Reading is often a solitary activity. However, reading discussions can be a lot of fun. If you have ever thought about starting your own book club for the mental stimulation of interacting with other reading/thinking individuals, here are some things to keep in mind.
Mind the Time
Set clear limits on the amount of time you will be meeting. While it is possible no one will have other engagements timed around the meeting of your book club, it is better to assume people will be moving on to other things. This is also useful for those who are depending on others for rides.
Allow time for socialization. This is a club, so it is not just about discussing the book, but also building connections with other people who share similar interests. Therefore, having time to talk about other things can be highly beneficial. You can socialize either before the meeting official starts or after the book discussion has concluded.
Start on time. Starting late, except in emergencies, reflects poorly on your abilities as a leader and on the club as a whole. While this is a social event, that does not excuse you from treating time seriously.
End on time. The official meeting should be over at the time you previously designated. If certain people want to stick around, help clean up, or socialize, then they should be allowed that option.
Mind the Set-up
Choose a big enough space with comfortable seating. There is nothing worse than the feeling of sitting right on top of each other, except to feel like you are sitting on top of each other in a cramped space. Choose a space that is close enough to be intimate, but large enough some personal space can be allowed. Chairs should be comfortable enough to invite clubbers to stay, but not so comfortable they invite your members to sleep. While a public place, such as a coffee shop, seems like a good bet, you may be competing with others for space and having to talk over the ambient conversation. This is something to consider when choosing a venue. It may be easier to host the book club in someone’s home, but like providing food and drinks, this should be a shared responsibility.
Bring refreshments. Food helps people to relax. It also allows club members to contribute through providing food and drinks at the meetings. It is usually advisable to rotate responsibility for bringing snacks among group members to avoid one person being constantly burdened or inconvenienced.
You might also want to consider a theme for your refreshments having to do with the book itself, such as tea and scones when discussing Jane Eyre or barbecue skewers for Dragonsbane.
Mind the Discussion
Bring prepared discussion questions. These are in case the discussion stalls or gets off track, both of which tend to happen in discussion settings.
Control the conversation. Every group is going to have its share of Chatty Cathys and Silent Susans, but the question is how do you manage to keep Cathy from taking over and get Susan to open her mouth, all without being overly rude to either one? Use people’s names. Engage your silent Susan by asking her something specific by name and then encouraging her sharing by complimenting her insight. This is also a useful way to bring Cathy up short. When Cathy stops to take a breath, you direct a question at someone else. If she has an ounce of politeness in her, she will stop and allow someone else to talk.
Finally, mind your limits.
Hire a Professional. If all of this seems overwhelming, or you just do not feel you have the personality necessary to run the discussion yourself, consider hiring a professional to lead your group. Check with your local library, they are the best resource to find professional discussion leaders.
With these things in mind, you should be well on your way to an enjoyable book discussion group.