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Book Discussion Groups: Starting a Book Discussion Group

Resources for establishing a book discussion group

Starting a Book Discussion Group

"For most people, what is so painful about reading is that you read something and you don't have anybody to share it with. In part what the book club opens up is that people can read a book and then have someone else to talk about it with. Then they see that a book can lead to the pleasure of conversation, that the solitary act of reading can actually be a part of the path to communion and community."
-- bell hooks, from All About Love: New Visions

 

This page contains resources on starting a book discussion group, including a bibliography* and ten questions to ask before starting your group.

*For a more complete bibliography, visit the Book Discussion Groups WorldCat list maintained by the ALA Library.

Resources for Starting a Book Discussion Group

Bibliography - Starting a Book Discussion Group

Book Club Reboot: 71 Creative Twists

This resource published in cooperation with ALA's Public Programs Office profiles dozens of successful book clubs across the country. Drawn from responses collected through social media, electronic mailing lists, e-newsletters, websites, as well as the authors' own research, this book outlines the main reasons that traditional book clubs can grow stagnant over time and offers concrete advice on how to change things up. You'll find the keys to creating a book club your community will love among the abundance of ideas offered in this book.

Book Clubs in Lockdown

Book clubs in lockdown investigates how book clubs have adapted to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. The report is based on a survey of more than 3,400 respondents currently in a book club conducted in October 2020. Available as a free download by clicking the image above.

The Inner Lives of Book Clubs

This comprehensive 60-page research report is the first to get to the heart of the book club experience. It is based on two surveys of more than 5,000 book club members combined with BookBrowse's over 15 years of book club experience and research. It will be of great interest to book clubs looking to gain insight into how other groups run, and learn best practices; It is also very relevant to libraries and booksellers who advise book club members, or host their own book clubs. Additionally, authors and publishers wishing to understand the dynamics of book clubs will much of interest.

The Librarian's Guide to Book Programs and Author Events

Advice for librarians seeking to provide a wide range of programming that targets their communities of book lovers:author readings, book signings, and author panels; marketing and outreach pointers; interviewing authors for local radio, library podcasts, or webinars; nuts-and-bolts of organizing and hosting book clubs; creating displays of "staff favorites" and other ways to get staff involved and engaged.

Running Book Discussion Groups

Step-by-step showing how to build, improve, and maintain successful, engaging book discussion groups.

Teen Book Discussion Groups @ the Library

Techniques for encouraging teens to share their responses to books under discussion.

Ten Questions to Get Started

Ask and answer these ten questions to help you create a book discussion group*

  1. What type of group should it be? Decide on an orientation: we suggest targeting somewhere between highly social and seriously academic.
  2. What kind of books should we read? Choose a literary genre or a mix of genres: fiction (current, classic), poetry, drama, mystery, sci-fi, current events, history, or biography.
  3. How many members should we invite? 8 to 16 members are best: enough for a discussion if several are absent, but not so many that discussions become unwieldy.
  4. How often should we meet? Monthly works best for most clubs. Some meet every 6 weeks. Once you choose a schedule, try to stick with it.
  5. When should we meet? Whether weekday evenings or weekends, this will largely depend on the job/childcare schedules of your members.
  6. Where should we meet? Some good meeting places are: homes, clubhouses, public libraries, churches, local Y’s, and restaurants.
  7. What should we call ourselves? Try to give your club an identity so that members will be accountable and engaged. For example: New London Literary Lions, Red Hat Readers, or just the Lakewood Book Club.
  8. How do we keep in touch? Send out monthly meeting reminders. If not everyone in your group uses email, mail postcards instead. When you start the group, distribute a list of phone numbers and addresses.
  9. How can we keep memories? Record your group’s activity with a club journal—this can be as simple as a 3-ring binder to keep track of the books you’ve read; also plot summaries, discussion highlights, and members’ opinions. (This also helps bring new members up to speed.)
  10. How can we give back to our community? Collect dues for a scholarship or annual literacy award at a local school. Purchase books for your local library, or become involved in a tutoring program.
     
* Source: I Love Libraries For Book Lovers: Book Clubs guide, adapted from the LitLovers.com How to Start a Book Club Guide