Suggestions for how to find a good book club.
We've been to quite a few writers festivals over the years. And almost every time we hear a writer offer advice, it's often these three words.
Be a reader.
But where to start? When most people are surveyed about what their favourite books are, interestingly, the books that come out on top are often things we read as teenagers at school. But why? Is it the depth we went to with them? Was it reading these great books at a formative age? Or is it that most people don't read much after high school?
Image: Steve Baty - Creative Commons (Flickr)
Last year, I realised that my reading habits weren't as consistant as I would have liked. I read books, but it felt like I was mostly reading student assignments and an occassional blog article. So, I put the word out on Twitter.
Starting a book club or finding the right fit
There are plenty of book clubs out there. It's just a matter of finding (or creating) the best one for you.
Therefore, it's best to have an idea of what kind of book club you'd like to go to, because chances are, other people will too.
Your book club could be:
- Based on the type of book (fantasy, sci-fi, detective fiction, horror and literary fiction, poetry)
- Cult or classic books (One of our favourites..)
- Gender or sexuality (Good Sex Book Club at Avid Reader or Queer Book Club in St. Kilda)
- Literary Journals (haven't found one yet but we'd love to help start one)
- Author (NYC Murakami Book Club or Year of reading Proust)
- Beyond Pale, Stale or Male (Subcontinent Book Club/Asian Book Club, Bright Young Things or Stella Prize Book Club,)
- Publication date (Historical, Classics, Debuts)
Finding the right fit is also important. And you should be able to get a pretty good idea of what kind of book club it is from the bio. If you are after a hard-core notes and discussion kind of book club, you can find it. If you'd like to share a bottle of pinot while turning the pages, there's that too.
Getting together (how to organise it)
The following is a list of steps to help you organise your own. Scroll down if you're looking for an established book club.
Reading is generally a solitary pursuit (unless of course you go to something like Readers Club).
Some of the best ways to get a book club off the ground is to ask some friends, send out an email, put the word out on social media or have a look at our Forum. However, you could also generate interest by putting up some flyers in places you think likeminded readers would go.
Alternatively, get in touch with us and we can put a shoutout on the Writers Bloc Facebook/Twitter pages to give you a little bit of a push.
Find a venue
This is entirely open. Wherever is easy for each of the members to get to, preferably free with access to food, drinks and bathrooms. The best places are comfortable, intimate and safe.
If you struggle to find somewhere suitable, approach a local library/café/restaurant and let them know that you might hold a book club or event there in the future that could bring in new customers. And of course, you could use one of the online forums mentioned below.
Organise a time
We don’t think this one needs much explanation but put the word out there and see if you can organise a time to meet regularly. Once a month, every two weeks. It’s up to you. Daily is a bit much.
Set the groundrules
The first rule of Book Club is blab the hell out of Book Club. The rest is up to you.
Do you want to meet once a month? At a set time? Online?
Pick a group leader
Chances are if you’re the organisers you’ll probably lead the discussion. However, share it around, especially if someone in your group has a real passion for a book/writer.
For some suggested questions/things to talk about do a quick Google. There will usually be some good questions out there or you can try this cheat sheet.
Pick the next time
See if you can agree on the best time for another meeting as well as the writers who’ll be featured in the next session.
A few days after the event, ask everyone for a bit of feedback. It will make everyone feel valued but will also mean that you have a rad book club.
Also, let us know how it went. We’d love to know if there is any help we can give to future groups.
Book Club etiquette
This is by no means an exhaustive or compulsory list. The only rule really is to have fun reading books.
1. Take turns hosting. It mixes it up a bit
2. This is also true for choosing books. Figure out a way that works. An online vote, a turns based system, pulling a book off the shelf.
3. Organise your reading list a couple of months in advance. Everyone is busy. But putting the list up early means that some people can capitalise on things like holidays or an extended break.
4. Keep it warm and welcoming. Shut downs and exclusion do not make good book clubs. It ain't Year 9.
5. Take time to think of some discussion points or further reading. It's also a good idea to set up a Facebook group or mailing list so people can continue sharing ideas or links after the discussion. It's always on the bus home when you get the best ideas.
6. Involve everyone.
Best place to find an existing book club
- Meetup - It's a great place to start a book club. While it does cost a bit to start up, you can keep the momentum going with chats on the site
- Facebook - free and easy to set up and you can include your friends
- Goodreads - HEAPS of discussions to get involved with here
- Writers Bloc - We have two book clubs for people, online discussions are held on Facebook.
- Your local independent bookshop. There are some great ones, like Oscar & Friends and Avid Reader. And if there isn't, give them a nudge!
- Libraries. There are some great librarians out there and often, you can get the books for free!
- Writers Centres - Check you local writers centre for details.
- Writers Bloc - We also encourage people to form their own groups and be part of a our bigger bookclub online. We currently have a group that meets each month in Sydney. Get in touch if you'd like some help setting one up.
Writers Bloc runs two book clubs, online and off
Geoff Orton is the founder of Writers Bloc. He's also a teacher and a Boston Celtics tragic.