Book clubs are a great way to get to know people. You’re together with a common purpose and at least one common interest. A community book club (or clubs!) will bring its members together over a shared experience with interesting discussions and maybe debates. So how to get that book club started?
Know what kind of club you want. Although some book clubs are general and bounce all over when it comes to themes and topics, many are specific. Maybe you want a book club for mysteries and thrillers only. Or romance novels. Or travel books. Or cookbooks. Or novels set only in England. Whatever it is that you want to read and talk about, you will find like-minded folks who want to join. Consider starting a general interest book club first, and then splitting off into more niche clubs, with people able to attend the ones that appeal the most to them.
In line with the kind of club you want to create, decide how serious you want to be. Do you want to just read books and talk about them with people who have similar interests? Or do you want to get more academic and dissect plot, themes and symbolism of the books you read? There’s no wrong answer, but you must be clear when you send out notices about the club. People who expect a serious academic discussion of literature will be disappointed by a lighter group, and those who just want to talk what they liked or didn’t may be bored by a more intense discussion.
Obviously, you need to let people know that you’re forming a book club. Approach your board or your community manager. Ask them about including a mention of the club in an upcoming newsletter and on social media. If they have a mass communication tool, they will be able to let the whole community know about your plan easily. Have a way for people to RSVP to an initial organizing meeting – consider using a Survey Monkey link for that RSVP and ask a few questions to gauge the audience’s interest in topics and frequency of meeting, best day of the week and best times to meet. You may know off the bat if you have enough interested readers to create small niche clubs.
Some book clubs meet online but since the point of this is to have fun with your community, meet in person. Based on the RSVP numbers you get, book a room in the clubhouse or other common area for your initial meeting. A Skype or Facetime option for people who want to participate but can’t make a meeting is a nice way to accommodate your neighbors too. After that first meeting, depending on the special interest groups and numbers of participants, you may want to rotate among club members’ homes, or you can stick to using a common space in your association. Create a Facebook group for ongoing discussion and suggestions. It’s really easy to do and can be secret to allow for open discussion.
For the organizational meeting, be prepared with a suggestion for the first book. It makes sense that you, as the organizer, suggest the first book and then moderate the discussion on that book at the next meeting. Talk up your choice! Know some trivia about the author or topic. Get interest going by reading the first few pages to the group. Following that first meeting, you can pull names of books out of a hat or follow a best-seller list or pull the names of members to choose who suggests the next book. It’s important to make sure that the book is readily available for members; of course, Amazon is a reliable option for most books, but consider talking to your favorite local bookseller. They may be able to stock a book for your club if they know about the need in advance.
Don’t forget food! It can be a lot of fun to theme your food choices around the books you read. The book was a mystery set in England? Discuss it over high tea with scones and finger sandwiches! A romance set in the deep southern United States might call for soul food or barbecue. A caper full of kooky Floridians would go well with mojitos or rum and Coke, smoked fish dip and key lime pie. You get the idea. Either create an organized potluck so everyone shares in the food responsibilities or collect funds to have the food catered in some fashion. No one club member should ever be responsible for all of it.
Get kids involved. Whether you set up a junior book club during school vacations or have other activities for young children when you get together, it’s important to think about the younger set. A lot of kids love to read, and both children’s and young adult literature offerings are better and more varied than ever. Summer reading lists from your local school district can be a great way to structure a club for kids.
Reading together builds bridges and offers opportunities to get to know your community members on a different level. Start a book club today for a better tomorrow in your neighborhood.