How to set up your own book club
One evening each month, I can be found in the cosy cubby of a pub, spending the next few hours diving into the pages of that month’s read with a group of diehard bibliophiles. I’ve always felt that there was something romantic about book clubs, not solely in the sense that they make great meet-cutes for main characters, but because they feel old-timey and warm, and they are a means of coming together and connecting over what is normally a solitary hobby.
Book clubs open doors to new worlds, new genres, as well as to lasting friendships, and topics and experiences that you hadn’t previously considered.
Thinking about setting up your own book club? Here are some points to ponder and tips to help you get started.
What are you going to read?
With so many options out there, how do you decide what you’re going to read? Well, you might choose to have a theme for your book club, for example, is this club going to be devoted to minority or female writers? Or is it going to focus on a certain genre, such as crime books, or fantasy? Alternatively, the club could be devoted to working through prize lists, like the Booker Longlist.
If you don’t want to go so niche, you could consider changing the theme each month (romance, then translation, then a book set in your region), or find other ways to narrow the pool, such as only picking paperbacks under 300 pages. From there, you just need to figure out how the decision process is going to work – will you put forward options and allow the group to vote on which book they’d like to read as you go? Let a different person pick each time? Or will you take lots of suggestions from everyone, and allocate books throughout the year?
Who are you going to invite?
First things first, how many people do you want to have in your book club, and what kind of atmosphere are you looking to create? Do you want intimate chats, where each person has space to freely express their thoughts, or are you looking to create a larger group where everyone jumps in and thoughts are bounced around?
You might have queues of friends and family who are keen to join the club and get reading – in that case, all you need to do is send the invites out. But if you’re looking to get to know new people, and connect with other readers over a shared interest, you might want to turn to the internet.
You can start your own group that people can search for on sites such as MeetUp, where others hunting for book clubs like yours are likely to discover them. Or you could try putting a call out in local Facebook groups.
Where are you going to meet?
You might prefer the physical presence of your book clubbers, in which case you need a space to meet up. Would you like to come to an arrangement where you meet in each other’s homes, and take it in turn to host? Or would you prefer the neutral ground of a pub or other social space?
If you have a lot of people attending, it might be worth seeing what spaces are available to hire in your area – such as town and village halls, and other community hubs. These spaces may charge an hourly rate to hire, so depending on how much that is, you might wish to ask your group to chip in to cover the cost.
Alternatively, meeting online means that you can theoretically invite anyone, from anywhere in the world, to join the club. Lockdown introduced us all to a vast array of platforms to video chat across the globe, and many of us are now familiar with the logistics, making them a straightforward option.
How can you keep it accessible?
Books can be expensive, particularly newly released hardbacks. That’s another reason you may choose to stick to shorter paperbacks, but there are other ways that you can cut costs, too.
For a start, if you have a longer lead time between each meeting, it may give people the opportunity to buddy up and book share. Libraries are also a great option – and, with enough notice, many libraries will allow you to request book purchases. Ebooks are another money-saving avenue and, what’s more, you can actually borrow ebooks from libraries for no cost. For those with visual impairments, those who struggle with text, or even those with a preference, audiobooks are another great option and readily available – plus, again, you can borrow audiobooks from the library.
It’s time to turn the page, create an open environment, and sit back and enjoy as ideas, thoughts, and feelings flourish together.