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August 20, 2008

Rules or No Rules?

Posted by carol
Does your reading group have a set of ground rules? Heather Johnson tells us why her book club, which has been going strong for three years, recently instituted some rules --- and what they are.

My book club has been growing since we began in Summer '05. Recently, though, we've had a growth spurt, adding 5 new members over the past several months (with 3 joining last month alone). Our regular attending members now number 18, and there are others who always intend to come but never make it.

We realize that the influx of new members has the potential to change our club drastically, for better or worse. To avoid the "worse" we decided to spend some time establishing guidelines that we could all live with. Here's what we decided on:

1. Three times a year we'll stay a bit longer at our regular meeting to choose the books and set meeting dates for the next four months. Everyone can bring a book to suggest; the four books with the most votes will be chosen.

2. No one is obligated to host. We're happy to meet at a quiet restaurant, church, or other space.

3. New members are great, but we don't want to get too big. For now our membership is open, but we may decide to close it at a later date.

4. A reasonable reading goal is 100 pages per week. The time between meetings will vary based on the book we're reading.

5. If you can't finish a book in the allotted time you are still welcome to attend the meeting. But if you are consistently not reading, do you really want to be in the book club?

6. We are definitely interested in meeting/speaking with authors and are willing to rearrange our book schedule if the opportunity arises.

We also discussed having a family party once a year. The group was split on this one --- exactly half said yes, and exactly half said no --- but when I asked who would be willing to plan and host, no one stepped we nixed that idea!

These guidelines are something new for us --- I never thought we'd be a "rule" group. Does your club have "rules"? If so, are they similar to our guidelines? Do you find that they are restricting or that they help keep things running smoothly? Obviously we're hoping for the latter. We want to preserve what we love about our club while adding fresh perspectives at the same time. Wish us luck!

---Heather Johnson