Tips for Book Clubs

Some Considerations for Getting Started

  • Size – Very small groups can make for short discussions, while large groups can make for tricky organization. We recommend seven or eight to start and no more than 20.
  • Venue – Where should you hold meetings? This depends on the size of your group and the atmosphere you want (e.g., a house can be more relaxed, a community center can encourage more participation, and a restaurant can be fun but less focused). There are even book clubs that “meet” online. Most clubs are held in members’ homes on a rotating basis.
  • Recruiting members – Friends and neighbors are a good place to start, particularly if you are trying to create an informal group. If you want a group that is more formal or specialized, you may consider posting advertisements in local papers, at Howard County Library System (HCLS), at bookstores, or by contacting groups that specialize in your area of interest.

Ways to Begin Organizing

  • Decide when to meet – Consider if you want a fixed or flexible schedule, whether you will skip summers or heavy holiday months, and distance people will travel to meet. Most clubs pick one day or night a month.
  • Set up guidelines – To help meetings run more smoothly, it is important to choose a discussion leader, establish the roles of the discussion leader, elect a record keeper, and decide how books will be picked.
  • Use HCLS – HCLS Instructors teach workshops throughout the year that give tips on starting and maintaining a book club. In addition, our book club coordinators are always available to assist.

Suggestions for Choosing Books

  • Characters – Exploring the depth and complexity of characters and their relationships and interactions can make for interesting discussions.
  • Substance – Books that have thought-provoking issues and themes often lead to thought-provoking conversations that may even go “beyond the book.”
  • Conflict – Controversy makes for great discussions or debates. Books focusing on moral dilemmas or with some sort of controversy or crisis at their core can really heat up a meeting.
  • HCLS – Ask HCLS Instructor & Research Specialists for recommendations. HCLS offers various book lists to assist in choosing titles, including Books for Discussion, a list specifically designed and updated with book clubs in mind. HCLS staff also can discuss what works well for other book groups. Also, look for classes and forums of interest to book clubs.