Reading is an enjoyable activity by itself, and it becomes even more enjoyable if you share your impressions and insights with others. Starting a book club can be a great way to find friends, build a small community, enrich your experience, or merely have a great time. If you struggle to start reading in the times of social media, your reading club can become a solid motivator for you. Many celebrities stress the importance of reading in their life, and the benefits are also supported by science.
Did you know that a Harry Potter star Emma Watson started an online feminist book club back in 2016? As Watson says, she tried to read as much literature devoted to the subject of equality as possible after having become a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. While reading, she explored so much that she wanted to share it with other people. This is how the idea of starting an online book club going under the title of Our Shared Shelf on Goodreads was born. By the way, it doesn’t seem to be managed by Emma and her team anymore, but its members are still active on Goodreads, so you’re welcome to join it even now.
Sounds inspiring so far? We’ll help you to take the first steps towards creating a book club just like Emma Watson.
Think of the Challenges Beforehand
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No matter how inspired you and your mates are now, it is very likely that some members won’t manage to finish a book before the planned discussion. Or even all of the members. Can the person who didn’t read still attend the meeting? Will the appointment be rescheduled if the vast majority hasn’t finished reading?
It is highly recommended that you think of a short set of rules or regulations before you start. If needed, you can easily modify them later.
You can decide on the number of participants. 10 to 15 persons is recommended as a manageable number of participants. However, it depends on the type of discussion you will lead. Again, start with something small and, if your club becomes popular on your campus, you can organize discussions in sub-groups.
Another thing to plan in advance is the flow of the discussion. Some of the rules can be fixed in your regulations as well. The next steps will introduce you to the details that should be taken into consideration.
All in all, you should answer these questions prior to launching a book club:
Step 1. Who?
Short answer: small group.
Leading a large group of people is more effortful. It’s better to start with 5-6 people, and then you can grow your club little by little.
In the future, you will ponder more on the target audience for your club. Should it be students from your faculty only or anyone attending your college? Leave these thoughts for later.
Step 2. When?
Short answer: regularly and outside studying hours.
The first thing to do is to determine which frequency would be optimal. For instance, the discussions can be held once a month or bimonthly. Plan ahead and exclude exam seasons and holidays from your schedule. Now, you should understand how many books you will be able to chat about in the following academic year.
Step 3. Where?
Short answer: in the times of pandemics – and not only – do it online.
First and foremost, check with the school administration if you can have it in a college library, the most obvious and least expensive location. Besides, you can always ask professional writers from a paper service to help you with a convincing official letter to the college administration. In any way, you don’t want your book club to stop because of the pandemic prevention measures, so it might be worthy of starting online. The most popular platforms for group meetings are Skype, Zoom, and Google Meet.
Step 4. What?
Short answer: choose a book that will be of interest to everyone.
Decide how you will choose the book taking into consideration everybody’s to-read lists. You can suggest the members offer 5 book titles each and put them to a list randomizer such as Random.org. Or every time appoint a new person to decide on the book.
Step 5. How?
Short answer: just like any good story, a good book discussion should be logically structured.
It may consist of a brief introduction, main part, and conclusion.
In the introductory part, you can let everyone express their general impression of the book.
In the main part, choose several questions from the list below that will help develop the session. You can think of ways to engage shier people, for example, by answering the same question one by one. Encourage others to share their favorite quotes.
In the final part, choose and introduce the next book. Ask people to make suggestions on the improvement of the organization.
If you are a leader of the meeting, you should restrain from the need to convince that your point of view is correct. Instead, show your group mates that it is okay to have a different or changing opinion. You can use the model: “At first, I thought XX, but when N said YY, I think ZZ” or “My general impression differs from the rest of the group, but it is interesting to see how this book can be interpreted and perceived in many ways.”
List of questions to discuss:
1. Why did (not) you like this book?
2. Which event was the most impressive for you and why?
3. Which character do you relate to the most and why?
4. Do you like how the book has ended? Would you end it differently?
5. What surprised you the most in this book?
6. Was your opinion about this book changing while you were reading it?
7. Would you read other books by this author?8. (for non-fiction) How did/will you apply tips/techniques described in the book to your life?
That’s all you need to get started right now! Hopefully, your book club will grow into a thrilling activity making your leisure time fun.