wikiHow to Start a Book Group

Want to meet some interesting characters? Open a book. Want to meet some real-life interesting characters, too? Start a book group! Book groups (a.k.a. "book clubs") are a great way to communicate with friends and meet new people while exploring and discussing (hopefully) good books. What's more, membership in a book group can help you stay motivated to read if you otherwise have difficulty finding time to pick up a book. If you can't find a group in your area, maybe it's time to start one!


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    Decide on your requirements. You should definitely allow the group to make most decisions, but if you have certain requirements for the club (for example, if you just like to read science fiction or if you can only meet on Thursdays), you should set them out ahead of time.
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    Find a location for the initial meeting. If you feel comfortable inviting people into your home, you can have at least the first meeting at your house or apartment as long as you have enough room. Otherwise, you can usually reserve space for free at community centers, libraries or churches, or you might try to get a bookstore to let you hold your meeting there. If you can find someplace convenient where you can hold regular meetings, the better.
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    Make and distribute a flyer.This announces the time and place of the first meeting and any other relevant information, such as whether refreshments will be served. Ask that people bring suggestions of books to read. Deliver copies of the flyer to local bookstores, and put them up on community bulletin boards at grocery stores, churches, etc. You can also advertise online on the community pages of sites such as Craigslist. Be sure to clarify that the purpose of the group is to discuss books, not to order books together at a reduced price. (CAVEAT: Please be aware that broad advertising of book clubs can result in the occasional bad apple that can single-handedly ruin the discussion openness and tone. Do this with caution.)
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    Prepare a clipboard. For the initial meeting, this should include at least two items: a "Book Suggestions" page, where members can write down titles they recommend for the group, and a "Hosting and Refreshments" page where members can sign up for a date that is convenient for them to take these responsibilities. You also want to record the attendees names and contact details. A head count is not sufficient. For subsequent meetings, you'll also want to include a "Coming Soon" page or the reading schedule for the next two or three meetings. This clipboard should make the rounds at every meeting. This "clipboard" should be placed online -- some sites offer book clubs that ability to post meeting dates/locations, sent automatic meeting reminders, and add sign-up sheets for discussion leaders and sign-up sheets for refreshments. An online clipboard also allows members to add online reading guides and connect to book reviews. Also, a member should be chosen to send out an email with all the information on the clipboard; like what the next book will be, what was discussed, possible book club names, etc.
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    Prepare the meeting space. Make sure the meeting space is clean and inviting. Check to make sure the restrooms are properly stocked. Most importantly, make sure you have enough chairs, and set up refreshments.
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    Greet the potential members at the first meeting. Introduce yourself and try to make sure that each guest feels welcome and comfortable. Let them know you're glad to see them.
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    Start the first meeting by stating the agenda and making introductions. If some of your guests don't know each other, go around and have everybody introduce themselves. You may also want to do this at subsequent meetings if new members are in attendance. Ask that people tell the group a little bit about themselves and their reading interests. During the introductions, send the clipboard around so people can write down book suggestions and sign up to bring refreshments or, if necessary, to host.
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    Explain or decide how often, for how long, and where the group will meet and how much reading the group should generally get through from meeting to meeting. Some issues to discuss are:
    • Do you want to set rules about the books, such as pricing or content?
    • What are the members' expectations of the group, and what are their responsibilities as members?
    • What is the group's policy on smoking, pets, tardiness, and telephone calls during book discussions? Are members allowed to bring their children if they don't have a babysitter? Some will not mind if children are present, others will. The tone of a meeting is very different if children are present.
    • Can members bring a guest? Of course, this is the best way to build book club membership. Referrals and invitations from existing members minimize the aforementioned "bad apple."
    • Can new people join, or is there a limit to the group size? The ideal size is less than 10 -- otherwise, people just don't have an opportunity to discuss and contribute.
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    Decide on the first book to read. The easiest way to do this is to simply pick a book yourself -- try to pick one, such as a current bestseller, with wide appeal -- but if you don't want to go out on a limb, you can decide as a group. Ask that members bring their own suggestions and any external reviews that may help inform other members of the book. During the meeting have members vote on the next three books -- which gives members some time to find and read the books.
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    Make sure that you decide on a name by the end of the first meeting. This will make the book club more official and members will feel like they really belong. Don't just hastily choose a name though. Have the members suggest ideas and everyone vote.
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    Break out the refreshments and chat. Now that the really hard work is done, relax and let people talk and leave as they will. Be sure to speak to each person again so they feel more comfortable and invested in the group.


  • Make sure that the discussion remains lively and engaging, and that everyone is given a chance to speak. There's nothing worse that a half-bored book club member.
  • Don't panic if things are a little stiff in the beginning. People (including you) will grow more comfortable over time.
  • Don't be overly selective about whom you invite. Diversity makes things interesting, so cast a wide net.
  • At future meetings, you can let the person who suggested the book start the discussion, or assign a meeting facilitator beforehand. Then go around the circle in order at least once. This way everyone is encouraged and enabled to talk about what they've read, and the group can comment on their points.
  • Remember that not everyone WILL like every book, just as all people don't relish chocolate ice cream even though it may be delicious. Encourage people do be open-minded about books the group has selected. Perhaps suggest guidelines (e.g., "if you don't like the book, at least get to page 75-100 before you decide the book is not worth your time.")
  • A good idea for a holiday party is a "book swap". Have everybody bring a book they really like (it does NOT have to be new). Ask everyone to wrap their book and not put anything on it that identifies this book as their own nor tell anybody which book is theirs. Put all the books in a bag or container of some sort and have everyone pick out a book and open it (You do keep the book you chose, by the way). This is a lot of fun, and provides members with an opportunity to explore reading genres which might not be similar to theirs.
  • If the club is gender specific, be sure to let others know.
  • To make things easier, one person can be in charge of getting the books. If this is the case, that person should have the book for the next meeting ready for pickup/payment at the current meeting. The "Coming Soon" page can double as an order page where people sign up to receive books for future meetings. This is important because not everybody will be able to attend every meeting.
  • Why not have a newsletter, so everyone is up to date. Ask for addresses at the first meeting and then take it in turns or choose someone to write a new letter featuring the book that you are reading, an article, contact details, details of the next meeting and maybe a few other book recommendations. Happy reading!
  • Deciding as a group which book to read next may take quite some time. Here are some ways on how to select the books to read:
    • Either take turns choosing, or put one person in charge of scheduling the books. This person should try to ensure that everyone who wants to suggest a book gets their chance. Some people may not want to.
    • Alternatively, you can have the members nominate 2-3 titles each at the beginning of the year, and take a vote on the final books to read. Pull out the calendar and schedule the titles and then stick to the calendar. That way it won't take up time at every meeting. You WILL have to devote a little time to this business matter at the beginning of each year.
    • If you want to make choosing books really easy, just agree to use the selections of an established book club, such as Doubleday's or Oprah's. Search the internet, and you'll probably find a book club whose selections interest you, no matter what genre(s) you prefer.
  • Get some name tags. Especially at the first meeting, it's a good idea to have name tags so that people can start to learn each other's names.
  • Be prepared to politely maneuver on to the next person if one member goes on too long.
  • Many book stores offer discounts to book groups. Ask around before you buy.
  • If you're taking turns hosting or providing refreshments, be sure to remind people at the meeting before their turn.
  • Since you are starting the book club, you are entirely responsible for the initial meeting. You should thus take that turn to provide refreshments. You don't have to, of course, but if you do you'll probably get a better turnout.
  • Manage the book club online -- it will significantly reduce the overhead. Place the book club meeting times/locations onto an online group site. For each meeting, put the book being discussed and link to any relevant reviews, author interviews, or reading guides. Also add sign-up sheets to each meeting asking members to volunteer a location, lead discussion, and bring food and drinks. These online groups sites (including online group start-ups like Qlubb [1] and traditional group lists like Yahoo! Groups [2])are also helpful in that they send out automatic reminders and RSVP request.


  • Try to avoid micro-managing the group. After the first meeting, do your best to help things run smoothly, but let the group run itself as much as possible. Don't make yourself responsible for everything, especially hosting or providing refreshments. You'll burn out pretty quickly.
  • A good way to try to avoid micro-managing is to be in "listening mode" and turn your thoughts into questions.

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