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Join the club: Launch a book group with these tips
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Join the club: Launch a book group with these tips

Inspired to start your own book group? Here are some ideas from a few longtime book clubs on how to make yours go the distance.

Have guidelines

Mardie Rhodes, whose book club celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, says her group has guidelines to ensure that club members don’t spend all their meeting time in general chat.

Figure out and agree at the onset how often you want to meet, what kind of books you will read, what kind of refreshments you’ll offer when in-person gatherings are possible again and how structured you’d like the discussions to be.

Stick to the schedule

Have a firm date for meetings, said Karen Binder, whose group has met for 45 years. In their case, it’s the fourth Wednesday of every month. “We’re very committed, and everyone dances around that schedule,” she said.

Be committed

Lee Kramer, of the longtime Seattle gay men’s book club PageBoys, said it’s important to have at least a few people who “really have the time and effort to put into it to get it going and keep it going.” He also recommends appointing moderators, to keep discussions from being dominated by a few people — “Some personality types just talk too much; that can put a damper on everyone else.”

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Do more than read

Helen Harris, whose club is celebrating its 30th year, recommended that book clubs do other activities together: cultural events, travel, walks. “The book is just kind of the hook to get you in, but try to develop relationships outside of reading that book.”

Keep records

Make sure there’s someone in your club who’s good with record-keeping, who can be tasked with keeping your book list up to date. (You think you’ll remember all of the books you discussed. You won’t.)

Branch out

When first putting your club together, think about the mix of people. Be careful when starting a book club from an existing friend group — you might be too busy with ongoing conversation to talk about the book. If you pick members who don’t know each other well, you’ll start off more book-focused. (And you’ll have the joy of watching them become friends with each other, as the years go by.)

Attend every meeting

There’s enormous pleasure to be had in very small, intimate book clubs — such as mine, which has only four members — but it helps to make a rule that all members have to attend every meeting. (In my group, if someone can’t make it, that person is responsible for rescheduling. It’s a rule that’s worked for us for 31 years.) Otherwise you might drift away. Bigger groups can get by with 75% attendance; very intimate groups need more of a commitment.

Use your local library

Should you want a little help: Public libraries often have ongoing book clubs, as well as guidance and book recommendations for those who want to start their own.

Get your bookmarks ready

Book recommendation website Goodreads has list upon list of reader-submitted picks for book clubs, including these popular titles:

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