How to Do a Book Club That Everyone Wants to Join

How to Do a Book Club That Everyone Wants to Join

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Three women at a table looking at a book over a heading that says how to do a book club that everyone wants to join

Start an Unplug and Connect movement by learning how to do a book club! Why, you ask? Because most of us are busy scrolling through Facebook or Instagram looking at family pictures, making a brief comment about the family vacation, or offering sympathy for life’s disappointments.

Sadly, it does not seem to translate to more tightly knit friendships. That’s right-we’re connected more than ever, but we’re not REALLY connecting. Maybe  technology gives us a false sense of knowing what is going on in each other’s lives without having to take time for people. If you too miss human interaction, let’s bring it back!

Why Learn How to do a Book Club 

One of the best ways to Unplug and Connect is through activities that bring people together regularly for a specific purpose. This is why you might want to learn how to do a book club. If you think the idea of sitting around talking about a book sounds boring, you are doing it wrong! What you need is a Book Club with a Twist. What follows are several tips to make your Book Club the Must Not Miss event on the monthly calendar.

Create a Book Club with a Twist

If you already know how to start a book club, you might want some creative ideas to take Book Club from a “may do” to a “must do.” A theme might provide just the twist you need in your creative planning process.

Depending on how well the participants know each other, your first season might mean keeping it simple and selecting books that sound interesting. As time passes, you might want to change things up or personalize the theme to the unique interests of your group.

Draw Them in With a Theme

A common theme is Around the World. Choose books with a setting in foreign countries. Pair food choices with the cuisine of that country. Chips, salsa, guacamole, and margaritas would be great choices for a read of Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, since the story takes place in Mexico. A literary journey around the world is a great way to go places when you can’t go places (for various reasons)!

Another twist on the Around the World theme is to choose novels that take place in your dream travel destinations. If you are itching to go on an African safari, why not read Isek Dinesen’s Out of Africa? Does a Hawaiian beach sound like your happy place? Pick up a copy of Molokai by Alan Brennert because it provides a different perspective on the fascinating history of this island.

Was the Book REALLY Better Than the Movie?

Probably. I’m hard-pressed to think of a single movie that was ever better than the book. I wholeheartedly admit that I’m crazy about books and probably not objective on this topic. Nonetheless, you might want to check out this list: 25 Books to Read Before They Become Movies in 2019.

Have you ever thought about designing your monthly meetings as Book and a Movie Nights? You could select your books based purely on whether or not there is a movie version available. Serve popcorn, candy, soda, and wine. Discussions can focus on how the book stayed true to the movie…………or not.

Book and a Movie Night with a Classic

If your interests tend toward the classics, read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and enjoy watching Leonardo di Caprio bring this story to life in the movie version of The Great Gatsby. Discussions might focus on how moviemaking brings the author’s work to life through proper lighting, costumes, pacing, and acting.

Book and a Movie Night with a Modern Choice

If you prefer modern fare, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is a thriller sure to get everyone talking. The only downside is that when you watch the movie version you already know the spoilers-and you don’t see ‘em coming in this story.

It’s All in the Delivery

While we’re talking about how to do a book club and “change it up,” who says you have to actually read the book? At the risk of not being a purist, isn’t the point of the endeavor to fall in love with storytelling? Some women are so busy that they cannot fathom how they would ever find the time to read a 450-page book in one month’s time.

Don’t Like to Read?  Try an Audiobook

Enter Audible– a brilliant idea for those that don’t have time to read. Download the audio version of the book and now you can multitask and listen to the monthly selection while working out, cooking dinner, cleaning the house, or commuting to work. You can also read some and listen some by going back and forth between the book and audio version.

E-readers-Try it….You Might Like It

Remember our goal of unplugging and connecting? One could say listening to a book on audio is refusing to “unplug,” but there is another way of looking at it. If consuming content through a movie, audio book, or All-New Kindle Oasis provides fodder for discussion, it’s actually helping you connect with others. By making interacting enjoyable we are motivated to get out from behind our screens and find our people.

Try a New Venue

Meeting in each other’s homes creates a relaxed vibe for your get together, but sometimes you just need to shake things up. One idea is to have a traveling dinner party with the book serving as the topic of discussion. Pick three different hostesses who live near each other. The first hostess provides cocktails and appetizers at her house, then you travel to the home of a new hostess for the main entrée, and finally finish up at a third house for dessert.

Another option is to move the event to a restaurant or wine bar, instead of at someone’s home. Your local Starbuck’s or book store is also another great meeting place.

Pair Reading with Other Interests

What about pairing up Book Club with another hobby or interest? Have each reader bring the craft of their choice (knitting, scrapbooking, or quilting come to mind) and discuss the book while crafting. Or what about a walk through an art gallery?

Try a Gallery Walk

Speaking of art galleries………..

Although answering discussion prompts such as those found at Lit Lovers can lead to some great conversations, you might find that some members participate more readily than others. A Gallery Walk ensures that each voice is heard, plus it gets everyone up and moving.

Something to Talk About

First, select 8-10 quotes from the book. Focus on quotes that will provoke a conversation in some regard. For instance, after a recent read of C.W. Gortner’s The Romanov Empress, I chose the following quote from the book: “Even from behind the throne, a woman can rule.” This novel describes the pivotal role Tsarina Maria Feodorovna played while both her husband and son served as Russian czars.  A discussion around this topic is central to understanding the story.

Once you’ve settled on some quotes you like, get some big sticky notes for the wall and spread them out throughout your venue (or home). In effect, you are creating a “gallery,” but with quotes instead of pictures. Write each of your quotes on one sticky note and leave plenty of room for responses (this is why you need the BIG sticky notes). Under each quote, write a question. I added the following to this quote: “Even from behind the throne, a woman can rule.” Do you think this is true? Why or why not?

Once your guests arrive, provide an adult beverage and a dry-erase marker in a different color for each person. Guests meander through the gallery of quotes and write their reflections on each “picture.” Do note that dry-erase markers can bleed through to a wall-so be careful there! The different colors of markers allow you to know who wrote what.

Once the galley walk is complete, the hostess serves as a moderator of a discussion using the responses as a jumping off point.

Spark a New Conversation

Discussion topics can also provide a unique twist for your monthly meetings. For starters, your choice of book will either help or hinder you in producing stimulating conversations. The tendency is to pick a book because it sounds like a good read. This is not always the best criteria for book selection.

Create Some Controversy

Our members learned that books with thought-provoking topics or themes led to better discussions. One of our most memorable book choices was Defending Jacob by William Landay. Amongst our group of moms of teenagers, there were lots of differing opinions about how far you would go to protect and defend your child (the teen in the novel is accused of a crime).

Compare and Contrast

If historical fiction is a genre you like, consider discussion topics that focus on comparison and contrast. For instance, you can read two books by the same author or two books on the same topic and compare them.

An intriguing possibility would be to compare a nonfiction and fictional account of a historical event, such as the one that occurred at the Tennessee Children’s Society in the 1950s. Lisa Wingate wrote a bestseller on this very topic called Before We Were Yours. To simplify, you could compare her account to this article found in the New York Post: This Woman Stole Children from the Poor to Give to the Rich.

Invite the Author

My all-time favorite way to jazz up a book club is to invite the author to join your meeting. Yes-you can do this and, through the wonders of technology, you can make this happen!

Recently, as the hostess of a Russian-themed night featuring a discussion of C.W. Gortner’s The Romanov Empress, I had the Moscow Mule cocktails, Pierogis, and Russian Tea Cookies all ready to go. I even had some props, such as Russian Nesting Dolls and Russian travel guides strewn about with music by Tschaikovsky piped in to create a Russian ambiance.

But, since this was our last meeting of the year, I wanted to cap off our Around the World theme with a bang. I wondered if it was possible to get an author to attend our meeting through Facetime.

From the author’s website, I found publishing information with a link to the author’s e-mail. I sent an e-mail not expecting to hear back from him, but I got a speedy reply within two days! It turns out that authors are super excited to learn that real live human beings read what they wrote. From there, I set up a time for Mr. Gortner to call during the book club meeting.

The best part of having the author join our discussion was that we were able to ask him about his writing process and how he selects his topics. He also explained a bit about the complexities of publishing one’s work.

One of my favorite parts was when he shared what he is personally reading and made some great recommendations for future reads. We also learned a bit about his upcoming book. This was such a hit that I’m thinking about reaching out to the authors of our upcoming books.

Now that you know how to do a book club, gather some friends, make some new ones, and begin to unplug and connect.

Four stacked books with a sign reading how to do  a book club everyone wants to join right above it
How to do a Book Club That Everyone Wants to Join

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