Here is a article I wrote from our current church library newsletter.
Many people who love to read also love to discuss the books they’ve read with others. It’s even better if this discussion takes place with someone else who read the same book; and while it is especially fun if you both loved the book, there is also something to be said for a conversation between two people who had opposite opinions! Discussing the books we read helps us to think more deeply about them and to pinpoint what it is we like or dislike about them. Hearing the opinions of others can help us to see the book from a different perspective, which often provides insights and comprehension we might not have had on our own.
Such conversations can, of course, take place on an occasional, limited basis but for those who want this to be a regular part of their reading lives, a book club is the answer. There are many different kinds of book clubs and different ways of running them, limited only by the desires and ideas of those who attend them. Here are some thoughts to get you started!
First, consider what the format of your book club will be. Do you just want to talk to others about books you read? Do you want everyone to read the same book? Do you want to have regular meals as a part of your club? I read of one club that always included a meal set in the time in which the book they were discussing took place! This may be overwhelming for every meeting -- it is to me -- but it could be fun to do it once in a while.
How large do you want your club to be? Keep in mind that it is not uncommon for one or more people to miss a meeting, so if it is important to you to always have at least four people in attendance, you will probably want to make sure you have six or eight people who are regulars. Also, sometimes a larger group will mean that some people will not speak up much, especially if there are dominant personalities among the members. You may want to cap your club at no more than a certain number of members. Consider too if your group will be men only, women only, or both.
What kinds of books do you want to read? Some clubs are for one genre only, for example a Mystery Book Club, or only best-sellers, or fiction only; others read a wide variety of books. And along with that, how will your club choose what to read? There are, of course, many books and websites that can help with this. Gladys Hunt has written a helpful book called Honey for a Woman’s Heart, which contains many recommendations of quality books.
How often and where will you meet? You can set parameters for this or you can start off with a loose idea and see how the club develops. The book club of which I am a member began by meeting every couple of months, but as time went on, we became more enthusiastic about our meetings and started increasing them to about ten per year. You will also want to decide for how long your book club will run - do you want to commit for just for a few months, a year, or longer?
For those with children, a Mother-Daughter or Father-Son book club is an interesting idea. Summer would be a good time to do this, because it is a more unstructured and less pressured time. There are a number of books which give suggestions for good books to read (for example Honey For a Child’s Heart and Honey For a Teen’s Heart, both by Gladys Hunt; also Who Then Should We Read by Jan Bloom and Books That Build Character by William Kilpatrick). . These can be good resources in finding materials. Or a mom or dad could oversee a kids’ book club, choosing titles, leading discussions, and creating activities related to what they group read. The Kids’ Book Club Book by Judy Gelman is a good resource here. It contains helps to get a club going, along with discussions, activities and questions for fifty different books (this is not a Christian-based book so you might not find all the recommended titles to be acceptable).
Next, how will you discuss the book? These days, many books have ready-made discussion guides included in them, or they can be found on-line. It is also possible to find generic discussion questions which can be applied, with some limitations, of course, to any book, or you can go with the “So, what did you all think?” approach and see what kind of discussion ensues! I have found it helpful, as I’m reading a book, to take a few notes or mark some pages that I want to talk about when we have our meeting. You will also want to agree on whether a member is required to have finished the book in order to come to the meeting, although I don’t recommend this. Every now and then, you’ll get a book which no one really likes and only one or two people actually finish reading; however, it is still worth talking about why members didn’t like it and weren’t able to finish it.
I have had the joy and delight to be in a book club for five years now. It was started by a friend who just threw out an invitation on facebook (a great way to find club members). Some members have come and gone over the years but there is a core of people who have been there from the start, and the history of books we have read and discussions we have had keeps us connected and committed. We meet in the homes of various members. We spend part of our last meeting of each year deciding on our book list for the following year. It generally includes books suggested by members of the club: books they’ve been wanting to read, or have heard recommended by a friend, or the occasional best-seller. We include a variety of genres: for example, each year we read at least one classic and we have also included poetry, plays, biographies, children’s books, non-fiction, short stories and more. Most of the time we read the same book, but at least once a year, we will each read something different within a genre, for example, “read a biography of your choice” or “read a mystery of your choice”.
I have read stories about unpleasant book club experiences and have wondered what makes ours work so well. I think it has to do largely with the fact that the members are all willing to try something they don’t love, are open to suggestions from others, are interested in learning from each other and just plain love books! I would encourage you to consider starting one yourself, maybe even this summer!