Starting a book group is easy. Gather together a group of friends or acquaintances that like to read. Have an initial meeting to set up guidelines and make decisions about what you will read and how the meetings will be conducted. Then, best of all, READ AND HAVE FUN. Guaranteed, your life will be enriched by the books and the discussions!
Experience seems to indicate that any more than 12 or 15 people hinders a good dialogue and decreases opportunities for people to speak. It's not necessary to have a homogenous group; in fact, the more different you are, the more interesting the discussions will be. That said, you could also start a group in your family, workplace or neighborhood.
Static or Dynamic?
A drop in-group might work for some, but most groups seem to have the deepest and most gratifying discussions when the same members attend on a regular basis. Trust and bonding leads to a “talking” comfort for even the shyest members.
Monthly meetings seem to work for most groups. Longer books might require more time; if you are immersed in War and Peace , you may want to discuss the first half one month and complete your discussion the second. Some groups don't meet in the summer, or during the Christmas holidays. Once, to take the pressure off members during the holiday rush, our group read short stories for our January meeting.
Rules and Guidelines for Participation
Every group needs some rules. Keeping them simple encourages better adherence. Once again, each group is different. At the very least, require that the book be read, that everyone must listen to each other, that only one person speak at a time and that personal attacks will not be tolerated.
Public space or private home? This depends on the type of group and the members. Either can work well. Keep in mind physical space and physical comfort; circle seating facilitates good discussions, but some people want a more eclectic arrangement.
Groups need someone to manage and track the activities as well as lead or facilitate the discussion. Some groups actually pay for professional leadership, such as a professor. Others rotate the leadership with the meeting place and book selection. Some groups just prefer to defer to one leader. Almost any format can work; the important thing is to decide what format will be followed.
Free flowing discussion works for some groups that think questions are too restrictive. Be careful, without some structure, book discussions often degenerate into “liking” or “not liking” the book conversation. Questions provide a structure for the discussion; it doesn't mean you have to strictly follow them. Some group leaders provide an “issues to discuss” list rather than questions. Many books today come with discussion questions or you can get the questions on the publisher's websites. readinggroupchoices.com is also a great source for titles with accompanying questions.
Who chooses what? Once again, there are as many variations as there are groups. Some groups decide to allow one leader to make all the selections. Some groups take turns and prepare their lists far in advance. Anything can work..so consider….fiction or non-fiction? Classic or contemporary? Prize winners or sleepers? Current best-sellers? Genre choices, like romance or suspense or fantasy? Thematic or eclectic? Will you occasionally read and discuss short stories or plays or poetry? Might you consider a really provocative book? Or a popular children's title like Harry Potter? Classics or memoirs or world authors might appeal to your group. Another thing to consider is the cost of the book. Many groups only select books that are available in paperback. And many groups access multiple copies of titles by placing holds on available library copies. Consult a librarian for suggestions.
Return to Bookgroup Resources for more suggestions and helpful links