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January 15, 2010

Advice for New Book Clubs, Part 5

Posted by webmaster
Book club members offer advice on formulating a game plan, not getting too personal during discussions, why it's important to agree to disagree and more.

Previous Posts:
Advice for New Book Clubs
Advice for New Book Clubs, Part 2
Advice for New Book Clubs, Part 3
Advice for New Book Clubs, Part 4

Provide Added Information
"I have been the discussion leader for my book group for more than ten years. I would suggest that the discussion leader have questions concerning the book ready to get the conversation going. Also, look up the author so you can share some information about him/her. Many books have discussion questions included or you can find them online. They can be very helpful.

Sometimes the conversations can get "off track," so be ready to steer it back to the book. My group is large so I have a little bell which I ring to get us back to the discussion. Also, make sure that everyone who wants to talk about the book gets the chance to do so.

At the end of our discussion I ask everyone to rate their enjoyment of the book with 10 being the highest and 1 being the lowest. I also ask them if they would read another book by this author. Asking them to rate the book gives everyone a chance to speak. Most of all, enjoy the discussions." ---Anna Robinson

Make Sure Everyone Has a Chance to Be Heard
"I started a book club in my neighborhood a few years ago. It's had its ups and downs. First, you need someone to manage (nicely) the meeting. Guide the meeting to be sure you talk about the book. Using a reading group guide is helpful. If one person is always monopolizing the conversation, try to ask questions of some of the quieter members. We write a summary of each meeting which we send to each member via email and also post it to our website. Not a book report, a summary of the meeting. Comments from members, who hosted, what was served etc. We foster friendships by having outings and at least two dinner celebrations during the year. We also keep in touch via email. Try to give different people a chance to suggest books. Accept that some members will not be as committed as others." ---Bonnie, Brandywine Book Club

Have a Sizeable Group
"Whatever you do, don't do it with only five people...or even six...or even seven! From experience I speak. My group started with five. I convinced them that we needed more. They agreed and added one more friend. Then when another friend retired from teaching, she joined the group. And still it doesn't work well. If anyone is going to be away, as on a vacation or spending the month in Florida, we always change the date. Sometimes it takes weeks to come up with a date. Wouldn't you rather know what day and with what frequency your group will meet?
The reason that my group doesn't want more people is that they insist that we have a luncheon at each other's homes, and six or seven people makes it easier to prepare. If you are more interested in lunch, or whatever meal, then keep the group the size that best suits you. But if your purpose is to read and truly discuss a book then have at least ten members --- even more would be better. Plus you can meet the third Tuesday of every month, or every other month at x o'clock. Everyone knows in advance what is going to happen when and can plan schedules accordingly." ---Inga K. Willner

Have a Sense of Humor
"The group I lead has been meeting for more than 20 years. Because it is done through our public library (and therefore is open to anyone who might want to attend), we have had as few as six and as many as 28 at various discussions.

My advice is to keep your sense of humor. If a book is a looser --- and some will be --- the discussion can still be a success if you keep your sense of humor. I always come with a set of questions and discussion starters, but the best nights are the ones when I don't even have to open my notebook." ---Laura Luteri

Chart New Territory
"It is so easy to fall off track and turn the book club into a chat session. We try to take care of old business first and then new business, i.e. what books we recommend etc. Most of us like to know the books we are planning to read for six months in advance so we can get free shipping or shop at used book stores or have time to borrow from friends.

Then we have one person who publishes the list and emails it to each member and also brings copies of it to our next meeting where it becomes old business. We also meet at a different person's home each month and as we meet during the day, we do a salad lunch where the hostess provides salad greens and we each bring toppings and our favorite dressings to share. We eat after a thorough discussion of the book we read. We usually find out a lot about each other as well. And we laugh a lot, as well as get into some very deep discussions as women usually do. From lunch on there is free discussion. We have a great turnout every month and our membership consists of women of a variety of backgrounds.

The idea is not to read the same old same old but to go where you might not normally go. Read material that is a stretch and discuss. This keeps it fresh and keeps us learning. I joined a book club because I am not by nature a reader, and I wanted this challenge as I entered into my fall years shall we say. I have always been around readers, and my children were readers growing up. A book a month is a difficult task for me if it is something that I may not be interested in, but I have found it does help me grow.

Good luck to new clubs. The worst thing that should happen is they will have the fun of sharing, and nobody does that better than us girls!" ---Kathleen Thomas

Enjoy It
"Take a deep breath, relax and enjoy. One of the best things about being in a book club with a group of women is having the chance to just be yourself, share your thoughts and feelings on the topic, and know that you are in a safe place where everyone respects each other. (Sometimes a nice glass of wine helps this process!) ---Nicole Buell