I can’t tell you how many women have told me over the years that they are in a horrible book club or would like to be in a um curso em milagres club but are afraid because they’ve heard the horror stories of being involved in one. I won’t lie; there are a lot of associated risks involved: obnoxious members, being forced to read cheesy novels, dull, vapid conversations, or worse yet, the lack of any discussion about the book. At one time I myself was exposed to a book club that I had a love-hate relationship with. I loved that we read classics, and it exposed me to wonderful books I would never have read on my own and also to new restaurants that I always wanted to try. I hated that we never talked about the books.
So what’s a girl to do? Form your own book club! Seriously, if you want to be in a good book club, you have to take the bull by the horns and form the type of club you want to be a part of. I took this step many years ago with another woman who was fed up with her book club as well and am pleased to say that I am part of a group of six amazing women who share a love of reading, great food, and friendship. If you are interested in doing the same, here are a few tips for forming your very own book club that doesn’t suck.
Network. Find a friend or fellow book lover who you know has good taste in people and books, and approach her about starting a book club. Each of you will be charged with recruiting two other like-minded women to round out the club. It’s okay if someone you want to invite likes to read science fiction or biographies or a genre you typically do not prefer. That is the beauty of a book club-each member gets a chance to pick books, and you get the opportunity to expand your literary horizons.
Schedule. Once the group has been set up, you should pick the initial book and plan the initial meeting. At the meeting be sure to have everyone introduce themselves and leave enough time at the beginning and end of the meeting for socializing. It is important for everyone to get to know each other and, hopefully, become good friends down the road.
Avoid scheduling nightmares. Pick a set time for your meetings. For example, the first Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. That way everyone can plan ahead to keep that date open. There will be times when members can’t make a meeting, but trust me, this guideline will save you a lot of time and agony in trying to get six busy women together on a regular basis. The amount of time you allow to read the books is entirely up to the schedules of the group. A book club is supposed to be fun, not another task or stressful item on your list. My group meets every other month, which allows each of us enough time to fit reading the book into our schedule.
Location, location, location, and food! Where you have your book club and what you eat are critical components to a good meeting. My club mixes it up, and sometimes we meet at a local restaurant, which is really fun if you select a restaurant based on the food theme or a new restaurant everyone wants to try. For example, our last book was The Help, and we all met at a soul food restaurant for delicious Southern cooking. Sometimes we meet at a member’s home. It just always seems more relaxing, and I don’t feel the pressure of the restaurant owner trying to turn the table when we are lingering over a great conversation. Everyone in my group chips in to bring a food or drink item so the host doesn’t have to provide everything.
Structure. A book club meeting should start out with a good dose of socializing before the start of a robust discussion of the book, followed by a discussion and selection of the next book, and finally topped off with more socializing and perhaps dessert or a drink or two! If you don’t have any structure to your meetings, they will just turn into gab fests. Don’t be afraid to speak up if the conversation is getting off track, or you’ll never get to discuss your book.