A Book Club That Works

Have you ever joined a book club? They’re not just for retired ladies anymore.

Everything “old” is cool again: vintage fashion will now cost you an arm and a leg, you’ll find girls happily taking up knitting on the bus to work, and chardonnay is clawing its way back onto the wine charts of the ‘upwardly mobile’.

Being the partner of a Defence member, I get to move around a bit, and I figured early on that one surefire way to get social in a new town is to join a club. If someone else in town likes books, chances are you’ll get along famously…

Or not.

If there’s anything my varied book club experience has taught me, it’s that you need to find the right book club that works for you. So, I’ve compiled a quick set of guidelines in case you like the idea of joining a book club, or even setting up a book club yourself, but live in fear of making a commitment you don’t think you can keep.

Book Club Guideline 1

Know your style

Are you interested in a straightforward discussion of the book? Or do you like a bit of a lighthearted non-bookish conversation thrown into the mix? This is the number one issue I’ve found in choosing the right book club. One club I went to – we would spend the first half hour nattering about everything but books before settling into the monthly read. A new member came along, and as soon as she sat down opened up her book full of post-it notes, crossed her legs and looked at us expectantly. We continued the chatter, but one couldn’t help but notice her huffs and puffs and constant wristwatch-checking. When all the regular members had settled in, our conversation finally turned to books, but by that stage she stood up, said she had dinner to cook, and stormed off. We never saw that woman again.

I can’t stress enough: know what you’re in for. If you’re turning up to a book club you found by trawling the Vogue forums online, expect to talk a bit of fashion. If it’s a book group set up through a bookstore, there probably won’t be much time to get to know the other participants – expect a serious read (unless people are super-friendly and talk over the chairperson)!

Book Club Guideline 2

Know your genre

Do you even want to stick to a specific genre? Are you happy to read off a literary prize list, or indulge in some Chick Lit? It’s important to make sure you and your members know what types of books you’ll be reading. This is the chance to expand your horizons – the most effective clubs I’ve been to often assign a month to each member – they’ll choose the book and you’re forced to read it. From personal experience, there were of course some duds in the mix – but some of my favourite books come from another member’s choice – and I would never have picked up the book if I hadn’t been required to read it for Book Club.

Book Club Guideline 3

Know your discussion

There really is no point turning up for a book club if you haven’t read the book, month after month. If you’re one of these types, get up off that derriere and plan, plan, plan! Write it in your diary, on your fridge, in your work calendar – wherever will help you remember. If you don’t want to buy the book, check the library catalogue or tee up with one of the other members to borrow the book and return the favour next month.
At the actual meeting, ensure that you have a few questions up your sleeve, in case of lulls in the conversation. There are tons of resources online that will help you out with some interesting questions to ask, or fascinating discussion points you can bring up to enrich your own reading experience, and make you look extra intelligent in front of everyone else. People at book clubs will often dither about, not wanting to structure the discussion for want of seeming too keen, desperate, high brow, or just plain nerdy. I’m not suggesting you go in there and rule with an iron fist and a drafted meeting agenda – but you’ll be surprised at how a few simple prepared questions posed in a laidback manner will get people talking and enthused.
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These are just a couple of points garnered from my own experience. Don’t take it as gospel, but perhaps it’ll come in handy if you feel like mixing it up a bit at your own book club. And if you’ve been thinking about joining one for a while, this might be the kick in the pants you need to take the plunge. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

As for me, now, I’m thoroughly happy with my chosen clubs. And with a little pre-planning and knowing what you want, you can dive into loving your own book club too! It’s something to look forward to every month – a great set of girls and/or guys, a big glass of wine, some gossip, and discussion about books – what more could you want?

 

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Aimee Burton

Aimee Burton is a lawyer-in-training who still dreams of befriending unicorns. This blog will be her escape from reality, and hopefully it'll inspire her to finish writing that fantasy trilogy she's always promising her friends is "almost halfway" done.