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1. Find Your Crowd

Book clubs come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re just beginning to search for one to join or don’t want to join any of the groups you’ve discovered, BookBrowse publisher Davina Morgan-Witts suggests checking out your public library as well as community sites like Meetup to find groups that align with your interests.

You might also consider exploring one of the many online or celebrity book forums, such as BookBrowse’s online book discussions, the Rumpus Book Club, and Roxane Gay’s Audacious Book Club.

If you still can’t find a group to suit your fancy, you can always start your own. BookBrowse offers practical advice on their website.

2. Set Expectations

There are no standard rules for running a book club, but setting expectations can ensure that all members enjoy the experience. If you’re starting a new club, laying groundwork at the outset can prevent problems from arising — and make resolving them easier if they do.

  • Meeting time and location: Agree upon a time and a place or virtual platform that works well for most members, and try to stick with it. That will allow members to establish a routine and save that scheduled space for the meeting.
  • Facilitator: Many book clubs designate someone to act as a discussion leader. This person ensures that everyone has an opportunity to speak — and gently redirects the conversation if it wanders too far off topic.
  • Choosing the books: This is often the most challenging decision. Most clubs either let members take turns selecting books every month or create a list of suggested titles and decide together which one to read.

3. Protect the Purpose

BookBrowse survey results reveal a correlation between length of discussions and members’ happiness. “The vast majority of book-clubbers share a common interest in focused, stimulating, and respectful discussion,” says Morgan-Witts. “They love learning from the books and each other and tell us that it is through the book discussions that they get to know people at a depth that can be difficult to achieve in everyday life.”

As a result, book clubs can provide fertile ground for bibliophiles to create and strengthen social connections — and this may be especially true for introverted literature enthusiasts. “Introverts prefer to connect through shared ideas rather than through shared social information,” says Laurie Helgoe, PhD, author of Introvert Power. “A forum that raises interesting questions and reminds us of why we love literature will be a source of meaningful connection for an introvert.”

4. Debate Respectfully

As with all worthwhile social relationships, successful book clubs are built on active listening, respect, and compromise — especially when disagreements inevitably arise.

“Talking about books with others can be deeply rewarding by creating and reinforcing social bonds in ways that still allow for individuality and differences,” says Andrew Elfenbein, PhD, author of The Gist of Reading.

And though competing thoughts and opinions may sometimes clash, book lovers may be better equipped than most to resolve them. Just as reading fiction allows us to step into another person’s story and see beyond our own point of view, respectfully discussing these stories can expand our perspectives even further.

This was excerpted from “The Benefits of a Bookclub” which was published in the October 2021 issue of Experience Life magazine.

Profile pic of Molly Tynjala
Molly Tynjala

Molly Tynjala is an Experience Life assistant editor.

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