Readers to the Rescue: Your Best Book Club Tips

Posted by Cybil on March 10, 2017

The first rule of book club? We talk about book club! We wanted to know what are the best rules, ideas, and tips for being part of a wildly successful book club, so we turned to our experts…you. One of the first things we noticed: Y'all drink a lot of wine. The second trend: You put a lot of smart thinking into your groups!

Here are some of our key takeaways on how to have a successful book club (but you can read through all of the ideas on Facebook and on our Twitter page):

1) Ground rules matter.

Decide how many members you want in your group for the best discussions (a lot of you said you like a group of fewer than a dozen people), what types of books you'll want to read, and how you'll pick the next book. Popular methods for picking books include: Everyone picks a month for their book recommendation or the group votes among a few books. We also liked this suggestion: "Everyone nominates two books, all go into a hat, next two books are chosen. Everyone has a stake in what is read," from Sorcha on Twitter.

Also important: Decide who will host each meeting and what that entails. Some of you cook dinner and the guests bring the wine, some of you throw out a bowl of chips and others provide beer. Pick the vibe that will suit you and the members of your group. Some book clubs have a rotating schedule among friend's homes, while others meet at a restaurant to save everyone the hosting duties.

Oh, and it helps if folks actually read the book.

"We set rules at our first meeting, cooperatively. For the example: We set a page limit, the book has to be easy to get hold of and affordable, we don't allow books that are part of a series and don't stand by themselves, and we don't allow books that you love so much you can't take criticism of (we all have one!)," wrote Fran Lane.

"It is important to pick good club books. Those are books that keep the group interested and lend themselves to good discussion. Not all books do this. Each year a person signs up for a month they will host, they pick the book for that month, which is revealed the month before. They have club in their home, provide snacks, and lead that month's discussion," wrote Kandie K. Sweeney.

2) Get opinionated.

Create an atmosphere where everyone is comfortable sharing their opinions—and make sure one or two people don't dominate the conversation. A number of people said it's a bore when a "pushy" person take over, so keep a watch for book-club bullies! Several of you mentioned having talking points or leading off the discussion with a bit of background about the author and book. Remember, it can be boring if everyone agrees and sometimes the best conversations are about the books you didn't like.

"As a leader have questions prepared to guide the discussion. Otherwise the group ends up talking about everything but the book," wrote Bobbi Harman.

3) Be creative! Remember, this is fun.

We loved your ideas on how to shake up the traditional format of a book club. Among the groups we want to crash? Those who have monthly themes (beach reads for July!), those who pair food with a book's theme, and the groups where members also bring a book to swap.

"My favorite book club experience was where we did NOT read the same book. (I have found that the conversation often fizzles out quickly in that type of club.) Instead, everyone brought in one or two books they had recently read and informally presented them to the group. Everyone left with at least a couple of new ideas for their next book!" wrote Stephanie Le Francofille.

"Have everyone list 5 words they had to look up in the dictionary while reading the book. Compare the words and definitions," wrote Amy Stone Shepherd.

Looking to join book club? Goodreads hosts thousands of groups and one is sure to be perfect for you. Need more advice on a great bookclub book? Check out these readers' most successful picks!

Check out more recent blogs:
25 Big Books of Spring
Celebrating the Joy of Rereading a Favorite Book
Most Anticipated YA Books of 2017

Comments Showing 1-50 of 82 (82 new)

message 1: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Thank you for this amazing information

message 2: by Dana Al-Basha (new)

Dana Al-Basha دانة الباشا I would like to join a real one in Kuwait :) I love book clubs especially with friends!

message 3: by Kandie (new)

Kandie Sweeney One thing I didn't mention when I originally replied to Goodread's question about book clubs was when I set ours up, I asked people which night, or nights worked the best for them. Majority of us liked Tuesday night, so we always meet the first Tuesday of the month. This way, everyone always knows when club is and we do not work around conflicts or schedules. If someone cannot make it that night, they let the host of club know. It is just too hard with people being busy to randomly decide when club would be each month. More likely than not, it wouldn't happen on a monthly basis. Might not work for all clubs, but determining a day and sticking with it, works for ours. :)

message 4: by Fran (new)

Fran Excellent. I get quoted and it's when I'd made an error in my typing and hadn't realised.

message 5: by Catherine (new)

Catherine These are great ideas! I would love to have a book group to go to.

message 6: by Christi (new)

Christi Lockhart Excellent suggestions - I'm in the process right now of starting a book club! Very helpful - Thank you!!!

Bookishnymph *needs hea* I'm part of a book club that is goal oriented. We don't all read the same books. Instead we each choose our own reading goal(s) of some type, such as reading 100 books in one year or reading more books off a to-read list. Then we just chat about the books we're reading and how our goals are coming. I think it's fun that way, to see what kind a books people gravitate to and what goals they set.
: )

message 8: by Suzi Evelyn (new)

Suzi Evelyn This is extremely helpful. Great advice.

message 9: by Cat (new)

Cat Tutt Great advice! I just formed my own book club on Meetup and the first meeting is in a couple of weeks. I particularly enjoyed the tip on finding some background information about the author to get things started. That's a wonderful idea!

message 10: by Nissa (new)

Nissa I was wondering if anyone has participated in a silent book club? I was looking at joining one in my area but don't know where to start.

message 11: by Fatima (new)

Fatima Dana Al-Basha wrote: "I would like to join a real one in Kuwait :) I love book clubs especially with friends!"

Hi Dana. You are welcome to join our book club. It is called 'Kuwait bibliophiles'. We meet every alternate Friday at different locations. You can join the Facebook page of the same name to get more info. Cheers!

message 12: by Alison (new)

Alison I host 2 books clubs: one in town (on Tuesdays), the other in the beachtown nearby (on Saturdays). The meetings are held every other week, from 3 to 4pm, we run on coffee and tea - no food/snacks needed. As a host, I pick up 4 or 5 book suggestions and we vote - we read, in that month or in the season, the book most voted. Both groups have less than 10 lady members - which is the best for discussions. During the summer we don't have activities, vacation time!!

message 13: by Phil On The Hill (new)

Phil On The Hill In my book club we always meet over a meal. There are 6 of us and we take it in turns to select the book and then the restaurant. It works very well. We book a date that suits everyone, so sometimes we have 6 to 8 week breaks between a book. Another factor that contributes to the fun is that we all have different taste in books. We tend to avoid hardbacks, unless it is available as an eBook. I set it up three years ago and it has progressed really well.

message 14: by Brian (new)

Brian Good tips. I especially like the idea of sharing some background on the author and book to jump-start the conversation. One question: if you do end up with a "book-group bully," how do you handle the situation?

message 15: by pokerface (new)

pokerface WhatsApp book club?

message 16: by Carol (new)

Carol I've really enjoyed our on-line book club. I am the moderator of our club, and it has been so much fun having people join that I've never met before, and we've become international. I just love it. The one concern I have is that I have a few members that have joined somewhere between 5 and 34 book clubs. I find the more they join the less effective they are to the individual clubs, ours is often the one that is gets overruled which makes us not quite as fun. I've recently gone back and started reading comments from the start until now. We started out with gusto, but in some ways we have dwindled some. We read 3 books that the individual members select and we all read it and set up questions for comments. Which can be a lot of fun. We have some smart ladies, and they are a joy to read their comments and adding to them. Then we have a month off, where we can pick what we want to read of our own choice, and we post comments about the books we have read, during that month, and we can add those to our own personal TBR list or can pick one for a club read. Our club is small. It says we have 13 members, but there are only about 8 that are regular. We have lost a few, just haven't heard from some of them. Overall it has been most enjoyable. The one strong recommendation is to not have your members join more than two or three clubs.

message 17: by Kimberley (new)

Kimberley I have been running a successful real life book club since 2008 and would like to add that short stories make terrible discussions. A perfect example was Jennifer Egan's "A Visit from the Goon Squad." Also I would not recommend mysteries since they rely so heavily on plot. Classic novels are always a good place to start. Just sayin'.

message 18: by Kym (new)

Kym I have been running a book club for years. While our format is similar to one mentioned in the article (we meet for brunch every 6 weeks and members take turns picking the book and hosting the meeting), there are two things we do that are fun. To open the discussion, we go around the table and each person gives the book a rating between 1-10 and explains why. And at the end of the discussion we discuss who would play each of the main characters if the book was made into a movie. It's a fun way to wrap things up!

message 19: by Diana (new)

Diana Few months ago, a friend asked me the same question and here we have a better answer. Now, I think I'm gonna purchase with her the goal of founding the book club ^^ thanks a lot!

message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

I would like to also suggest a book group via your local library. I set up our Womens Institute book group to be held in our local library. The advantage is not having to buy the books. Most libraries hold book collections for book groups from a vast selection and genres of titles. There are 10 of us in the group, none of us knew each other before joining and I now have 10 new friends.

message 21: by Shaun (new)

Shaun Lyons Our book group has twelve members, one for each month. That way we always know which month we'll be hosting. Each hostess picks the book and brings copies of it to the meeting the month before, to distribute. (These days several people get their copy on Kindle, so maybe five hard copies are needed). The hostess also serves food from the book, which is a fun aspect. Our group has been going strong for over 25 years.

message 22: by Jill (new)

Jill I'm in a great book club that has been going on for several years, and I believe it's our guidelines that make us so successful. We have decided to have no more than 10 women (and only women) in our club. We take turns hosting. When it's a woman's turn to host, she presents three or four books, with a short description of each, and we vote on them--the one with the most votes wins. We read a mixture of fiction and non-fiction; no political or religious books. Books must be no more than 350 pages and be easily available at a local library and, preferably, are available in paperback. We meet every 6 weeks or so, then take a 2-month break in the summer. We meet at either the host's house or at a restaurant of the host's choosing. (Relatively quiet restaurants are a good idea!) And yes, we discuss the book! (Among lots of other things!) The person hosting leads the discussion, asking questions about the book--all very informal. If you are looking to start a book club, feel free to borrow our rules--trust me, they work!

message 23: by Barb (new)

Barb Kimberley wrote: "I would not recommend mysteries since they rely so heavily on plot."

The F2F book club that I'm in reads nothing *but mysteries, and it's been going strong for nearly 18 years :)

message 24: by Phil On The Hill (new)

Phil On The Hill Loads of great ideas here, but there is no definitive way to run a book club. The best advice is just get started. You only need one other person. Happy reading.

message 25: by Madeliene (last edited Apr 05, 2017 09:40AM) (new)

Madeliene I go to a book club that started in my local library. One of the librarians, Helen, runs it and knows the types of books we all read and has a great selection of books out on the table for us to choose from. She also saves books for us that she thinks we will like. We all read different types of books so this means we sometimes find new authors we haven't looked at before. We each talk about the books we have read since the last meeting. Just like to add that we take it in turn to talk about the books we have read, so everyone has a chance to talk.
We meet on the 3rd Friday of the month 2-4pm in the library and we have tea/coffee and biscuits. We have also arranged visits to the cinema or theatre to see films/plays that have been made from books.

message 26: by Marie (new)

Marie Staight In order to get more people talking in our monthly book club, I took a list of questions about the book and cut them up so that I could hand out one question to each person there. Then we went through the list as numbered. That way each person had to answer a question or lead the discussion about that question. It works very well to get a more balanced discussion. Also you avoid one person monopolizing the conversation.
We have refreshments and try to have something related to the book - like a dish or drink mentioned in the book, or something famous from the country involved. People can get quite creative about this!

message 27: by Rlsalvati (new)

Rlsalvati My club has 7 members now, when we're at the end of a book list everyone brings 2 or 3 book suggestions and we talk through the suggestions. We try to pick one book from each person's list, We also try to have a balance between short and long books, and at least one non-fiction book in each group. As others have mentioned, we try to choose books that are readily available, and books that have been out for a while, so we're not having to purchase new hardbacks or request items in high demand from the library. Every so often we do something a bit out of the box - recently the local rep company was performing Arthur Miller's All My Sons, and we read the play then went to see it. We rotate hosting, and the "owner" of each book brings discussion points or questions. I'm not sure what I would do without my book club.

message 28: by Rlsalvati (new)

Rlsalvati Kimberley wrote: "I have been running a successful real life book club since 2008 and would like to add that short stories make terrible discussions. A perfect example was Jennifer Egan's "A Visit from the Goon Squa..."

For one meeting we each picked a favorite short story, and discussed them all. It was a great time! Our discussion included the "why" behind each pick, and similarities/differences between the stories.

message 29: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Danielson I am happy to report that we must have an amazing book club as we do all of the things suggested in this article. Our club is community based and has been going for nearly 20 years. New people move to the community and join us as some move away or leave due to age-related illnesses or, sadly, death. We somehow stay at around 12 members. Our focus is the book we are discussing but we have added social time in recent years as we have also become friends.

message 30: by Judy (new)

Judy Does anyone have the challenge of a group member who never reads the book, but loves to come for the social aspect? When Unnamed Person tries to enter the discussion, it ends up to be incorrect information and tangential talk, making it all the more obvious that UP hasn't read the book...

What to do? What to do...

message 31: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen Hogan I started this in my book club----- type out the questions on separate pieces of paper. Everyone takes one or two to answer and lead a mini discussion. That way everyone has a voice.
I too like to give some background on the book and author at the start of our meeting. Especially on how the author was inspired to write this story.

message 32: by Adam (new)

Adam I'm really touchy on the page limits thing. I know that book club is better if everyone has read the book, but sometimes it is just impossible to get through the book, or maybe your month was so busy that you couldn't finish. The book club I'm in started with a rule that if you didn't finish the book you didn't get to vote on the next month's book, and if you didn't finish a book a certain number of times within a cycle (from your nomination month to your next nomination month) then you didn't get to nominate. I hated those rules, they were so draconian. We eventually got rid of them, and I think more people read now than they did then!

message 33: by Phil On The Hill (new)

Phil On The Hill Judy wrote: "Does anyone have the challenge of a group member who never reads the book, but loves to come for the social aspect? When Unnamed Person tries to enter the discussion, it ends up to be incorrect inf..."

Yes we have one person who does not read the book. We just don't worry about it. A chunk of the time they are somewhat excluded from the conversation. They are OK with that and as we are all friends we are Ok with it too.

message 34: by Rod (new)

Rod Raglin I'm thinking I might be too opinionated about the books I read to be a member of a book club. I'm likely to wonder out loud how anyone could enjoy such a mediocre book - or the opposite, how dare you criticize such a masterpiece of writing.

I also tend to dissect books from a writer's point of view analyzing the author's craft rather than sticking to the storyline. I want to know why the author started with backstory instead of the inciting incident. And what was the author thinking when he introduced a new character so close to the end. And what about the plot glitches and loose ends?

My wife complains I can no longer read a book for simple enjoyment. She might be right.

I think I'd only last one session before I was asked never to return.

Besides, I don't drink wine.

message 35: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Ortlepp Our bookclub has been together longer than 36 years. Whilst we still share books and discuss what we like when choosing, our focus is a long term friendship. We have shared births, divorces, deaths, loosing everything, moves to other towns, and yet every now and again everyone is in town and we get together. I dont think we would know how to behave in a proper bookclub but it is how we like it.

message 36: by Vickie (new)

Vickie Collins I am a founding member of a book club that organized a year ago. We meet the 2nd Wednesday of every month at someone's house. Everyone brings wine and/or a snack. We have a dozen members. About 10 are there each month. We try to pick books from a different genre. One month's pick was a book almost everyone had a hard time finishing. (We have a closed group on fb.) Therefore, we knew the discussion would be short. I brought a game called 'Bring Your Own Book' and we had a lot of laughs with it. One of the things that makes our book club interesting, besides the book itself, is that our members run from age 34 to 70. So we have many varying and interesting views. We also rate each book and a member keeps a tab on what we read. Sometimes we are sad we only meet once a month!

message 37: by Sailor (new)

Sailor I would like to join a book club but I don't know where to start. It's hard to find people you can relate to in age and interests.

message 38: by Janice (new)

Janice Hovis I love my book club! Our rules are pretty simple - we meet once a month on a Sunday evening. The hostess (we're all women) chooses the book and provides the food, which is usually along the lines of heavy appetizers that can serve for dinner. Everyone brings a bottle of wine, and the hostess keeps any left over. We have no specific rules on choosing a book, but try to keep to ones that are readily available in libraries. No shaming if you haven't read or haven't finished the book, but we don't hold back on spoilers. Usually someone reads off discussion questions from the Internet, but we don't always stick with them. Occasionally, we'll meet in a restaurant instead or do something else different (we went to winery once, and a Saturday road trip to a farm that a member had moved to). We have a wide range of ages and have become really good friends. For a while we had a moratorium on new members (we had gotten up to 14 or so), then lifted it when some members moved away. As few as 4 or as many as 12 attend. We have a "secret" facebook group to keep up on planning, rsvps, a list of books we've read, etc.

message 39: by Janice (new)

Janice Hovis Sailor wrote: "I would like to join a book club but I don't know where to start. It's hard to find people you can relate to in age and interests."
If you can't find a book club to join, you can always start one. Try asking at your local public library - they might have book clubs, or a board (real or virtual) where you could put up a notice about starting one. It's fun to meet people of different ages and interests, or you could start a book club that only reads the genre you prefer. If you're starting with strangers rather than friends-of-friends, you might want to meet in public place like a restaurant or a library meeting room.

Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* Fran wrote: "Excellent. I get quoted and it's when I'd made an error in my typing and hadn't realised. "

LOL Fran, that sounds like my luck.

Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* Reading Faerie wrote: "I'm part of a book club that is goal oriented. We don't all read the same books. Instead we each choose our own reading goal(s) of some type, such as reading 100 books in one year or reading more b..."

How interesting. Never heard of an offline book club ran like that, but bet it's fun.

message 42: by Sailor (new)

Sailor Janice wrote: "Sailor wrote: "I would like to join a book club but I don't know where to start. It's hard to find people you can relate to in age and interests."
If you can't find a book club to join, you can alw..."

Thanks for the ideas! I'll start at the library and go from there.

message 43: by Adam (new)

Adam I'm always interested to see how a group chooses the book they will read. When we started, everyone brought a book to nominate and the one with the most votes won. That method "wasn't fair" (read: someone never had their book selected...) so we switched to a system where each person has a month where they bring three books, which are then voted on, book with the most votes is read. That has worked really well so far. At the end of our last cycle, we did a "read what you want" month where everyone selected a book of their own choosing and then gave a little report on the book, which was really fun!

message 44: by Carol (new)

Carol Loyd The PTC (pass the chips) book club has 8 members and have been meeting since 1989. We rotate hosting in our homes for (guess) chips and wine/beer/cola. The hosting member gets to pick the book (mostly fiction) and makes up discussion questions which are circulated before we meet. Books must be available in sufficient copies at the library and limited to ~ 300 pp or less, but can be larger if more time (i.e. summer break) gives more time. I love this club! We are all great (aging) friends; started out with getting married, babies and now are post menopausal and grand mums!

message 45: by Judy (new)

Judy Sailor wrote: "I would like to join a book club but I don't know where to start. It's hard to find people you can relate to in age and interests."

One of the best book clubs I've been in had a great range of ages and interests, one in particular that sprang up at the public library. A very diverse group of ages, both male and female, different levels of reading and experience and professions. Made for interesting book selection and discussions. Very eye-opening. So don't be thinking you need always to find others who are your age and share your interests. Be open, and be surprised! Good luck!

message 46: by Vickie (new)

Vickie Collins Sailor wrote: "I would like to join a book club but I don't know where to start. It's hard to find people you can relate to in age and interests."

Maybe you could start with your local library to see if there are any book clubs in your area. I live in a small town, so it was not hard to find enough people interested.

message 47: by Elaine (new)

Elaine Great to see everyone's feedback on this

Our "Read 'Em and Eat" book club meets the first Wednesday of the month for dinner...hostess cooks, we order in, do pot luck, or meet at a restaurant...and, yes, wine is usually involved.

We have 9 members and 5-9 show up. One of our members, who will remain nameless, often has not read the book. We let her come anyway but she knows we will be talking about the book and there will be spoilers. Everyone is okay with this.

Most of the time, we all read the same book. Our library has a Book Club in a Bag program which we use. There is an extensive list of books to choose from, both fiction and non-fiction. The list is posted online and we can reserve it online and pick it up at the branch of our choice. It couldn't be easier. The bag includes 8-10 copies of the book as well as a booklet with info about the author and a list of questions for discussion.

Size of the group is comfortable for our homes and for the discussion; dinner is easy; no one needs to buy the book; we're all pretty relaxed and laid back. We have been meeting for four years and this format works for us.

message 48: by Toniya (new)

Toniya I was fortunate to join a book club that meets monthly at our local library. We collectively suggest books and decide which ones sound the most interesting. Our list is typically for 6-9 months out. The few rules are the books must be available to borrow from library and you need to read the book. Also, we meet for 1 hour & really discuss the book. Our moderator always starts with background info of author, which I find helpful and interesting.

I recently joined another club that rotates meetings amongst members homes. There's wine & food and lots of personal disclosure- sometimes relating to the book, sometimes not. I find myself conditioned to the hour timeframe of my 1st book club & feel like a bit uncomfortable when after 2 hours I leave and the other ladies are still going strong, but for me I'm most interested in the book

message 49: by Abby (new)

Abby Squire Fran wrote: "Excellent. I get quoted and it's when I'd made an error in my typing and hadn't realised. "

Hahahaha!!! I love the ideas in your quote! Grammatically correct or not. :D

message 50: by Casey (new)

Casey This is good stuff! The only thing I didn't see people talking about was whether or not to read books you've already read. I've heard reading books no one's read before can be bad. What's everyone's experience with that? Stick with ones you know or brave the unknown together? Or separately?

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