How to Do Book Club Right

Bookworms are generally a reclusive lot, and so they often don’t get too many chances for comfortable socialization. The idea of book clubs was created so that book nerds could mingle and socialize, safe in the familiar waters of their favorite thing that they can finally share with someone. This is not to say book clubs are a perfect utopia. Far from it. When any group awkward people comes together, even with the best intentions, things can get weird and silly and strange really quickly, especially if you’re old enough for your book club to involve going through several bottles of wine per session, the really fun stuff. You can still have a great book club if you just remember these pointers.

(Note: All situations and rants in this piece are purely hypothetical and are definitely not based on real people, living or dead, or dead to me. Definitely not.)

On Picking a Book: If you are the one who has the power to pick a book for the group, wield it carefully. Come up with a list of books you’d be interested in beforehand and, if at all possible, run them by your fellow book club buddies before you pick something. Make sure you can actually get the book you end up choosing. Libraries or bookstores can help you get multiple copies of the book you need, but you’ll probably have to wait for enough copies to be delivered to your location, so don’t go out and try to grab all the books the morning of your first club meeting.

If you don’t have the power to pick out a book, hopefully they’ll ask you what the book they want to choose is. Ideally, you’re with a group of friends and this is all done very democratically or you all have the same taste so it would’ve gone well anyway. That doesn’t always happen, but the best you can do in these situations is let yourself try something you normally wouldn’t.

On Planning Meetings: There is, of course, the important business of planning so that everyone can make it; the right time, the right place. What’s slightly trickier though, and definitely just as important, is planning how much reading will be expected between the meetings. You have to remember not just how busy everyone is, but what everyone’s average reading speed is, and maybe also how long you can keep these books if they are on loan. Also, if you really care about your club buddies, you will not make them stop reading on a crazy cliffhanger or otherwise intense part. Why would you hurt your friends in such a way? Why? Why?????

On Reading: Two things really need to be said on reading, one for each type of person who comes to a book club; the ones that do the reading, and the ones that don’t.

First, don’t be afraid if you didn’t have time to do all the reading. This is supposed to be a fun time. We all have busy lives and understand. The more important thing here is making and being with friends. Of course, I’m assuming here that you genuinely tried to do the reading. If you’re one of those people that take the book club book, laugh, then use it to prop up a wobbly end table, know that you are not my favorite type of person but I suppose we can all make our own choices, and I’ll just choose to remind you that discussion will be generally enriched if more people do the reading, and you presumably signed up for a book club to do some reading. You can choose to call me a nag or a mom friend and I will choose to glare at you from across the room stonily for the rest of the meeting.

Second, please don’t get mad at people who don’t do the reading. We all live busy lives, understand?  Maybe they’re here more for the company and good time. There’s no reason you can’t enjoy a discussion about the text even when one person has more good will than book knowledge. Unless everyone in your club except you hasn’t done the reading. This happens. If it does, just drown your rage in this week’s bottle of Riesling.

On Extras: So all you nominally need is a book, some friends and a place to meet for book club, but sometimes it’s really fun to sometimes do something extra, whether it’s a craft or a game, maybe watch the movie adaptation of the book so you can tear into it and throw things at your TV. Finding some activity that relates to your book can be really fun. People who think a craft or game sounds childish just have not had enough joy or glitter glue in their life lately. Making them participate in these extras will give them both. Do it!

On Snacks: Maybe you thought snacks would be categorized under fun, extra bits for your book club. You were wrong. Tasty, delicious snacks and beverages, especially adult beverages, are essential for the success of a book club. Really, they are essential for anything and everything in life.

There you go, all you need to have a great book club. What are you waiting for, ya little book-scamp you? Go out there and get some friends. Reduce your crippling social anxiety. Go, go!

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