How to Start a Book Club (in 8 Easy Steps)
If you’ve always wanted to start a book club but had a hard time getting people to show up, then you’re in luck. With Zoom and eBooks at your fingertips, forming a tight-knit virtual reading circle can be an excellent (and easy) way to connect with friends and family in every time zone, from the comfort of your own home. Read on to learn our tips on how to start a book club — virtually.
1. Decide What Kind of Book Club You Want to Start
Before you invite your members, think about the kinds of books you’re interested in reading. Do you have a penchant for commercial bestsellers or are you drawn to literary classics? Having an idea of what you hope to read can help you determine whether you want your book club to be themed or open-ended and who to invite. If you’re feeling stuck, here are some genres and forms to get your creativity flowing:
- Action and adventure
- Graphic novels
- Detective and mystery
- Historical fiction
- Literary fiction
- Science fiction
|Pro Tip: Take a look at your nightstand or bookcase. What are some titles or authors you’ve been meaning to read?|
2. Invite Your Members
Though Zoom makes it possible for your book club to have dozens of members from around the country (or world), keeping it small-scale — between six and 10 people — will still give everyone a chance to participate in group discussions without the risk of the meeting running over. If you don’t know six to 10 people to include, consider extending an invite to a few friends and asking them to reach out to a few of theirs.
3. Set Up a Recurring Date, Time and Place for Your Meetings
Once your members have confirmed that they’re in, get everyone together digitally in a group text, Facebook group or email chain. In your intro message, send out a poll with a tool like Facebook polls (if everyone is on Facebook), Google Forms or Doodle with questions such as:
- What day of the week works best for you?
- What time of day works best for you? What time zone are you in (if members aren’t all local)?
- How many pages of a book can you realistically commit to per week?
- How often would you like to meet?
- If local, where do you live? Do you have a car or do you rely on public transit?
Review the responses (taking special care to account for time zones) and set up a calendar invite if there’s unanimous agreement on a day and time. If not, narrow down your options and hold a second round of polling.
5. Vote on a Book
To make the book club fun, it’s key that everyone gets a chance to provide input on the book choice. You can opt for a rotating model, where each person gets to choose a book. (Instead of going in alphabetical order, make it fun by coming up with a game — like guessing a random number or trivia — to decide who’s up next.) You can also check out a book list such as Lit Hub’s Most Anticipated Books of 2022 or Electric Lit’s 62 Books by Women of Color to Read in 2022. and send out a poll to members. Alternatively, make it easy for everyone by simply tagging along with another book club’s picks, such as Reese’s Book Club, Roxane Gay’s Book Club or Oprah’s Book Club.
5. Pick a Moderator
“Going with the flow” or “keeping things organic” is nice in theory, but in practice, they can steer a book club off the rails. A designated moderator can help reschedule meetings when necessary, send out Zoom links and reminders, and even facilitate discussions. It’s up to the group to hash out the exact responsibilities of the moderator, but if it already sounds like too much responsibility, don’t fret — each member (or a select group of members) can take turns at the helm.
6. Think About How Everyone Will Get Their Books
Books — especially hardcover books — can be expensive and inaccessible for some. Taking into account books that are widely available at the library, in digital format and sold used online can mitigate some of the stress that might come with book purchases. Try not to read new releases exclusively (they’re often hard to find secondhand and checked out with a waitlist at the library) to give book club members more options to find a format that works for them and their budget.
7. Make the Reading and Meeting Experience Fun
Remember, even though the book is bringing the group together, it’s not the end all be all. If you’re meeting in person, organizing your group around a dinner party or potluck, afternoon coffee/tea or other activity can keep the energy lively. This can be more challenging if you’re hosting meetings over Zoom, but there are plenty of ways to make the virtual experience fun. Have dinner discussions where everyone prepares or orders a specific type of food (it can be a dish from the book you’re reading or a theme as general as “Mediterranean March”) as well as meetings where everyone matches Zoom backgrounds. Leave room for at least 15 minutes before the meeting for people to settle in and catch up on life, but be sure to keep the discussion on track.
8. Use Discussion Guides to Get the Conversation Going
Awkward pauses and shyness are natural in any book club, so having a list of conversation-starting questions is bound to come in handy. Encourage members to bring in their favorite quotes to share, or share a few sentences from positive and negative critics’ reviews with the group to stoke discussion. Sites like ReadingGroupGuides have free in-depth discussion guides for a wide range of books, but if you can’t find one for your specific read, pick from these 40 questions from Book Riot, which include:
- What did you like best/least about this book?
- Which characters in the book did you like best?
- If you could hear this same story from another person’s point of view, who would you choose?