Starting (or Joining) a Bookclub: Friends, Food, and Fellowship

Books, Friends and Community
how to start or join a book club
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One of the biggest pleasures of reading a good book is discussing it with other readers.  There’s no better place to do that than a book club.

There really aren’t any downsides to joining a book club. I mean, sure every now and then you might not love one of the books. But even that can have its benefits.  Sometimes, discussing a book or character you didn’t care for can be even more fun than talking about one you did! Who doesn’t love trash talking the villain you love to hate?

There really are so many good reasons to join a book club.

For one thing, it will be help you find more time to read. Even though nothing terrible will happen if you aren’t able to finish reading the book (Really. I promise.) joining a book club is something of a commitment. That means you’ll be more likely to put aside some time for reading.

Also, joining a book club can help keep you from falling into a reading rut by introducing you to authors, genres, and subjects you might have missed otherwise. Participating in a book club is also a wonderful way to meet new people and make new friends.

Then there’s the food.

Food Makes Everything More Fun

Many book clubs, especially those who meet in member’s homes, make food and drink a centerpiece of the festivities.  Menus can as simple as a bottle of wine and a few appetizers or as complicated as a full course meal based on a theme or location from the book.

I really love those book-themed menus. A lot of my readers feel the same way.

That’s why we created a fun, online Party Kit for my newest book, JUST IN TIME.  The kit features recipes for an Italian-themed dinner, based on dishes that one of the characters, Monica, a chef, serves in her restaurant.

If you’re looking for something lighter, try our “Bubbles and Bites” menu with cocktails, mocktails, and appetizers that appeared the story. And in case you decide to mimic the Fairy Dogmother’s Ball featured in the book by inviting your furry friends to the book club, we even included a recipe for peanut butter pumpkin dog biscuits!

 

HOW TO JOIN A BOOK CLUB

Book clubs have been around a long time but interest in joining book clubs – especially for women – surged back in the 1990s when Oprah Winfrey started a nation-wide book club for her viewers. Since then, the popularity of book clubs has continued to grow.

Today, joining a book club is easier than ever. Bookstores, libraries, churches, and community centers often serve as gathering places for local book clubs. Many clubs focus on a specific type or genre of book – fiction, non-fiction, historical, romance, etc. A bit of research will likely lead you to many local book clubs that might be appealing.

Go High Tech

Thanks to the Internet, online book clubs are also gaining in popularity. This is a real boon for people like me, whose travel schedules make it hard to attend face-to-face meetings.

In January, I became the moderator of an online book club on Facebook sponsored by Mary Jane’s Farm Magazine and my publisher, Kensington Publishing. It’s been a great experience for me and for our nearly one thousand members.

What I love about this club is the flexibility. Every other month, Mary Jane’s Farm Magazine publishes our list of novels – two main selections and three additional titles. Book club members can read as many or as few of the books as they wish. All our titles are fiction but we explore many different genres – women’s fiction, romance, mystery – so there’s something to appeal to almost everybody.

Every couple of weeks, we open the discussion period for a different book. People can start a thread or post a question whenever they wish, or comment on threads by other members. Often, we schedule live online chats with the authors, which has really been fun! Members love being able to pick the brain of an author whose book they just read.  Of course, not every can to tune in during the live event, so author chats are kept on the page so people can go and read through them anytime.

If an online book club appeals to you, come on over to the Farmgirl Book Club on Facebook. I’d love to see you there!

HOW TO START YOUR OWN BOOK CLUB

Over the years, many people have asked me how to start their own book. It’s really not difficult. But you do need to make a few decisions.

Who and how many will participate?

If you and your sister, or you and your best friend, decide you want to read a book each month and then meet at a local coffee bar to discuss it, that’s a book club. It can be as intimate and as easy as that.

Including more people isn’t much more difficult – you can have a book club of four neighbors, six of your old friends from high school, or ten people who belong to your church or synagogue. Having more than twenty members for an in-person book club can make discussion difficult but, with the right moderator, even large group clubs can work.  Membership can be single sex, co-ed, or couples. It’s up to you.

What kind of books are you going to discuss?

Will your book selections be only fiction, only non-fiction, only mystery, only classics?  Or would you prefer it be more free-wheeling, exploring a different genre each month? Again, it’s up to you and your members.

Where and when will you meet?

Does daytime work better for you? Or is an evening club more convenient? Will meetings take place in your home? Or will members take turns hosting? If you’d prefer to meet in a public place, chances are your local library or bookstore would be happy to host your meetings. Be sure to call in advance and ask for permission.

Will you serve refreshments?

If so, what kind? Many clubs keep it simple, just offering coffee, tea, and cookies. That’s a good option if you’re meeting in a public venue such as a library or church. Just make sure you’re allowed to bring in food.

If you’re meeting in members’ homes, you might want to offer wine, cocktails, mocktails, and an assortment of appetizers, or even a brunch, lunch, or dinner menu.  Many in-home book clubs have appetizers for most meetings but a special meal once or twice a year, perhaps during the holidays or before taking a summer hiatus.

You’ll need to establish who is responsible for providing refreshments. Should it be the person who is hosting? Or would you rather share and rotate the responsibility?

Who will pick the books?

Of all the decisions you make before starting a book club, this is the most important. If any resentment or dissention rears up in a book club, nine times out of ten it centers on who gets to pick the books.

Unless the whole group chooses a leader ahead of time who will choose the titles, I recommend rotating the choice among the group. Another option is to present a list of three to five possible titles at each meeting and allow people to vote. Adopting a more democratic book selection process will engage members more fully and ensure that you don’t get stuck in a rut, reading the same type of book month after month.

However you go about doing it, whether your club is large or small, online or in person, joining or starting a book club is a fantastic way to read more books, make more friends, and enjoy life fiercely and fully.

 

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