The first book club I ever joined was a neighborhood book club, which started a few months after several new families joined our neighborhood in Littleton. We discussed who might be interested at the annual 4th of July party and started from there. Even now, I look forward to it every 6 weeks (give or take). I love that it gets me reading, especially books that I might not have chosen on my own. In our smartphone and Netflix bingeing world, there is something so neighborly and relational about talking about books (though I love me some Netflix, too). It seems like fewer and fewer actually know their neighbors anymore, and I’m all about bringing that sense of community back. Who’s with me? Here are some key points to having an awesome book club:
- Get to know your neighbors! Take walks with your family and stop and talk when you see others out, take the initiative and host a BBQ or holiday party and put invites in everyone’s mailbox. At the party, see who might want to start a book club. Another great tool is the private social network Nextdoor (like facebook for neighborhoods). It takes a couple of minutes to sign up and you can advertise a book club and gauge interest on there.
- Plan how often you will meet: For us, every 6 weeks or so seems like enough time to read a new book. Another group I know meets for happy hour once a month, too.
- Decide who will host and which books to read: Will you meet on neutral turf for everyone, such as a coffee shop or local bookstore? Or will you host in someone’s homes? Will it be the same host every time or rotating? I personally think it is great to rotate homes (especially since you all live close), and then to have the host for that particular session pick the book. This way, everyone gets to read a wide variety of books, because no one has the exact same taste. (TIP: Try to pick a book that has a couple of copies available at the local library, or is on a good sale through kindle so you’re not all scrambling over the same copies.)
- Food and Drink: You can’t forget the food. Have the host for each book club send out a reminder email with a food and drink sign up. Some groups all eat a full meal together, while others are content with appetizers, desserts, and, of course, wine. Some super simple ideas: Bacon-Wrapped Dates, Bruschetta, and my favorite dessert hack: regular ‘ol brownie mix, with a peanut butter, butter, and powdered sugar mixture swirled through.
- Your first meeting: Spend some time getting to know each other. Simple things like name, occupation, and all-time favorite book should get you off on the right foot. From there, whoever is hosting should have a few questions or discussion points. Many books have discussion guides specifically made for book clubs in the back, so if you’re stuck, you can look for books that have those. Our book club is super low key: we probably spend 10 minutes talking about the book and then chat about the neighborhood happenings after that.
If you need some ideas of what to read for your book club, here are some of my favorite recent(ish) books that are great for book clubs:
- What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty: 39 year-old Alice hits her head at the gym (but she hates gyms!) and can’t remember the last 10 years of her life. A great analysis on life in your 30s, and how our dreams and relationships change with time.
- The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin: A.J. Fikry is a bookstore owner (and a bit of a curmudgeon). Find out what happens when something precious is stolen from him and when a little orphan girl is left in his bookstore.
- The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom: Young Irish girl, Lavinia, is orphaned on a boat coming to America. She ends up becoming an indentured servant in the kitchen house on a plantation with the master’s illegitimate daughter, Belle. This sweeping novel follows both Lavinia and Belle throughout their lives.
- The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: This story, set in occupied France during WWII, follows two sisters; one impulsive and headstrong and another practical and steady who both help save lives during the war. A fascinating, heartbreaking read.