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Lifestyle & Travel

How To Create A Book Club That Works

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If you love to read, then a book club is a great group to join for camaraderie, discussion, even friendly disagreement; but it has to be the right one.

I was in a book club with friends that recently fizzled out. We started out strong, but we soon (jokingly) referred to our group as "Babes, booze, brownies....and oh, yeah, books.” Over time it became more of an excuse for a monthly gossip get-together and less and less about the books. We knew it was time to call it a day when more and more members would request that we hold off discussing the book’s ending because they hadn't finished reading it yet.

Now I’m in a fun, yet more serious club with a bunch of women I didn’t know well. Of course, we do socialize, but we also try to spend at least an equal amount of time talking about each month’s book. We’ve even instituted a new rule: the person who chooses the book has to do some research and come prepared to lead a discussion about the book, the author and any relevant themes or historical background.

Members often find a strong sense of loyalty to their book clubs. Melissa Stoller of New York City has been with the same core group of women for 15 years. “It started when our kids were in preschool as a way to do something outside the realm of motherhood,” she explained. Now their children are all in college and they continue to meet monthly in restaurants around the city.

And don’t think that book clubs are for adults only. A parent-child book club came about when Stoller’s young daughter clamored for her own group. Stoller then wrote “The Parent-Child Book Club: Connecting With Your Kids Through Reading,”  which provides ideas for how to choose stimulating books, facilitate rewarding discussions, create engaging enrichment activities and deepen a love of reading in your children.

So if you're not in a book club but want to be, here are some tips to get you started:

  • Figure out who will be in your book club. Will it be a bunch of friends? Neighbors? A group of strangers you’ve gathered from your child’s school or your local library? All men, all women, or a combination?
  • Agree on where you will meet and how often.
  • Decide whether you will serve food and drink and who will supply it. Consider coordinating the food and wine to the country or ethnic group depicted in the book if applicable.
  • What will you read? Fiction or non-fiction? Bestsellers or classics? Chick lit or serious tomes?
  • How do you choose the books and does there have to be complete agreement?
  • Think about availability. If you choose a bestseller it may be hard to get from the library. Consider occasionally choosing from the free books available for e-readers or other downloads to save members money.
  • Choose books that are “discussable.” Many books have questions from the author in the back or you can search the internet for talking points, historical notes, reviews or other material to start a discussion.

Keep a list of all the books you have read because other readers are always asking for recommendations, says Stoller. And finally, she shares a fun exercise that her group does at each meeting: they end with one final question: If you were casting the book for a movie, who would play the main characters? Although that could keep the meeting going for hours more!

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