would you rather make that decision yourself? In any event, it is nice if you are open to suggestions and let others share ideas for book choices. What you can also do is make a number of suggestions and let the members vote on it. When selecting a book, consider the difficulty level and the number of pages. It is also nice if the book is available from the library.

Think about surprising extras

Make your book club even more fun by arranging some extras. Contact the book’s publisher, for example: perhaps they still have old promotional material (think bookmarks or posters) or they have reading club questions about the book. Some authors are also willing to talk to book clubs. It never hurts to ask…

Start of the meeting

If the members of the book club do not know each other, it may be nice to start with an ice breaker. That way everyone gets the chance to say something, which makes it easier to start a conversation afterwards. For example, ask everyone to briefly say something about their three favorite books or authors. Or have everyone write down their favorite book, mix the pieces of paper together and then let the group guess which book belongs to which person.

The conversation

And now the part that it is all about: the conversation about the book. It’s useful to find some background information about the book and the author in advance (you can also rotate this task). You can opt for a relaxed, spontaneous discussion; but if you want a little bit of structure, it’s useful to prepare at least a few questions. Think of the characters, memorable quotes, the cover, the time in which the story takes place, the perspective (who is the storyteller), the meaning and the story itself. Would the members recommend the book to someone else? Who was their favorite character? What would they like to ask the author? There is more than enough to talk about. Set an end time in advance to prevent the discussion from going on too long.

And then?

At the end of the meeting you can discuss the forthcoming meeting together. What will be the next book, the date and location, proposed discussion questions, who will look for some background information? The nice thing is that everyone can contribute something and take part. Be open to feedback, criticism and ideas and your book club will be nothing but a success.

  • If you would prefer to become a member of an existing book club before you start one yourself, look for one in your neighborhood or via your social network. The website keeps track of all clubs (no matter what your interests are) in your neighbourhood. When you start your own book club, you can also sign up for Meetup to find more members.
  • If you need some (more) book suggestions for your book club, then take a look at our book tips.

Photography Jenna Anderson/