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How to start a book club

Winter, with its long cold nights, is closing in on us here in the frozen North. Getting together with a group of friends once a month for food, fellowship and a good book discussion is a joy indeed.

How to start  a book club

My wife Louisa and I have been members of the same book club for 23 years. Recently, our club’s unofficial statistician sent out an update on all the book titles we’ve read: a respectable 179!

Winter, with its long cold nights, is closing in on us here in the frozen North. Getting together with a group of friends once a month for food, fellowship and a good book discussion is a joy indeed. Since you are reading this column in CC, I assume you are already a reader. In case you’ve always wanted to be part of a book club but don’t quite know how to go about organizing one, here’s some information and advice that might be helpful.

First, a club needs members who like each other well enough to want to get together once a month. They don’t all have to be avid readers, but they should be willing to commit to reading one book a month. The club should have between six and 12 members. Fewer than six means that each member will have to recommend a book too often; more than a dozen tends to make the club a bit unwieldy, requires a space larger than the average living room and limits the ability of all members to participate in discussions. Ideally, the group will be a diverse collection of couples, singles and both women and men.

Once you have a group of interested readers, someone needs to suggest a book to read and be willing to host the first meeting. Our club meets Saturday evenings. We start at 7:00 p.m. and always finish around 10:00 p.m. There must be food! This encourages attendance. Our club rotates among members’ homes in alphabetical order of last names and chooses books on the same basis. The host supplies wine and hors d’oeuvres, while other members bring food.

Free-flowing conversation
The evening begins with an informal time of conversation, nibbling and good fellowship. After half an hour, the host announces that the potluck food (usually a main course or two, salads and dessert), is ready to eat. A prayer of thanks is offered and lots of good eating and more conversation ensue.

By about 8:30, when everyone has a cup of coffee or a glass of wine in hand, the host cuts in with an announcement that it’s now time to discuss the book. Since the host has chosen the book, he or she provides a brief introduction to it. This often consists of a few quotes from internet reviews and/or the host’s own personal review. It often includes a few questions to which the club members can respond. It’s important that everyone is committed to allowing each member to participate, with gentle reminders to those (including yours truly) who love the sound of their own voice, to be considerate of others. Everyone’s opinion is valued, even if not always widely shared. In fact, the best discussions occur when there are widely divergent views on the merits of the book under consideration.

When the discussion begins to wind down, the host calls a halt and the next person up suggests the next month’s book title. We depend on our members to suggest books they have personally read and liked, or a book that has a current buzz. It helps to pick books available from public libraries (sometimes in book club sets) or accessible in inexpensive paperback or e-reader formats. You’ll end up reading books you love and some not so much; but, because you are a book club member, you’ll be encouraged to read 10-12 books a year, which you might not otherwise do, and you’ll be the richer for it. 

About the Author
How to start  a book club

Robert Bruinsma, COLUMNIST

Robert (Bob) Bruinsma is a retired Professor of Education (The King’s University) living in Edmonton. He has interests in language and literature and loves birds and the outdoors. To help pass the time on long winter nights, he makes wine and beer (and drinks it in moderation) with his wife of 43 years (Louisa). Bob is a member of Fellowship CRC where he tells stories for children and happily participates in weekly communion. He and Louisa have three grown children and one little grandson (soon to be joined by a brother).

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