How to Start a Successful Book Club

Posted by Marie on May 7, 2018
book club picks

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Want to start a book club, but don't know where to start? We turned to book club expert, Kristie McKenna, who moderates a collective membership of more than 34,000 members across three of some the most popular book clubs on Goodreads: The Goodreads Choice Awards Book Club, The Perks of Being a Book Addict, and You'll Love This One!! A Book Club & More. Here, McKenna shares her pro tips as well as some of her groups' most successful book picks.

Goodreads: How did you become a moderator?

Kristie McKenna: I started with The Perks of Being A Book Addict. Our club’s founder wanted to take a step back from moderating and she asked if there was anyone in the group that was willing to help. When no one else stepped up, I offered to assist her. I didn’t know much about moderating at the time; just wanted to help out a fellow book lover.

For both the Goodreads Choice Awards Book Club and You'll Love This One...!! A Book Club & More, I was an active member, and when the moderators were looking to add another moderator they contacted me to see if I would be willing to help out. In both cases, I was more than happy to join the teams. I haven’t looked back since!

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Goodreads: What lessons have you learned since you began moderating?

KM: One thing I found is that everyone seems to want something different that they hope to get out of their book club. Some people want to be very chatty with other people and discuss books, others like to see what members have to say, but don’t want to contribute much to the conversation themselves, some enjoy being challenged, while others just enjoy tracking their reading.

It is important for members to find the right fit for a book club. Some book clubs have different expectations for participation or a different focus. Do you want to focus on challenges? Or buddy reads? Do you want a relaxed group? A chatty group? Every group is different. If you haven’t found the right group, keep looking. There is one out there for you!

Goodreads: What advice do you have for someone who wants to start a book club?

KM: I would suggest being flexible with what you offer in your book club. Sometimes, you may need to change something that you offer or the way it is done. You may have something that seems like a great idea in your head, but when you put it out there it doesn’t translate well. Other times, it may go over better than expected. Be prepared to change things up or offer something different for those times when it doesn’t work out the way you may have hoped.

Also, for general book clubs, plan to offer options for people that may be looking for something different. Sometimes, a theme, challenge, or buddy read can engage someone who might not be interested in discussing what the group is reading that month. Many of our best discussions have happened outside of our monthly group reads.

Most importantly, if you have something you are passionate about and can’t find a group that focuses on that passion, start one! You are probably not the only person interested in that passion. Don’t worry if only a few people join. The number of members does not equal the amount of participation and you will probably get to know people with interests similar to yours very well. Likewise, if you have something unique that you want to try in your group, go for it! That is what makes Goodreads groups so fun. Be creative and have fun with it!

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Goodreads: What do you consider a “successful book club pick”?

KM: I tend to consider books that generate a bit of discussion as successful book club picks, especially if they bring in people that don’t typically join in the discussion. If a book makes people want to talk about it, beyond stating simply whether they enjoyed it or not, it is good for the book club. I most enjoy the discussions where members can’t wait to post their thoughts as they’re reading. I find this most often happens when people are very invested in a story, have differing opinions to others in the group, or can easily relate something in the story to current events.

So, a book such as Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng is a great group read because not only will some members love the story, while others may not, but members may fall on different sides of the issues. There is so much that people can to relate to and have opinions on in this book, such as adoption, infertility, race, social class, and family relationships.

Goodreads: What are some of your groups’ most successful book club picks?

KM: We’ve certainly had some interesting discussions in my book clubs. I think some of the more successful book club picks were The Lucky Ones by Tiffany Reisz, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett, The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison, and Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

Comments Showing 1-10 of 10 (10 new)

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message 1: by Kristie (new)

Kristie Hi Chris! I don't really know the full answer to your question, but I do know that some groups are set up as having an 18+ age group and those would automatically have their discussion posts be private unless you're a member. When you become a member, you indicate that are old enough to view the posts. I'm not sure if other groups are set up to have private discussions until you become a member as well.

message 2: by Poly (new)

Poly Stefane Great!

I once tried to create a reading group, but it did not last long. In fact, I called some people to start reading Atonoment, by Ian McEwan. I believe that because it was a difficult book, people soon left. It did not work this time. But I'll try again, because I love reading clubs. Thank you for this interview, it was very enlightening.

message 3: by Lena (new)

Lena Thanks! I just became a Mod last month, and while I’m thrilled, it can feel daunting and I keep wondering if I’m doing enough.

message 4: by Sandra (new)

Sandra Great interview, Kristie!

message 5: by Kristie (new)

Kristie Thanks, Sandra!

message 6: by Kristie (new)

Kristie Lena, I'm sure you're doing a great job!! Just keep at it. You definitely learn and can change as you go.

message 7: by Lena (new)

Lena Kristie wrote: "Lena, I'm sure you're doing a great job!! Just keep at it. You definitely learn and can change as you go."

Thank you Kristie, that means a lot!

message 8: by Nahal (new)

Nahal Dianat @allie

message 9: by Victoria (new)

Victoria I was told that I should open a book club at my school where I work at with kids from 2nd grade to 6th grade. I said I'll think about because I don't know how to. If someones has some insights I'd be very grateful!

message 10: by Aakanksha (new)

Aakanksha Kulkarni Loved it! I have been running a book club in Delhi, India for the past 10 years now. We meet once every month. Sometime participation is phenomenal and sometimes only a few of us turn up! but I have met some of the most amazing people through the book club.

Recently we launched our own website -

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