THE FIRST RULE OF BOOK CLUB? TALK ABOUT IT LITERALLY ALL THE TIME.
We have been a part of our in real life Best Book Club for two and a half years now and we have changed and grown a lot since that first meeting in November of 2018. Starting a book club doesn't have to be hard or intimidating but it can be. Luckily, we are here to share with you all of our book clubbing wisdom. This article will give you helpful tips on how to start your own book club as well as help you find great books to read!
The very first piece of advice that we like to give people who are looking to start a book club is to just DO IT! We know, easier said than done. We spent too many years not starting a book club when we so desperately wanted one and now we know what a waste of years that was. Seriously, if you want a book club, start one!
One thing to consider before starting the club and approaching people is what your book clubbing goals are. Do you want to expand and diversify your reading? Do you want to solely be entertained? Do you want to discuss important topics? Do you want to read a specific kind of book such as horror or romance? These are important questions to ask yourself because if you want to read classic literature and everyone else in your club wants only romance, there could be some issues when it comes time to pick a book.
Okay, here are four things you need to start book clubbing.
The first thing you need is to find at least a few other people to join your club, or else it's just you reading alone and talking to yourself. As introverts, we both do approve of this style of book club and remain active members in ours, but if you are reading this article that's probably not the book club you are looking for. So, find your bookish people. You probably know them, they’re most likely lurking around book stores, camping out in libraries or just generally hiding from other people. Okay, they might be hard to find but I’m sure you can find at least a couple. Worst case scenario, and if you're comfortable with strangers, you can post in a community Facebook group or on a bulletin board. There are always people looking to join a book club that someone else is willing to do all the work for. Also, you may be surprised to learn that some of the people you already know are actually readers! Reach out! It's scary we know, but it's totally worth it.
The second thing that you need to find is a location that everyone in your club can easily access. Covid has made meeting up a little harder than usual and will depend on where you live and what restrictions you still have. The last year has been different for us, but we met over Zoom in the winter - which was fine, but not the same - and when the weather was nice, we met outside in a park socially distanced. Usually, we all meet up in Jen's coffee shop after hours. Obviously all of you don't have a member that owns a coffee shop, but there are shops in our city that have meeting rooms that you can book so look for places like that where you live or you can also, just choose someone's house to meet at. We prefer to use a neutral location like the coffee shop so that no one has the pressure of hosting but usually there is at least one person in a group who lives for it.
3. Book Club Book
Third and most importantly, you need a book to read. There are so many books in the world that it can get a little intimidating. For new book clubs we really recommend starting out by choosing books that already have discussion guides and questions right in the back of the book or at the very least, sometimes you can find them online with a quick Google. We have tried a few different ways of picking books. We started by doing a poll which we didn't really have enough members for so then we switched to everyone putting a book into a hat and then just pulling one out. This worked really well for a long time but eventually it became that some members books never got drawn and others got drawn all the time. Now, what we do is each of our six core members gets one month where they get to choose which book we read and the other six months are reserved for special themes such as Black History Month Women's History Month, Pride, Halloween, Christmas etc. This has been really working out great for us - we all get our books read, plus we get the chance to diversify our reading.
Last, but not least, you're gonna need some snacks. Okay, they aren't mandatory for book club, but we highly recommend them! When it's Covid safe to do so we usually do a potluck style snack situation where we all bring something and it's excellent. Sometimes we even theme our snacks for Halloween or Christmas which is so much fun.
Best "Best Book Club" Books and What Makes a Good Book Club Book
We have read a lot of books over the years and luckily we have only had a few true duds. Something that we have found though is that just because everyone loves a book that doesn't make it a good book club book and just because everyone didn't like a book that doesn't make it a bad book club book.
"Let's start a drinking game. Every time we say "book club book" DRINK! "
Liking or not liking does not a good book club book make. The key to a good book club book is the discussion that occurs around it. We have read a ton of books that we really love, but when it comes time to discuss them, there isn't a lot to say so we all say that we loved it and then this is where having snacks is handy. If you have nothing to say about the book, may as well keep eating.
Here are a list of books that were hits for us
The absolute best book we have read in book club is The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. It is no secret that we absolutely love this book and it turned out to be a great book for book club as well. There was so much to discuss in this book surrounding including the layers of the story, the characters, the history, the fact that its a retelling of The Iliad and the mythology behind it. Plus, it's an LGBTQ story and we read it for Pride month so that gave us a whole other layer of discussion. We highly recommend that your book club read this one!
We have an episode where we discuss this book at length so if you haven't listened to it yet, click here to do so!
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell and The
Vegetarian by Han Kang are two examples of books that most of the group didn't like, but we couldn't ignore that they were really great books for book club. Despite our reasons for not loving them, these books were both beautifully written, contained really great discussion topics that sparked passion within the group. Though we find it difficult to recommend these books to other readers because of the subject matter, we do recommend them to book clubs.
There have been times when we read one book and loved it so much that we actually added a second (optional) book for that month's meeting. The most notable example of this was when we read Beartown by Fredrik Backman. We loved it so much that we immediately had to read its sequel, Us Against You. Both of these books have very complicated characters so there was so much to talk about in terms of who they were, how they presented themselves to their community and what their motivations were. They both involved really important and sometimes controversial social issues that sparked passionate conversations within the group; they had multiple layers to the story so there were different discussion points for each of these layers and how they came together. There was so much more to the story than what was on the surface which made these books excellent book club choices.
Another time where a lot of us read two books in one month was when we read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Again, we all loved Evelyn Hugo so much that we immediately had to read Daisy Jones and the Six which had just been released at that time. TJR’s writing style and character development was so gripping that we just had to read her latest book. Most of us preferred Evelyn Hugo, but Daisy Jones was a great book to discuss especially because of the interview format that it was done in. it was exceptionally well written as a oral history and was so convincing that a lot of the time we could not tell whether the band was real or imagine. It was excellent.
Finally, we can not talk about our book club without mentioning our mascot, CARL. Obviously not every book club needs a mascot, but CARL appeared to us and we promptly adopted him without question. CARL actually comes from another great book club choice of ours - An Absolutely Remarkable Thing and A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green. These books were awesome for book club - we read them both as they were released. If you want to discuss the impact of social media and fame on humanity, this is the book for you. CARL is the alien guy you can see on the cover of the first book. Him being our mascot started out as a bit of a joke but eventually stuck.
Jen even made little CARL statues for everyone for Christmas. You too can make your own little CARL statues too if you go to The Carls Are Coming website and print of the template. It's so much fun! And then, because we are so hardcore, a group of us all got Carl tattoos because book club is FOR LIFE! You don't have to get matching ink to be in a book club, but we have been together for so long now and have become such great friends that any memory of book club is a good one and deserves to be forever carved into our skin.
There are no wrong ways to start or run a book club, this is just what works for us! We would love to give a shout out to our other book club that we call "Other Book Club". It is run by our friend Jennelle and it is set up a little different in that it's more laid back, and there is no required reading. Just bring yourself and a stack of books if you're comfortable lending them out. We just go around in a circle and everyone gets a chance to talk about the books we have read over the last month. It's a great way to get out of the house and hear about some great titles that maybe wouldn't have crossed our paths otherwise. It's awesome having such a diverse group of readers to hang out with and get recommendations from. We recommend this style of book club all the time to people. We have gotten so many amazing book recommendations this way. Plus, as we’ve all gotten to know each other and our reading tastes we can now pretty accurately recommend books or give content warnings which is so helpful.
How do you book club? We want to know! Write us and tell us about your favorite book club or book club books!