Wednesday, March 5, 2014

10 Tips for a Successful Bookclub

Last summer I was having a girls weekend with some of my besties from college.  Unfortunately we no longer all live in the same city but we still try to get together once a year to catch up (and keep our sanity!)...

Anyway, on the trip we were having the discussion about how hard it is to find time for our personal hobbies and interests, when one of my friends mentioned one of her new favorite things to do was a book club she had been invited to.  This got my attention and got the gears in my brain spinning.

A little background:  I have developed several interests as of late (since my Mr. Morning Sunshine strongly suggest I find a hobby).  While at the time that convo didn't go so well, I must say now that 'suggestion' has helped me grow and explore things that I probably wouldn't have investigated otherwise. (like this blog, book club, sewing, reading, DIY projects, etc.)

After exploring and trying new things I realized one thing I really LOVE is reading.  With the inspirational words of my friend, who was my age, not frumpy, had kids, and was in a book club, I started to pursue the beginnings of a club.  I spoke with a variety of friends and everyone seemed interested but no one was willing to take the plunge and officially start it.  So, I volunteered and now we have been going strong for about 6 months with several books under our belt.  We are even going to celebrate our success, by watching Divergent together on opening night.

After some self reflection and looking back at the success and failures or this project I decided to put them into a list. Here they are:

1. Pick a book that will get members hooked the very first month. In the beginning you have to be the decisive one and pick a book to get the momentum going.  I would recommend checking with your local bookstore like Barnes and Noble or Hastings to see what is popular and catching.  Amazon is always a great source too for current best sellers in any category you want.

2.  Be willing to be the host.  A lot of people will say they want to join but not too many want it at there house every week... This is an area my book club is still working on.  There are some great benefits to having it weekly at my place such as I don't need a sitter because my kids are in bed, I can have a glass of wine or two and not worry about getting too sleepy to go home, and what I love the most now that I am preggo, everyone else brings food.  My family gets to munch on and enjoy book club leftovers the next day and there have been some really yummy treats.  Ideally though we will get to a point of rotating through the members houses.....  Like I said, I am still learning.

3.  Have an open mind about who will attend.  The people who took me up on my invite were not who I would have originally had in mind for a book club combo.  It has been really nice to have a variety of women from different circles come together.  I have also had friends bring unexpected guests and it has made those months much more dynamic.  Be welcoming to everyone (almost.... more in number 4)

4.  Be clear on the fact it is for adults only.  This is an area that I goofed on.  I didn't explicitly say no kids and now I don't feel right in uninviting the munchkin that tags along each week.  I know this one sounds harsh but trust me from first hand experience, you don't want to spend your evening babysitting and/or having to monitor all conversations due to little ears in the room.  It is even worse is if you spend your evening not being able to hear or finish a complete sentence because your friend is chasing their little one around, who is already cranky because it is past their bedtime. The purpose of a book club is for YOU not for your littles.  It's ok to have something that they don't attend.

5.  Meet on a consistent day of each month This one is pretty self explanatory.  Just like everything else in life, once there is a routine set, more people will be likely to attend each month.  It will already be on their calendar and they will be expecting it.  A helpful hint would be to put an automatic reminder in your evite invitation.  (ex: First Friday of the month)

6. Request everyone to bring suggestions of books to read for the next time.  If you don't remind everyone to bring suggestions for next time, half of the meeting will be spent on Amazon looking at the upcoming bestsellers.  There is nothing wrong with that but it can easily be done at home and that way you can fully engage with your friends while they are there.  Also it gives everyone time to process what they genuinely want to be reading about.  Keep an ongoing list of books to choose from so there is never a lull in exciting books to read.

7.  Listen to everyone's book suggestions.  Even though it is important for there to be a leader to begin with who picks the book, don't dominate that role.  Rotate book styles to meet everyone's likes and needs.  This is about community, not about giving everyone HW.  You will lose members if they feel unheard, or like it is just another chore on their list of busy to do's.

8.  Have everyone contribute to the refreshments.  This should not be a one man show.  Just like you need to rotate book ideas, give ownership to your members.  Again this one I learned the hard way, but make sure you communicate as a group about what everyone is bringing.  The first few meetings I was providing food for everyone.  Not only was that a little pricey but also exhausting.  So then we all decided we would bring an appetizer... that was a failure as well.  The first time everyone brought food, 2 people brought the exact same thing. (and everyone liked one more than the other... AWKWARD) I would suggest to set a theme such as Mexican, Italian, Picnic etc. and have each person as they respond claim a dish to bring.

9.  Don't ONLY talk about the book.  Yes, this is a book club, but it is also a time for you to connect with friends.  It isn't essential to have specific guiding discussion questions. The first time it might be nice to have them as a back-up in case the conversation isn't flowing, but from my experience we just gave opinions on likes, dislikes, how we thought it would end vs. what happened etc.  I have found that it is the most fun when we let the conversation flow naturally.  It will get off topic but then will probably loop back around.  That is exactly what this club is for.  Community.

10.  Relax and Have Fun.  Don't over-think it.  Just enjoy the company of your friends and the exposure to new reads.

If you are stuck and need some ideas here are some of my Top Read suggestions.
*Note: Not all of these would be great for a book club.

Have any more hints or tricks that worked great for you and your club?  I would love to hear them!

Happy Reading and Remember:

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