Setting Up A Book Group: Twenty Tips - Part 2

Posted at 02:07am on 11th May 2009

Yesterday, I began a response to a letter from Sonia, requesting information about setting up a Book Group. As my reply turned out to be rather lengthy, I have split it into two parts. If you wish to read from the beginning, use this link for Part One: Setting up a Book Group.

Yesterday, we looked at:

  1. START WITH A BOOK:
  2. START WITH FRIENDS:
  3. START AS A CHURCH GROUP:
  4. DECIDE HOW BIG YOUR BOOK CLUB SHOULD BE:
  5. CHOOSE A VENUE:
  6. ASK WHAT TIME OF DAY IS BEST:
  7. DECIDE ON LENGTH OF MEETINGS:
  8. . . .& FREQUENCY:
  9. CHOOSE A BOOK GROUP THEME:
  10. SELECT THE BOOK TO READ: Now read on. . .

Sonia

Mel's Comment:

11. OPTIONAL BOOK REVIEWS:

I have never come across another Book Club which operates as we do in this respect, but include it here in case you might like to try it. The three books chosen by our minister, are sent out to three readers, who each produces a 100 word Book Review. (3 x 100 word reviews fit well onto an A5 leaflet). These are then distributed among all church members. This means that membership of the Book Club is fluid i.e. if a particular book appeals to someone who doesn’t usually come to book group, they may choose to attend the discussion for that one event only.

12. CHOOSE A LEADER:

There are several options as to who leads the Book Club, and how. You may wish to lead the group yourself but not host it (see 5 in Part 1). Or you may wish to rotate leadership and hosting roles. Personally, I think it works best if one person takes overall responsibility. That person may then designate certain jobs to other people on an alternating basis (see 13 below).

13. DEFINE THE ROLE:

I have overall responsibility for our book group. Obviously, that means that I have to read the book!  It also means that I arrange who is going to write the Book Reviews; I man a table at church at which prospective readers may see and handle a copy of each book and sign up for the discussion; see that the selected book is ordered in sufficient quantities; reserve the venue; ensure distribution of the books; keep everyone informed – by e-mail, if possible; and make sure that the coffee / bar bill is paid at the hotel. You may decide that you prefer all readers to be responsible for purchasing their own copy of the book and for paying their own coffee tab.

14. READERS’ GROUP QUESTIONS:

Usually, but not always, I also compile the list of book group questions for  each discussion. As an author I sometimes pick up on aspects of the book that are not immediately apparent to others readers.  However, I feel that it’s refreshing, sometimes, to have someone else’s input in this area, and find that one of the people writing a Book Review is usually willing to take this on.

15. KEEPING EVERYONE HAPPY:

Occasionally, a difference of opinion may arise which has the potential to erupt into something more heated. Whether you, as leader, compere the evening or not, you may have to step in to keep the peace. The best way, usually, is to suggest that you defer the argument until the end of the evening or another day.

16. BRINGING OUT THE QUIET ONES:

Reading tends to be a solitary pursuit.  So equally important, is keeping a balance between the more vocal members and those of a quieter disposition. Without being rude, you may have curb the more outspoken, and create opportunities to ensure that the quieter members have a chance to speak.

17. AFTER THE EVENT:

I have, in the past, made it a habit to post a summary of the Book Club's discussion on the Diary page of my Mel Menzies website, where details of each meeting are also posted.  However, in order that readers may leave comments, these are now posted to my blog www.melmenzies.co.uk.  This also has the benefit of allowing Book Club readers to refresh their memories, and enabling those who were unable to attend, or those who are unsure about attending in future, to read our discussions and understand how we operate.

18. SUMMARY & QUESTIONS FOR ONLINE BOOK CLUB:

Recently, when we read The Shack by William Young, I added the list of readers group questions to the bottom of the summary on the Diary page, for the use of anyone setting up a book group. Feel free to use these questions per se, or as a template for your own questions.

19. ONLINE RESOURCES:

Many publishers have resources to help Book Clubs and Readers Groups, and links may be found on the Reading Group Guides & Summaries page of the Book Clubs Resource website.

20. HAVE FUN:

Finally, keep in mind that reading is supposed to be a pleasurable experience. If you are a group of friends, having fun together is not likely to be a problem. But if you begin as strangers, try to devise some ‘Ice Breakers’ to keep the event from becoming too studious or tedious. Some anecdote or joke pertaining to the subject of the book under discussion is usually enough to deflect the more serious-minded and make most people laugh.

 

You asked, Sonia, what qualifications were required for setting up a book group and my inclination was to say None. However, reading through what you asked, and the way I’ve replied, I suppose I’d say that the best ‘qualifications’ are: a love and understanding of books; a love and understanding of people; and the ability to make the experience an enjoyable one for yourself and for others. Good luck!

Click here for further BOOK REVIEWS & BOOK CLUB DISCUSSIONS 

Author of a number of books, one a No 4 Bestseller, Mel Menzies is also an experienced Speaker at live events, as well as on Radio and TV.

ALL PROCEEDS FROM HER LATEST NOVEL, A Painful Post Mortem, ARE FOR CHARITIES BENEFITING CHILDREN WORLDWIDE. PLEASE BUY A COPY AND HELP PROJECTS LIKE THIS OVERSEAS OR THIS IN UK

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