I participated in a book club last year at my local library and I get so many questions about it on Instagram, so I thought I’d write a post and share my wealth of knowledge with you all! JK about the ‘wealth of information,’ but I did think you might like to hear more about my book club in specific, how I liked the experience, and how we do things. I LOVED participating in this book club. This is the first time that I’ve stuck with and actually read all the books assigned to us in a book club and it made such a difference for me. I know, I know…you’re thinking, ‘duh Melissa. Actually reading the books makes a HUGE difference’ but what I mean is, reading the books, taking notes while reading, thinking critically, and then discussing the themes, authors and ideas the book brought up in me felt like I was an actual participant in the club not only that day, but all the weeks leading up to the book discussion. It felt like an enjoyable flashback to my college days (high five to all the English majors out there).
- Everyone emailed a list of 1-3 books that they want to talk about for the upcoming year
- We all voted (via email) and the moderator picked the top 6 books that would be discussed (we meet every 6ish weeks with summers off)
- Then we met for our first meeting to hear the top 6 books, got the future meeting dates, and talked about who the leaders for each discussion would be. We also got the first book (because we are amazingly lucky to receive all of the books for free via a donation from out local Friends of the Library)
That’s the general details of how we set up the year’s worth of meetings and the process we took to get there.
When picking the books, we also have some criteria that the book must adhere to:
- title must be available in paperback in the US (cost reasons)
- no more than 400-500 pages
- no themes, authors or books that are discriminatory in nature
- must provide for good discussion (strong themes, diverse and complex characters, hold some literary merit, etc. are all great things to keep in mind)
The person leading the discussion would give us a little background information about the author and/or book and then start the discussion off with a question or just a general, “How did you like this one?” or “What did you think?” and we would go from there. Many times there was a handout with whatever was needed for that discussion (character list, definitions, maps, etc.) or with thinking questions about the book. This was a group of diverse participants and we often had differing views a lot of the time, which led to some fantastic discussions. Periodically, the leader would have to get us back on track, but they really let us take the reigns of the discussion. I will say, I think it depends on how “spirited” your group is, but a group of adults should be able to talk, take turns and respect one another pretty well, but if not, that’s why there was always a designated leader for the day to drive the conversation back to the book and the current discussion. And there was always a snack (we had one person who was a great baker and always brought in delicious cookies. She moved away, so maybe I’ll step up next year? We’ll see-I don’t know if I’m ready for that commitment yet ;)) We had a lot of people, probably around 20-25 or so at each meeting, but it was never chaotic and always a really enjoyable conversation.
I really enjoyed each and every book and discussion, even when I thought for sure I was not going to like the book. In fact, each discussion opened my eyes to things I might not have thought about while reading, and made me enjoy the book even MORE-every single time. We have a wide range of ages, backgrounds and genders in this group (I think that is the great thing about joining a book club through your local library, or a public space rather than just having one with your friends) and I can’t wait for the next year’s to begin! In case you’re interested, here is the list of books we read this past year (click the title to get more info and purchase the book). Each and every one held up on it’s own merit and I feel like a better person after having read and discussed each one. Some I enjoyed more than others, but all provided to be fantastic for a discussion and I’m happy to have read them all.
- Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
- Daring to Drive by Manal Al-Sharif
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
- Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
I hope you have a chance to join a book club if that’s something you think you would enjoy or something you’ve been thinking about. Although there are 100’s of ways to go about starting, joining, or participating in a book club, this worked wonderfully for us! Plus, my wife and I joined it together last year and that made it even more fantastic 🙂
So, there you have it! Let me know if you participate in a book club and if so, what books you’ve read and how you like it. If you aren’t a part of one now, would you like to join one? As always, find me over on Instagram or comment here!