I’ve been part of a few book clubs in the last few years, ranging from groups of elementary aged kids to adults.
Last year, I started a small book club with a few friends. It is a bright spot in my month, getting together to chat about books and life and how each is like the other. Good stuff!
Over the years, I’ve learned what works well and what doesn’t. I’ve put together some tips for you based on my experiences. Here are My Top Tips for a Great Book Club Discussion:
1. Rotate Hosting.
Even if you meet in the same place each month, take turns as host. The host chooses the books, leads the discussion, and sets the theme for the evening. In our club, the host also has everyone over to her house and provides food, or uses my house to host if their home is unavailable for some reason.
We decided against voting for books, as the vote could easily become top heavy if a few people agree on the kinds of books they like to read. Rotating hosts has meant that I’ve been exposed to books I never would have chosen otherwise.
Now, if you decide to read all Jane Austen books or all WWII fiction books, voting may be the way to go. That being said, I would still recommend rotating hosts, because the host sets the mood and guides the discussion. And it is always better to hear from a variety of people!
2. Read the book.
Seriously, just read it. But show up even if you didn’t. You can still participate in the discussion more than you may realize. We usually get pretty deep into a character’s choices and how they relate to life, and anyone can join in on this part of the discussion. You can also learn about the book you skipped by listening to others, and you can ask questions and share your opinions and insights what others share.
3. Use a discussion guide whenever possible.
With a discussion guide, you’ll go so much deeper than, Did you like this book and What was your favorite part? Having a guide also helps keep everyone on track and may spur some great conversations that otherwise wouldn’t happen.
4. Be honest.
It’s okay if you didn’t like the book. In a group as small as ours, it’s harder to admit when you don’t enjoy a book that someone has hand selected for you. But discussing what made you not like it can be a jumping off point for a great discussion. By the same token, don’t be afraid to admit you loved a book if everyone else thought was cheesy. I’m not afraid to admit that I read the entire Twilight Series. Don’t be afraid to be opinionated. Which brings me to my next point:
5. Be opinionated.
One of my favorite parts of book club is discussing the ideas behind a book and the choices a character makes. A good book club discussion depends on a few people ready to share their opinion. It’s not the time for uh, yeah, whatever, I don’t know type of answers. If you’re slow to process, like I am, make sure you spend some time thinking about how you feel about the book before book club meets. Then, you’ll be ready to unleash your passion when the time comes. This is super easy for me because I tend to get passionate about Every. Little. Thing. That being said…
6. Keep an open mind.
Being opinionated while letting others’ viewpoints shape your thinking is a beautiful thing. Sometimes I’ll be feeling SO judgmental about a character’s choice or a writer’s viewpoint, and someone will share a perspective that makes me see things differently. Honestly, I love when this happens! It’s okay to let your mind be changed once in awhile.
There are also times I really didn’t enjoy a book, but in trying to see it from the perspective of the person that recommended it, I am able to find redeeming qualities. It’s made me a better reader.
7. Be flexible.
Be willing to go off topic and explore things you didn’t expect to discuss. Be willing to read books you wouldn’t normally read. Be willing to try new foods! Be willing to listen to someone who’s totally wrong about the metaphors.
8. Let the discussion change how you read.
As you participate in discussions, you’ll grow as a reader. When I read a book for book club, I read much differently than when I read to pass the time. Past discussions linger in my mind and provoke questions as I’m reading. Take notes, highlight great passages, dig deeper. Your discussions will be better, too!
If you have a book club, why not print this out and bring copies to your next meeting? Or maybe share it using the buttons below?
Are you part of a book club? What is your favorite book that you’ve discussed so far?