How to run a book club meeting

In my last post, I covered how to start a book club, based on my experience starting the UBC. I gave four simple steps to get things going – the idea, the people, the pitch and the first meeting.

Once you’ve done all that, you’ll want to think about how your book club’s meetings will run going forward (in my last post, I mentioned how the first meeting will be different from the rest).

First, I’ll share with you how we do things, and then make some general suggestions. But before I do that, I’d like to quickly recap the general low-down on our book club:

  •           Meetings are on the first Sunday of every month at 6pm
  •           Hosting rotates through the members
  •           Book picking rotates through the members
  •           Everyone brings a potluck item and drinks

Remember, all book clubs are different, so this structure might not work for yours. Hopefully it inspires you, though, and helps in case you don’t know where to start.

I hope Erin will forgive me. A girl's gotta eat!

I hope Erin will forgive me. A girl’s gotta eat!

Also, the “schedule” below might seem pretty rigid and set-in-stone, but I assure you every meeting is different. Sometimes we’re more chatty, sometimes more hungry, and sometimes we’re tired or have no appetite. We go with the flow. These times/sequences are definitely not rules – just guidelines.

6pm

Everyone arrives, sets out their potluck items and gets a drink. We typically spend the first hour waiting for everyone to arrive, socializing and stuffing our faces with delicious food. Most of us are friends by now, and because we are all so busy, book club is often the only face-time we get. There’s a lot to catch up on!

7pm

Once everyone has arrived and settled down (mainly myself), I typically suggest we congregate and actually start the book discussion. This conversation is normally led by the person who picked the book. Sometimes they prepare discussion questions, but most of the time we have plenty to talk about without them.

We make sure everyone has a chance to speak. Members are bound to have different opinions, which makes for friendly debates. It’s awesome to hear other people’s perspectives and sometimes forces us to re-think our own.

Depending on the book, we spend 45-60 minutes in discussion. Usually the discussion is longer if we didn’t like the book, because we have more to pick apart. If we LOVED the book, there’s sometimes not much more to say than “Loved it. Case closed.” That’s why you shouldn’t feel bad if people hated the book you chose – bad books generate better discussions!

To wrap it up, we always go around the room and ask members to rate the book from 0-5 (using the Goodreads rating scale). We allow quarter starts (.25) but nothing smaller. This is nice because it gives each member the opportunity to sum up their thoughts on the book, i.e. “I learned a lot about the history of Iran, but I didn’t like the characters. I give it a 3.5.”

8pm

By the time we’re done with the ratings, it’s normally 8pm and the members need a drink refill and another snack (probably dessert). We take a short break here, most of the time.

We then re-group and the new book picker announces their options. We don’t require our members to have options, but most girls are so diplomatic they let us vote between two or three books. However, because our book club has so many members, your pick comes around less than once a year… so we encourage everyone to pick whatever they want.

A couple guidelines for book picking – don’t suggest anything too long. More than 500 pages and you’re at risk of members not finishing your book in time for the next meeting. Another thing to keep in mind is price. Picking a book that costs $30 and is only available in hard cover is not the best idea, unless you absolutely cannot wait for the paperback to be released.

Once the new book is chosen, many girls linger for more drinks and food, but others head home (after all, the next day is a Monday, so we don’t blame them). And that’s it!

How do your book club meetings run? Let us know!

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About Julia Kent

Julia is an outgoing and energetic writer and domestic from Halifax. Three years ago, Julia started The "Unputdownable" Book Club and a cooking blog, The Domestic Blonde. A graduate of Carleton University’s journalism program, Julia currently works in Ottawa in marketing for a project management firm. As a former broadcast journalist, she is a natural presenter with a background in musical theatre. In her free time, she recipe-tests, reads, runs, hosts a podcast called Young PR Pros, watches bad television and plays competitive soccer. She’s addicted to Canadian Living and Chapters Indigo. Her favourite books include A Thousand Splendid Suns, Pride & Prejudice and The Book of Negroes. Twitter: @kentjulia
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4 Responses to How to run a book club meeting

  1. Pingback: How to make your book club successful | The "Unputdownable" Book Club

  2. Pingback: Book of the month – Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov | The "Unputdownable" Book Club

  3. Pingback: How To: Be a Good Book Club Member | The "Unputdownable" Book Club

  4. Pingback: Happy Three Year Anniversary, UBC! | The "Unputdownable" Book Club

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