Book Club woes
February 15, 2009 9:56 PM   Subscribe

My book club is fizzling me reignite it!

A friend and I started a book club with other people in our college department about one year ago (five to six members). We have been going strong but since last december when we all graduated its been tough. Ive tried to take the reigns and get us to at least meet (we've all finished the book we're on) so we can get back on track. The problem is I set a date and then when the date comes up, it falls apart.

The main problem is that its my friend and I who are the driving elements, the others are sort of just along for the ride. So if either I or my friend can't come then the meeting doesn't happen.

I scheduled a meeting two weeks ago for this last Friday and we all were in agreement to meet up. Friday roles around and I call my friend but she doesn't respond back. I'm at a loss, I really want to do this and I know they want to as well, how do I get the ball rolling and not sound like a jackass?

Also follow up: If I ever get this thing rolling again, does anyone know of some good sites for activities we can do?
posted by Groovytimes to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It's probably dead. Take some no-commitment time off and try again, or cultivate another driving member for redundancy's sake.
posted by fleacircus at 10:06 PM on February 15, 2009

Or, if you really like the idea of a book-club, consider joining another well established one.

You can't *make* people do something they're just not that interested in anymore.
posted by Mephisto at 10:13 PM on February 15, 2009

Is Friday a good night for people? Many people have other things on Friday nights and may not be amenable to having to keep them free for book club -- or may be more likely to toss book club out in favour of another one-off activity because book club's regular and they can go to book club another time.

Why not have a group meeting and discuss with *everyone* whether people are interested in keeping it going. If they are, are if they want to have a think about what it is that's stopping it from happening. Discuss. Note to them too that emails are welcome after the meeting if they think of anything else - people might not be comfortable sharing with the whole group if, for example, they're only coming at all to socialise with the people they know, and don't really think it worth bothering if those people aren't there. This might be the case, and if that's it, then I guess you and your friend are going to have to commit really hard to showing up to every meeting.

Really, you just need to find out what it is everyone joined for, and whether they're getting it-- and how, if they're not getting it, you can bring it back. If it's possible.
posted by springbound at 11:07 PM on February 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sorry, that should read: "If they are, *ask* if they want to have a think about...."
posted by springbound at 11:08 PM on February 15, 2009

If people don't have time for the book club, then find new people. The longest running book clubs I've been a part of were continually refreshing the membership with new people who had the free time to read and meet. Members drift away as they get married, enter grad school, join the workforce, or a multitude of other reasons. Ideally strike a balance between veterans and newbies so there is always good conversation and no sense of exclusion for the new members.

And as springbound said, if you care about the original membership, find out what they liked about it. Book clubs can serve as singles meetups, an excuse to see old friends, boozy potlucks, or symposia - all at the same time.
posted by benzenedream at 11:31 PM on February 15, 2009

You may also want to try to get the other involved more. Rotate turns of "hosting" your book club. Clearly outline when everyone's turn comes around so they can be prepared. Shifting responsibility can get people involved more.
posted by telsa at 1:53 AM on February 16, 2009

As a group, you've lost the main thing that held you together and (I'd imagine) gave you similar schedules and amounts of free time. On graduating and busting a gut to find (or keep) a job, people generally become a heck of a lot more protective of their time.

Also, from a general 'book club' perspective, I'd take a look at who is choosing the books and what you're reading. If it's you and your buddy choosing the books every time, or if you're trending heavily in one direction or another (all Booker winners, all classics) then people will burn out and leave quickly.

When I entered the working world, my reading time went from 20-30 hours a week (fitted in around lectures, academic reading and general student life) to maybe 5 hours, on a good week, on the train to work. Suddenly, having to read a book someone else has picked became an unwelcome imposition.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:17 AM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Which is the important part? To get together with these particular people or to have a book club? If only one of those things is the reason you want to keep the club together, you can ditch the other one.
posted by winston at 5:23 AM on February 16, 2009

I was in a book club that fizzled, no one had time, weren't that interested in the book and plenty of other reasons (personally I was way to busy to try and read a book in the timeframe). We switched it to a film club. You don't need to prepare for that, since we watch the movie together and you can still have a pretty good discussion.
posted by pokeedog at 6:12 AM on February 16, 2009

I think book clubs are one of those things that people feel like they should do and, if they had unlimited time, would do, but it's the first thing that gets pushed off the schedule when things get tight.

Couple ideas:

1. Viewing party for the movie version. Snacks, drinks etc
2. Send out a list of discussion questions before the book is read, so people have an idea for what to look out for.
3. Set reasonable reading times. Either discuss after each chapter if you're doing it weekly, or allow a couple months for each book.

(Also: reins, rolls)
posted by electroboy at 6:46 AM on February 16, 2009

Best answer: My book club has been going for about 3-4 years with a fairly small group of people (6-10). Here's what we do:

1. Every January, we meet and set the schedule and titles for the upcoming year. Everyone brings ideas and we winnow it down to 12 (or 6, see below). Thus, you have at least a month (if you read them in order) to read for the meeting.
2. We meet monthly on the third Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Choosing a T-W-Th seem to work the best, as T-W-Thu don't impact on family/weekend events too much. Fixing the specific date for the entire year helps everyone plan ahead.
3. Everyone takes at least one month where they're responsible for hosting. Our book club is food-related books (no, we don't read cookbooks), so the options for hosting are: a) at your home; b) a restaurant of your choice; or, c) something food-related (we've visited creameries, local butchers, etc...).
4. This year, to change things up, we've added a food-related movie to the schedule every other month. We're fortunate to have a member who has a photography studio with a big screen and full kitchen, so it's dinner and a movie every other month.
5. During the summer, we try to do a family meeting at someone's home where kids and spouses are invited.
6. Our December meeting, is an adults-only, bring your spouse/partner/SO and it's potluck with everyone bringing the booze of their choice. For whatever reason, this is the one Christmas party that everyone really enjoys, including the non-member SO's.
7. During the regular monthly meetings, if a member chooses to host the dinner at his/her house, the host sends around an email and everyone contributes a dish/drink/dessert to the meal based on the host's theme/menu.

Some of this is more tailored to the type of book club we have, but I think most of it is adaptable to just about any book club.

P.S. In this down-economy, we've actually had local restaurants ask us to come in and they'll comp us (corkage/desserts/etc...) because we're bringing in a group on an otherwise slow weeknight.
posted by webhund at 8:15 AM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

My book club has also been going for several years, and we do a lot of the things that webhund suggested. The 2 biggest factors contributing to our continued success (in my opinion) are scheduling and distributed responsibility.

We meet the first Monday of every month, starting at 7 or 7:30pm. This day was chosen based on what worked best for everyone, and now we all plan around it. We no longer have 6 weeks of email back-and-forth about who can meet on which days, or "when is the meeting, again?" because we all just know. Once a month isn't too much commitment, but it's often enough that we don't forget about each other, and it limits us to books that aren't super overwhelming. (Honestly, nobody wants to read War and Peace for book club.)

Also, we take turns picking books, so nobody's taste dominates the group. Each month we discuss the book we just read, and then the next person announces the book we'll be reading during the following month. That person is in charge of picking a location for the next meeting and having a couple questions ready in case the discussion is slow. We have an unwritten rule that your book should be available in soft-cover, and hopefully be available at the library, because many of our members' budgets don't allow for purchasing new/hardcover books every month. The variety is great though, and most people seem to appreciate being exposed to things they wouldn't have chosen themselves.

Also, as with most social activities, I think the easiest thing to do is plan to meet with at least one other solidly for-sure person, and then invite everyone else to join you. "Joe and I are going to discuss the book club book at XYZ Cafe on Saturday at 2pm. Please join us if you can." Then if it's just you and Joe, you still have a fun discussion. You have to be open to the possibility of enjoying yourself, regardless of the attendance numbers.
posted by vytae at 10:12 AM on February 16, 2009

If you and your friend, as the de facto leaders, aren't treating the date as set in stone, why would any of the other members?

I'm in three book clubs, and the first rule of book club (um, maybe the second rule of book club, ha) is that the date book club is scheduled is final and firm. There's no moving it around if it doesn't work for someone. And other things rarely come up, because if something else does come up, people pass on it since they're already booked for that date/time. I agree that Friday might be a tough time (although one of my book clubs meets on Friday and it's consistent) but if you find a date and time that everyone can agree to, stick to it. That's half the battle right there. (The other half is getting everyone to read the book, and then keeping them on topic during the meeting, but that wasn't your question).

In terms of how to keep things interesting, many publishers offer reading group guides and author q&as and other book club materials on their websites. You can also check out the authors' websites for additional ideas.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:21 PM on February 16, 2009

Response by poster: All very good information, I will try to implement some of them.
posted by Groovytimes at 11:31 PM on February 16, 2009

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