Book Club Dos and Don’ts

So you want to start a book club? Congratulations! Whether you’re a voracious reader, hoping to read more, or simply want to find “your people,” book clubs are a great way to explore the pleasures of literature. There’s no right way to start a club, but there are a few practical Do’s and Don’ts to keep your club fun, fresh, and afloat.

DO: Set an agenda. What inspired your meeting of the minds? What type of books do you aspire to read? Are you fun, serious, or somewhere in between? How often do you want to meet? Devote your first meeting to discussing these and similar issues. Create expectations from the start and tailor those expectations over time. Your club will find its rhythm once it has a few books and discussions under its belt.

DO NOT: Go big or go home. You will go home. Let’s be honest, no one has time to read a 900-page book in 30 days. Between work, school, kids, and that underwater knitting class you’re taking, there’s little time to dedicate to conquering War and Peace or Ulysses. Select books that everyone in the club is comfortable tackling in a short period of time.

DO: Share control. Book clubs are democratic institutions, or so I’ve heard. Everyone in your club should have the opportunity to select the book(s) of the month, and everyone should feel comfortable voicing his or her opinions. Don’t go throwing the bean dip at Jane Book Reader because she hated your favorite character in Cloud Atlas.

DO NOT: Go bad. It’s tempting to read an awful book for giggles and giggles alone, but this approach quickly devolves into tossing the book, and discussion, aside. That crash you hear is your book club night grinding to a halt because that so-bad-it’s-good pick failed to spark anyone’s imagination.

DO: Watch the movie (or television series). Readers have been debating the merits of film adaptations since the beginning of time. Whether you’re eagerly awaiting the movie version of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, or wondering if Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” elevated the original source material of Piper Kerman’s memoir, don’t be afraid to read the book and then spend a club night watching Hollywood’s take on the material. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll cry foul at the screen.

DO NOT: Lapse, again and again. It’s okay to delay a meeting here or there. Life happens. If here or there becomes 5 or 6 times, though, you’re looking at book club death. Try to rally everyone to commit to the date, and don’t be afraid to go ahead with a meeting even if one member cancels at the last minute.

DO: Eat. It’s just a fact: book club is more fun when there’s food involved. Order takeout, bring potluck dishes, or cook meals inspired by the story. Jane Austen paired with 100 cucumber tea sandwiches? You can’t go wrong!

What did we leave out? Add your book club do’s and don’ts in the comments!