So You Want to Start a Book Club

BY ANDREA MORAN • June 5, 2024

So You Want to Start a Book Club

Reading is typically viewed as a solitary activity. It often conjures up visions of someone curling up in their favorite window seat or oversize chair or even under a shady tree alone with a good novel. But it doesn’t always have to be that way. Part of the fun of reading is also talking about what you’ve read—sharing opinions, swapping little details that you may not pick up on your own, hearing a perspective different from yours. And that’s where a book club comes in. If you want to gather a group of book lovers all in one place but aren’t sure where to start, here are some things to consider.

Figure out what you want to get out of a book club.
Before you get started on all the fun little details, it’s worth taking a moment to think about why you want to start a book club in the first place. Talking about books is an obvious reason, but try to dig a bit deeper than that.

Are you looking for a fun activity to do with your friends? Are you looking to expand your social circle? Are you dying to change up your literary repertoire and be pushed outside your usual comfort zone? There is no one-size-fits-all answer, and there’s certainly no guarantee that you’ll have only one answer. By deciding now what you hope to get out of the book club, it will help you narrow down the answers to other organizational questions that follow.

Find your members.
When first starting out, you may want to consider keeping the group small. This ensures everyone is on the same page (pun completely intended) and helps you work out any potential kinks before inviting more people in.

Having close friends join is a great way to work up your confidence, but if you’re looking to meet new people, there are plenty of ways to invite potential members (largely thanks to the internet). You can post on social media or find a local bookstore willing to let you put up a flier or otherwise help spread the word.

Choose the type of book club you want.
This can be done either by you (as the founding member of the book club) or as a fun first-meeting activity. If you’re making the decision alone, be clear to your friends or on your advertising about what type of book club you plan on running. If you want it to be a group decision, a good old-fashioned vote always works.

Traditional book clubs are often just a free-for-all, with no guidelines on what books will be read. Others prefer to be genre specific, focusing on particular styles like classics, works by a specific author, or a series. You can even decide to just follow along with the picks of celebrity book clubs like Oprah’s or Reese Witherspoon’s, and let them do the work of choosing for you.

Decide how to pick books.
Most book clubs let each member take a turn choosing a book and simply keep rotating around. My book club, for example, has eleven members, with each member in charge of a specific month (we always take December off because the holidays are crazy busy for everyone). But that’s certainly not the only way to do it.

The leader of the book club (that’s you) could choose all the books, although that kind of takes the fun out of reading books that might not normally be on your radar. Another option is to run a lottery at the end of each meeting, where each member puts the name of a book in a bowl and whichever one is chosen is the book for the next meeting. Or each member could come with a title and everyone simply votes out in the open.

The important thing is to discover what works for your group, and it might take doing it a few different ways to settle on what fits best.

Make a schedule.
Book clubs typically meet once a month, either scheduling the next one at the end of the previous meeting or by keeping a specific day on a standing schedule (for example, the first Thursday of the month).

But if that seems too overwhelming, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with choosing to hold meetings whenever it works for your group—whether that’s once every other month or something in between. I don’t recommend holding them any further apart than once a quarter, though, since that tends to slow momentum and risk the group falling apart entirely.

Choose a location.
If each member gets to choose a book, it makes sense to let them choose the location where you’ll meet for that book. That way, the burden to find a place isn’t on the same person every time.

The club could be held at someone’s house, a quiet restaurant, or a group-friendly bookstore or library. Just be sure to ask before scheduling it to make sure they’re willing and able to accommodate. It doesn’t really matter where you meet, as long as it’s fairly quiet and intimate enough for prolonged conversation.

Outline how you’ll conduct your discussions.
Will the person leading the talk always be the same? If the book choices rotate, will the person who chose the book be the leader? Should discussion questions be prepared ahead of time or will it be an open floor for anyone? Should members raise their hands before speaking or just stick to common manners by not interrupting others?

These are all details to consider when forming a book club, but the most important point of the whole thing is obviously just to have fun. And when you get a group of people together who love words as much as you do, that’s pretty much inevitable!


Andrea Moran lives outside of Nashville with her husband and two kids. She’s a professional copywriter and editor who loves all things books. Find her on LinkedIn.

Great Books & News Curated For You

Be the first to read books news and see reviews, news and features in Kirkus Reviews. Get awesome content delivered to your inbox every week.

Thank you!

Close Quickview