How Not to Kill a Book Club

Posted by Cybil on April 23, 2017

Have you ever killed a book club? I mean, accidentally. Maybe you suggested a book that flopped, or the entire group just flaked out on you? Now what was once a lively discussion group that debated hot literary topics has turned into a sad bunch of people gnawing on cheese.

Let's chalk it up to teachable moments, right? We asked your fellow readers how to avoid killing a book club, and, of course, they had great advice. Here are some of our favorite takeaways (but you can read through all of the ideas on Facebook and Twitter):

1) Do Your Own Thing

"I recently joined a book club with a slightly different approach that I really like. Instead of all reading the same book, everyone reads whatever book they choose and then at the meeting each person gives a short summary of her book's content and what she most liked or disliked about it. I've already discovered several new (to me) authors based on other members' recommendations," wrote Marilynn White.

"Don't force them to all read the same book; instead, focus on a theme. Allow them to teach the book to everyone," writes VPS Secondary ELA on Twitter.

2) Be Aware of People's Pocketbooks…and Their Time

"Don't assume everyone can run out and buy the newest book just because it's popular. Also make sure that the meetings don't get stretched too far apart. Three months is too long. And, yes, wine," wrote Jessica Skinner

3) A Bit of Democracy Doesn't Hurt

"We have one person, different each time, bring three to five book suggestions with synopsis and everyone votes. First choice (1), second (2), etc. Lowest 'number' is the book that time. Next meeting the person who brought the book suggestions hosts questions. Not everyone reads every book entirely, every time, and no one minds. We usually segue to relative topics/themes/characters from the book. So there is no 'your books always suck' because we all contributed to the choice," wrote Carol Anne Gartland.

4) Find a Tribe of Like-Minded Readers

"Don't read the typical crap just because it shoots to the top of the bestseller list. Start a book club based on similar reading habits and interests then stick to that. Re-evaluate the needs of members regularly, make changes to accommodate people when possible," wrote Mags Kondrat.

5) Reinvent the Book Club

"Don't start one [a book club]. Do a silent reading gathering and everyone can enjoy their own books at their own pace with some nice nibbles and nice drinks and can chat about what they are reading afterwards," April Koenig wrote on Facebook.

6) Take the Pressure off!

"We only 'have' to read as many pages as our age…most [of us] are between 50 and 70. If by then you are not enjoying it, find one you do enjoy [there are] lots of good books out there. We have a set day and time…rotate who brings snacks…and once a year do a movie of a book we all enjoyed with lunch, everyone brings a dish inspired somehow from the book," wrote Linda Briggs.

"Plenty of wine and nibbles, accept not everyone will read/finish the book, agree to disagree, everyone takes turns to host, read lots of different genres. Get drunk, have fun, gossip, have a large group and have no pressure to make every meet up. We all have busy lives so book group needs to be a fun catch up with some discussion of the book—if it becomes a dull duty event it will die. Our group is called "Probably the Worst Book Group in the World" and we have been going for 9 years," wrote Lindsey Blake.

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:
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Comments Showing 1-50 of 71 (71 new)

message 1: by Sophia (new)

Sophia Great thoughts. Thanks!

message 2: by Mary (new)

Mary We began a "read what you like" book club in 1999; it's still going strong and everyone has broadened our reading horizons.

message 3: by Richard Parker (new)

Richard Parker We have been following "Do your own thing" right from the day one and it surely has kept the club alive. We meet every alternate Thursdays of the month and share whichever book we have read. We are only a dozen, working in the same startup and in past one and a half year, the group has read and discussed 150+ books.

message 4: by Norton (new)

Norton Stone It's not about the books.

message 5: by Summer (new)

Summer We meet at local restaurants for our discussions. It takes the pressure off people who don't have the room/don't want to host in their homes. It's worked well for us, and we've discovered some great local eateries.

message 6: by Vicki (new)

Vicki Terrell We have an online (Facebook) book club. We rotate who picks our book for the month. There is also no pressure to participate each month. If you have too much going on that month, or have no interest in that simply don't have to join in the discussion that month. This also allows us to invite friends to our group that live far away and 'meet' new people and get introduced to new authors that we probably wouldn't pick on our own.

message 7: by Chafic (new)

Chafic (Rello) "How Not To Kill A Book Club" sounds like a killer title for a murder mystery book :)

message 8: by Judy (new)

Judy Chafic wrote: ""How Not To Kill A Book Club" sounds like a killer title for a murder mystery book :)"

You write it, I'll read it!

message 9: by Dale (last edited Apr 24, 2017 07:34AM) (new)

Dale "Do your own thing" book club. That sounded like it was right up my alley so when a friend asked me to join her group I accepted.

Turns out everyone (small group of 8-10) wanted to talk about trips to Ireland, local politics (a city councilwoman was in the group), upcoming charity events one was hosting, an elderly mother, well, everything but books.
After 8 months I quit when the group became so political that books weren't even mentioned.

message 10: by Alexandra (new)

Alexandra Bogdanovic I joined a few book clubs over the years. Most were fun and I enjoyed honest dialogue with cool people. There was one that was absolutely horrible, though. Basically, it was just a glorified, passive-aggressive, mean girl clique. So if you're going to start a book club, do it with an open mind and an open heart. If you have an issue with someone in the group, have the guts to say it to their face. And if you can't do that, don't bother inviting new people to join...

message 11: by Dylan (new)

Dylan dnrdhgbfdngffdgrdfgrdffg eeeeeeeeeeeee

message 12: by Mocha Drop (new)

Mocha Drop Esse wrote: "We meet at local restaurants for our discussions. It takes the pressure off people who don't have the room/don't want to host in their homes. It's worked well for us, and we've discovered some grea..."

We do the same and everyone loves the idea!

message 13: by Teresa (new)

Teresa This is great. I've had to leave my 'book club' because I just can't read every book they suggest and finish it. And apparently, this was a rule of their book club, that we had to finish the book. As a writer, I have so many other books I need to read, I just couldn't commit to that level of dedication.

message 14: by Lindsay (new)

Lindsay Shultz Gurney Why does wine always have to be involved? Apparently nobody can have a good time anymore unless alcohol is involved. And because I'm a recovering alcoholic, nobody will invite me to join their book clubs because "well, there's going to be alcohol, sooooo...." 😒 I have no issue being around alcohol or people who want to drink it.

message 15: by J. (new)

J. Invite an author to attend an event.

message 16: by Janet (new)

Janet One of my book clubs takes suggestions for books, then we vote on them in a pole & the othet book club has actual "pitch" meetings where you pitch 1 or 2 books (2 max) then everyone votes for the books they think they might read. We always look at the number of copies available at the library & if there are less than 8 copies that book is automatically taken out of the running. There have been good books & bad books picked (like the one for this week), but it always makes for interesting meetings.

message 17: by Peacegal (new)

Peacegal Dale wrote: ""Do your own thing" book club. That sounded like it was right up my alley so when a friend asked me to join her group I accepted.

Turns out everyone (small group of 8-10) wanted to talk about trip..."

Dale, I actually had a similar problem a few years back. Two members were very vocal Tea Partiers and would turn every book discussion into an anti-Obama rant. I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to steer the convo back on topic to no avail. I'm a naturally unaggressive person, so that didn't help.

Even though I'm the book group leader (it's part of my librarian job), I think that since all the members were in their 60s/70s, I was just the "kid" they could ignore and talk over.

Well, what ended up happening was these two ended up scaring nearly all of the other members away, and then they themselves dropped out (probably because they no longer had an audience). I'm very slowly getting some new members, but it remains a very small group.

message 18: by Budd (new)

Budd I have tried the democratic method, but we have people that come and go from month to month and the people that vote for the book aren't always the same group of people at the meeting. Now, I rule the club with an iron fist and dictate which book must be read. I do take suggestions and we usually discuss other things we are reading and I can gauge interest that way. I also have the list set up about 3-6 months out. People seem to like that. I have a personal rule that the book should be available in paperback.

message 19: by Cortney (new)

Cortney Chafic wrote: ""How Not To Kill A Book Club" sounds like a killer title for a murder mystery book :)"

I would totally read this!

message 20: by Jennifer (last edited Apr 24, 2017 08:41AM) (new)

Jennifer I made a bookclub for adults who want to read YA.. lol we keep the age minimum to 19 because we sometimes go to pubs for our meetings, or other places that serve alcohol. Sometimes we just go to Starbucks. A lot of our members are parents, so having our meetings at local restaurants and cafes is better than trying to clean your home and get kids to sleep in time to host at home.

To pick our books, we do a draw from all of the members at the meeting. Once you've picked, your name is left out of the draw until everyone has picked a book. Then we start over. Whoever is picking that months book, also picks the meeting place. You also don't have to read the book or finish it to come to the meeting. Our group is now about 1.5 years old :)

message 21: by Krista (new)

Krista really good tips!!!! Thanks :-D

message 22: by Quianna (new)

Quianna Chafic wrote: ""How Not To Kill A Book Club" sounds like a killer title for a murder mystery book :)"

i agree

message 23: by Ginger (new)

Ginger We have a little library so we pick out books a month or so in advance and order from used book stores (such as ABE books) I order them and bring them to the next meeting.
One way to make sure everyone is able to get the books :)

message 24: by Leah (new)

Leah Nicholls We have a group of 7 working professional women who meet monthly; though someone started it about 4 years ago, there's no leader. We rotate who picks the book--I love it because then I read books that I would never otherwise pick up and you only have to think about it once every 7 months. (Trying to do pitches and polls strikes me as both too much work and too drama-inducing.) Whoever picks, hosts dinner or brunch, and the host can choose to have it at a restaurant, order pizza, or cook all day; it's totally up to her and there's zero judgment. Having small children underfoot is encouraged. We all make book club every month (unless there's a work or personal emergency)--we schedule it around our schedules--and we absolutely love it. We look forward to it every month, and these ladies are now some of my closest friends. We each make a real effort to finish every book every month, but forgive each other if life gets in the way, and we make sure that longer books get more time to be read. We do talk about the book every month, but mostly talk about life--it's a safe space for gripes and brags. I think the key is that we keep it small and intimate and nothing that feels like a responsibility.

message 25: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Lindsay wrote: "Why does wine always have to be involved? Apparently nobody can have a good time anymore unless alcohol is involved. And because I'm a recovering alcoholic, nobody will invite me to join their book..." I kind of agree that it's a bit odd that so many tips say you should have booze as though booze makes it bearable. If you need alcohol to make it bearable then something isn't right. I drink socially and take no issue with drinking in and of itself but I just find it strange the way so many people mention it for a book club as though it's a necessary element. Sorry people are projecting their own worries and not inviting you. :(

message 26: by Misi8868aol.Com (new)

Misi8868aol.Com I run a book club for my library as a staff member. We named it the "Around Town" Book Club because we meet somewhere different around town every month. We are in a small village so there are not a lot of different places to meet. If held at one of the local eateries then individuals order from the menu. If not, then I provide refreshments. It is co-ed, though only two men have attended so far when they can. We are in year 6, and I have run it for 4 years plus. I have seen as many as 15 people attend, to as little as 5. It varies and there is no RSVP to know ahead of time. We are a non-genre specific group so we have read regular fiction, sci-fi, memoirs, non-fiction, dystopian, historical fiction, romance, YA, biographies, and Christian fiction (aka Inspiration), etc. We have a couple very religious, and a couple not religious at all, so it is a fine line when choosing books not to pick one that doesn't appeal to someone. We also have had some discussions stray off path and become too political, which caused one member not to return as the lone person with her views in the group. She would never let on her opinions, but I know and can see why that turned her off. I have told members not to discuss religion and politics so as to save the group from its demise. We have members that travel and don't come for months, and members that rarely miss. Many have not been able to complete the book at times, myself included. I pass out a suggestion list every few months for everyone to write theirs, then pass it around one more time for the group to put a check mark next to what they like, and go in order by the ones with the most check marks. In between those times I generally choose the books, but always have to consider availability. We do not buy, because we order from the library consortia. We need books available in audio as well as large print and regular for our group. Members always feel free to suggest titles in between. I create a "reading related" activity or game we do after the book discussion and a winner gets a prize. It has worked well so far. I love our group. I wish our members didn't rotate so much, but life gets busy and it happens. We have had a couple small-time local authors, but it is not a large crowd event for us, and we cannot afford to pay for a big name author.

message 27: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine I've tried book clubs before, but they never worked for me, for the following reasons:

-the books chosen were terrible (life is too short to read terrible books)
-you only found out which book to read a month in advance, which was not enough time for me, especially as it sometimes took a while to get the book from the library
-many books were new releases, so not available at the library (or there was a loooong wait list), and I can't afford to buy many books, and if I splurge on a book, it better be one I like!

message 28: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine Budd wrote: " I also have the list set up about 3-6 months out. ..."

I like that. Finding out which book to read only one month in advance is not enough time for me, because I'm a slow reader, and it can take time to track down the book at the library (people forget that not everyone has enough money to splurge on things like books!)

message 29: by Monika (new)

Monika Kelemen Our book club uses book club kits from our local public library. The choice of books is definitely more limited (with some genres underrepresented), but no one has to spend any money on reading materials. It really takes the pressure off, since no one feels compelled to finish a book they bought but really don't enjoy.

message 30: by ugddebg (new)

ugddebg lol! :D

message 31: by A.R. (new)

A.R. Beckert I love that first point. I get turned off of book clubs that only read one book all together because a lot of times no one can agree on it, and it makes sharing thoughts difficult. I never want to say the same thing as everyone else.

message 32: by Elyse (new)

Elyse My women-in-law book club (my mother, sister, grandmother, aunt in-laws). We read 3 books then I picked The Rosie Project and the club flatlined. That was a year ago, we haven't continued. lol. I enjoyed the book!

message 33: by Jaline (new)

Jaline Judy wrote: "Chafic wrote: ""How Not To Kill A Book Club" sounds like a killer title for a murder mystery book :)"

You write it, I'll read it!"

Here you go! :)

The Book Club Murders - The Oakwood Mystery Series ebook by Leslie Nagel

eBook Details

The Book Club Murders
The Oakwood Mystery Series
Leslie Nagel
Oakwood Mystery #1


#2 in Mystery & Suspense, Cozy Mysteries
#15 in Mystery & Suspense, Women Sleuths
#2 in Mystery & Suspense, Traditional British

message 34: by WhatWarnerWrites (new)

WhatWarnerWrites Lindsay wrote: "Why does wine always have to be involved? Apparently nobody can have a good time anymore unless alcohol is involved. And because I'm a recovering alcoholic, nobody will invite me to join their book..."

People successfully cope with difficult situations and all types of temptations everyday. You should not be excluded because of the situation. They should just tell you about the event and tell you that there may be alcohol so that you can make your own choice if you want to participate. It is not hard to offer other beverages that would be appealing to those that don't want to drink or can't drink. The times that I have made alcohol available for events I also offered options like a sparkling apple/peach/grape cider along with the typical water/tea/soda/juice. I understand that people try to be sensitive to the situation but life goes on. I have never had a problem with someone around alcohol at a reading event but if one were to develop I hope that I would handle it with the most sensitivity as possible. Perhaps tell those friends that you'd like to be included and to let you bring a tasty non-alcohol beverage and a dish or ask if other options will be present.

message 35: by Barbara (new)

Barbara "This is how we do it". I've heard that one too many times at the book club I'm currently in. Rigid people are a sure way of killing a bookclub.

message 36: by Veronica (new)

Veronica I agree Warner, it's ridiculous to exclude someone from a book club because they don't drink alcohol. It's not difficult to provide a range of drinks, including alcohol-free ones, and just politely ask each person what they would like. It's actually insulting to assume that a recovering alcoholic is unable to cope with gatherings where alcohol is served -- it's up to them to make that call.

message 37: by James (new)

James Joyce Cybil wrote: ""Don't start one [a book club]. Do a silent reading gathering and everyone can enjoy their own books at their own pace with some nice nibbles and nice drinks and can chat about what they are reading afterwards,""

How is this helpful? Avoid killing a book club by not starting one.

Here's some help:
Avoid falling down by never standing up.

message 38: by Donna (new)

Donna I'm not a fan of voting on book club picks. In my experience, it leads to the group reading the same styles of books again and again while members with less popular taste never have their selections chosen.

We have everyone submit picks and then draw randomly from those, choosing two months ahead to give everyone time to find and finish the book. It works for our little group because we all like a variety of styles and are willing to give anything a try, and even the books I've liked less than others have been fun to talk about.

message 39: by Jenn (new)

Jenn My book club meets at a cafe and everyone gets to offer suggestions for what we read. We have no rules for how much you finish and if you don't finish you can't talk about why (didn't like it, didn't hold you, moved too slowly, life too busy that month).
It is advertised as a Chick Lit Book Club with light reading, so people know going in, the general genre we read.

It's been going for over 10 years, so it seems like it works!

message 40: by Amber (last edited Apr 24, 2017 02:38PM) (new)

Amber I run an online book club here on goodreads for adults 18 and over called the Reading for Pleasure book club that I started back in 2014 where we read different genres of books and everything we do there is done at our own pace including our group reads, reading challenges, buddy reads and more. We are a very friendly international reading family and anyone is welcome to join our group.

How we do our book club group reads is at the beginning of the month we do nominations for our Fiction group reads that run for a month while our classic and non-fiction group reads are bi-monthly so they last for two months. After we have 6 or 7 seconded nominations, we set up the final poll for everyone to vote which lasts for two weeks and after the poll ends and the thread for the winning book is up, we give everyone plenty of time before it starts in order to get the book. If, the book our members nominate do not get through into the poll or doesn't win then they have the option to do a buddy read with the other members of the group that wants to read it. and after our reads end, we put them in the archive but leave the threads open so others who have not read the book yet can do so and post their thoughts when they get to reading it.

Feel free to join us here and I hope you guys have a great time here:

message 41: by Mylien (new)

Mylien Lai Ford wrote: ""Don't start one [a book club]. Do a silent reading gathering and everyone can enjoy their own books at their own pace with some nice nibbles and nice drinks and can chat about what they are readin..."

It's basically that in a book club, people read because they have to. They read because they want to.

message 42: by Mackay (new)

Mackay Our book club has been meeting since 1991. We've lost a few members (one moved to Hawaii, one dropped out of life), but we've added a couple of members, too.

We vote on the books; we read one per month, we meet over dinner to discuss it. We have both men and women in our club and we read a variety of novels, from hoary classics to prize-winners to genre fiction. We meet at someone's house or at a restaurant. We have drinkers and non-drinkers; we have vegetarians and carnivores, and we accommodate each other..

Basically, we are friends first--friends who love books, but we also love each other, and I think it's the friendship and camaraderie that keeps us together. It's a good way to see wonderful people at least once a month. We have literally been through birth and death, marriage and heartache, and everything in between, together. And we've read some wonderful books and some awful stinkers, too.

message 43: by EmilyViolet (new)

EmilyViolet My high school school bookclub follows rule 1.) Do Your Own Thing.
We are a rag tag group of teenage readers, who all enjoy different genres ranging from historical war tales to vampire romances to Scandinavian thrillers. It works really well, being able to read what we like and then discuss it with friends. As we range in age from thirteen to seventeen, it would be incredibly difficult to choose books we all enjoyed.
Our librarian leader encourages us to read different genres, which does broaden our reading spheres too.
The bookclub is the best part of my school week and I think more secondary schools should try it!

message 44: by MBybee (new)

MBybee Some good advice. I had a local book club at one point, focused mostly on indie authors - it was really excellent, but as folks graduated and moved away, it just dissolved.

I miss that!

message 45: by Jaline (new)

Jaline EmilyViolet wrote: "My high school school bookclub follows rule 1.) Do Your Own Thing.
We are a rag tag group of teenage readers, who all enjoy different genres ranging from historical war tales to vampire romances to..."

I want a big LIKE button! While I'm several decades removed from your age group, I applaud everything about your vision. Someone needs to send your message around to all school districts. :)

message 46: by Dhfan4life (new)

Dhfan4life Never been in a face to face book club before. So can't speak on that. But, have to say that I did appreciate the tips of this article save for that last one. I mean that is almost like a reading slumber party or something to me.

But yea, I've joined book groups on here. And will admit to being one of the more rigid set of folks that prefer there to be a selection of different books a month, with a set amount of pages or chapters to be read. Only because I'm often uber busy with work and family obligations, that if I don't have a routine set of pgs. or whatever to add to my task list and carve out time to get them read. I would NEVER get the book finished at all! Most especially if it's a book I wasn't a big fan of in the first place. So doing that set of chapters or pgs. together keeps me motivated to see it through to the end.

Not to mention, it kind of defeats the purpose to me, to have a group that has voted on which books they wanted, be they popular or not. And everyone is reading at different points. And you can't really say anything about a particular part cause someone is either not there yet, or already so far ahead they are shocked, awed, and amazed at something else going on. So when you come back and discuss things, people either have to bookmark and come back to that previous point or catch up to where you should be.

And I guess, to me, it just takes away the genuine reactions of different people reading the same story to me. Because if someone is much further ahead, they have to think back to what they felt when they first read a particular passage. And try and recall if that is how they really felt or are they agreeing with the rest of the group because of majority rules. Or if someone is still not quite where they need to be, they might also just be agreeing for the sake of moving stuff along. And I don't like that.

I also agree that I don't understand why can't there be other beverage offers at the book club? I get some folks enjoy alcohol to unwind. But for most, it can wind them up in a whole other way. So I prefer to keep it to non-alcoholic beverages if possible. So everyone is nice and level headed.

message 47: by Joanne (last edited Apr 24, 2017 08:36PM) (new)

Joanne Seitzinger-Motley I enjoy my book club because it "forces" me to read books that I might not otherwise read. We take turns hosting and the host chooses the book. We try to pick books that are available from the library. We used to vote/discuss future titles, etc and it wasted a lot of time. This way everyone gets a chance to choose a book once a year. I've really enjoyed some titles that I would never have picked up on my own.

message 48: by Genia (new)

Genia Our local library has book club book sets that we are able to reserve and check out for our book club members. They have a fairly large selection of popular titles. Of the 8 books we read each year maybe half to two thirds of our selections are available. We take turns leading the discussion but if there is no discussion leader we just run off the discussion questions we find online and pass it around for people to lead for one question. There has never been a problem generating good conversation!

message 49: by Anna (new)

Anna When I was a teenager I attend a book group at my local library, which I loved. I appreciated the opportunity to read books outside of my usual genre, and the librarian provided us all with copies of the book.

Now, I've just started an online one with friends. We are following another group's "curriculum" and are reading six books published in 1817 in 2017. Because the books are old they are all available for free online, but some of the versions have errors which is annoying. The books are of different genres but they are connected by when they were published. So far, we've really enjoyed it even though the time difference forces me to attend in the middle of the night!

message 50: by Tracie Margaret (new)

Tracie Margaret We started a book club this year, 6 work colleagues. Because we all have very different tastes, we decided to do the Book Riot Read Harder challenge. That way we have a common theme but can choose the books we each want to read. We can give each other recommendations for each category and there is a lot of general book discussion. We meet on the last Friday of the month and we each take a turn choosing the venue, sometimes local restaurants and sometimes a house. Some of us drink and some don't, so always have both options. Last month we all brought along a book(s) that we love and think people should read and all swapped books. It's working out really well but the TBR pile is definitely growing.

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