A book club saved my sanity in 2020. Whether we were meeting outside at Sanctuary Spirits to discuss Untamed by Glennon Doyle or meeting via Zoom to go over Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, book club gave me something to look forward to each month. Books & Bordeaux, started by a friend of mine in September of 2019, was a place to connect as friends, mothers, and readers. In a busy world, our book club belonged to us—not our kids, not our husbands, not our bosses. Just us. We often joke that, “what happens at book club stays at book club.” Beneath that joke is an unspoken truth: our group is a safe space for us to be our true selves. Our book club is really about women supporting women, not the books.
If you’ve made New Year’s resolutions to read more books, make new friends, or expose yourself to other cultures and ideas, starting a book club is a great way to achieve any of these goals. Anyone can start one—the lifelong bookworm, the woman who hasn’t picked up a book since college, Reese Witherspoon, Oprah, or your own group of friends. Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started on a possibly life-changing endeavor!
Building Your Book Club
Just like any good story, the first step in creating a book club is assembling your cast of characters—or in this case, your fellow readers. Potential members are everywhere. Do you have a cousin always borrowing your books? Or a coworker who religiously updates their Goodreads accounts? A quick scroll of your friends’ Instagram accounts is an easy way to identify any bookworms in your circle. Photos of bookshelves, comfy reading nooks and hashtags such as #bookstagram are all good indicators they might be interested.
Our club uses a Facebook group to organize meetings, book picks, and to share funny memes. If your group is small to start, that is ok, too! Books & Bordeaux began as a group of three women discussing Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. A year and a half later, we now have 12 members who all regularly participate. Having consistent meetings will get the word out that something fun is happening, and before you know it, your group will grow.
Your very first meeting doesn’t even have to involve a book if you’re not ready. Use it as a chance to lay the ground rules and any expectations for the book club. Is reading every book every month a must? How long should you have to read a book? Your club is more likely to be fun for everyone if there is a consensus on expectations.
Now What Do We Read?
Selecting books to read is where the fun really starts for a book club. There are plenty of ways to decide how you’ll select books each month: you can take turns picking, you can vote, you can follow a reading challenge, or follow a celebrity’s book club. The most important thing is to make everyone feel empowered to choose a book. It’s more fun to discover books together, so encourage everyone to pick titles they haven’t already read. Not all will be winners, but you’ll have some good laughs over the not-so-great titles. Even better discussions will arise when books divide the club into lovers or haters.
What Happens at Book Club?
The joy of a book club is equal parts discussing literature and catching up with each other’s lives. Meetings should be fun and fulfilling. What that will look like will be different for each club. Some may find it helpful to start out by discussing the book. Others may enjoy an hour or so of catching up that naturally turns into a discussion of this month’s pick. There is no right or wrong answer so long as everyone in your group is comfortable with the direction of the club.
Honesty is important—if you feel like you’re reading the same kind of book each month, speak up! Suggest a different approach to picking books. If you had a lot to say about the book but your group never get around to discussing it, try changing the structure of the meeting. Being open to trying new approaches and supporting each other are the two most important foundations of any successful book club.
Time for A Little Extra Fun
Book clubs can include all sorts of extra celebrations, too. A themed lunch to correspond with a book, Halloween parties, Hallmark Channel Christmas movie marathons, working to raise money for a local charity, a one-year celebration or even a spa day at a salon are all great ideas to get you started. A lot of these ideas will naturally spring from your group after a few meetings once everyone gets to know each other. With a little planning, and the right group of women, your book club dates can end up being some of your favorite days of the year.