How can I run a successful bookclub?
April 30, 2008 2:26 PM   Subscribe

How can I make a new bookclub's first meeting an amazing success?

So, I've decided to start a book club in San Francisco. It'll be mostly strangers from craigslist, and we're planning on meeting at a restaurant to get to know each other and pick our first book. I've never really been in a book club before, and I'm not exactly a natural leader, so how can I get this off to a good start? Any tips on running a meeting, encouraging discussion, choosing a book and, uh, anything else?
posted by logic vs love to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My book club has lots of people bringing wine. I bring good cheese, in case the book sucks we have other things to talk about like wine and cheese.
posted by captaincrouton at 3:02 PM on April 30, 2008

More specifically we go around in a circle and talk for a couple minutes each what we thought about it, good, bad, themes or points of interest that popped out and whether we'd recommend it or whether we were going to regift the book to someone we didn't really like all that much. with approx 10 ppl, this takes 30 to 45 mins and many a discussion is started from there. Also the wine loosens people up a bit.
posted by captaincrouton at 3:05 PM on April 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

My mom's book club created a schedule that assigned a host, a discussion leader and someone to research the author for every meeting. The roles rotated every month. It seemed to make it easier for one person to have questions prepared and discussions about the book can be combined with talking about the author.
posted by easy_being_green at 3:12 PM on April 30, 2008

Sadly SFPL does not seem to have any resources online, but both Vancouver Public Library and Seattle Public Library have information on how to start and run a book club. You also might want to see if SFPL has book club sets where they will lend you multiple copies of the same book along with background information on the author, etc.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 4:08 PM on April 30, 2008

If you click on your tag "bookclub" you will find a number of previous iterations of this question with some great advice.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:32 PM on April 30, 2008

You can try finding a review of the book, perhaps by the NY Times or a Wikipedia, and then contrasting and comparing the review to the opinion of the members of your book club. If it's a classic book then you can probably find a review from someone prominent. It can really add to the conversation and discussion.

You might also want to introduce the members of your book club to Booksprouts, written by MeFi's own grex.
posted by furtive at 5:43 PM on April 30, 2008

Send an email asking everyone to bring at least one book suggestion to that first meeting. At the meeting you can each do a quick rundown of what book you're recommending and why, and then take a vote to choose your first book. My book club did this every meeting for about the first 6 months, and eventually decided it was easier to take turns on a rotating schedule where one person was assigned to pick the book each month. Still, I think the democratic approach is helpful for a just-starting club. It lets everyone feel like they're contributing right off the bat, and it also helps you all get a sense of each other's taste in books pretty quickly.

The other tip I have is purely logistical. If you pick a set time each month to meet (e.g. after work on the first Monday of the month, or brunch on the last Saturday, or whatever), it makes it a lot easier for people to schedule the rest of their lives around book club - and that means you'll retain more participants. You'll also avoid the monthly email-trainwreck of trying to find a date and time that works for everyone. Obviously you'd want to consult your members at first to see which recurring day works best for everyone, but it's SO much easier after that. This could be another topic for discussion at your first meeting.

As for the discussion once you read a book: Some book clubs seem to take a more literary-criticism/analysis approach, seeming almost like a college literature course discussion or something. Others are much more casual. Personally, I prefer the second. In that light, we usually start our meetings with two questions: "Did you finish the book?" and "Did you like it?" This usually branches out into plenty of good discussion about what we did and didn't enjoy about the book, and nobody feels pressured to come up with something like "The author's use of the 2nd person in chapter four was reminiscent of Nabokov's allusion to..." (Sorry, I really don't speak English major, but you know what I mean!) In my experience, it's way too easy for that kind of discussion to turn into a pissing contest about who can sound smarter, which doesn't make for a fun book club. On the other hand, if you're a bunch of super-well-read literature folks, go for it!

Finally, once you all get to know each other better, you might want to schedule a block of social time before the official meeting start time. People like to catch up, especially if book club is the main place they see each other, and the book discussion will suffer when everyone's hoping to finish it quickly so they can talk about their latest bad date or their kid's first report card.

Hope that helps! I've been coordinating a book club of 8-15 members/friends that's been running for about 4 years now, so feel free to mefimail me if you have any questions. I've been surprised at how much I've learned as we work out the kinks.
posted by vytae at 8:20 AM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

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