Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Build a Better Book Club: Part 1, Getting Started

Book clubs seem to be a dime a dozen, but what do you do if you want to join one and can't find one? Well, why not start one yourself! I realize that this can seem more than a little intimidating, so I've broken this down into easy steps and will be sharing my tips this autumn in a "Build a Better Book Club" series. I'll cover how to form and start a group in today's post, and future posts will cover organization, how to select titles, how to get the most out of your discussions, and some pointers I've picked up after running a book club here at the Trumbull Library for the last fourteen years.

First, you need to consider some of the framework for this hypothetical group of people. What do you want your book club to be like? There are some which are very strict: everyone must have finished the book in order to attend and discuss, no side conversations during discussions, etc. Others are really just an excuse for a get-together: sharing cocktails, supper, or tea and coffee with friends one evening a month. Some are extremely elaborate, with everyone bringing food inspired by the book--sort of a supper party meets book club. So you can start small and dream big--there's nothing that says you can't tweak the guidelines as time goes on.

Second, you need a group to meet with. Two or three to start is okay, though an ideal size is about 7-10. No more than 12 or so--in my experience, too many people results in lots of side conversations and less actual group discussion, plus there's the issue of where are you going to put all of these people? Think about what you want out of your group when you're considering people to invite. If your goal is a group that meets once a month with members who have finished the book, then friends who don't like to read, or only read a particular genre, may not be the best bet. Starting small also means you have lots of flexibility as to where you meet--four or five can go out to dinner or meet up for coffee or spend an evening in someone's living room without a whole lot of extra planning. So if you and two friends are considering starting a book club, consider asking each of the other two to bring a like-minded friend or coworker to join in the fun, and you'll be up and running in no time.

But Meg, you ask, what if I'm new to a place and I want to join a book club to get to know new people? If your town has a Welcome Wagon program or your neighborhood has an association, check in with those folks, because they're usually in the know about ongoing groups or can put you in touch with someone who does. Check in with your local library, as they may have one (or more) for you to join. Bulletin boards or Facebook pages for local organizations, parents' groups, schools or day care, bookstores and coffee shops may have information about groups looking for members. And if you still come up empty handed? Then start your own, putting fliers or postings in the places I just mentioned, giving a description of what you have in mind for your group.

I'll be back soon with the next installment in the series, where we'll talk about getting your new group up and running, and how to keep it going.

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