How to Build a Better Book Club: Member Mix Keeps It Lively

As avid readers and literacy fans, most of us have belonged or do belong to a book club – at least one! We wondered, what makes a book club succeed? Wine or martinis? Appetizers and desserts? In homes or libraries? Daytime or nighttime?

“My book club would be held on Sunday afternoons. Dress code: warm-weather black tie.  Cocktails from 3 to 3:30. Chitchat from 3:30 to 4. Personal drama from 4 to 5. Book discussion from 5 to 5:30. Early dinner from 5:30 to 7. Then everyone goes home,” muses Mindy Kaling, star of sitcom “The Mindy Project” and author of a bestselling memoir, Why Not Me?

Members of the local reading group The Blue Dot Book Club pose together.

Members of the local reading group The Blue Dot Book Club pose together.

Book clubs indeed are based on as many approaches as there are kinds of books. In an article from Johnson County magazine, April 2015, the writer found more than 100 public library-sponsored book club meetings in the Greater Kansas City area. This Friday, for example, a book group with the name of our very own blog – “Between the Lines” – will meet at noon at the Westport Branch of the KC Public Library for a discussion of its monthly book selection. Another of our partners, The Mid-Continent Public Library, holds numerous monthly book groups at its various branches, for genres ranging from mystery to genealogy to “fiction addiction.”

Rainy Day Books holds occasional book clubs at its store in Fairway, KS, in connection with author appearances. This week, for example, author Susan Elia Macneal discussed her newest Maggie Hope Mystery, Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante with the Rainy Day Books Mystery Club.

In a short survey of Literacy KC’s most ardent supporters – the hardworking, generous volunteer members of our Board of Directors – results showed that the most important factor of a successful book club is — the people. The best book clubbers are those who are congenial and willing to read selected books. Book club hosts, usually the ones charged with making the meeting’s book selection, are most effective when they match the right books to their participants. Motivating people to participate – to actually read the book and be prepared to discuss it – is critical. This job is a lot easier with engaging individuals who really enjoy a variety of books and are open to discussing any topic of any particular book, no matter how controversial.

The drive behind getting together on a monthly or bi-monthly basis is key. At its most basic, members need to enjoy meeting and talking with each other. Being committed to the group really helps, too. It’s just not much fun when you’ve made a fabulous apple tartine and only two clubbers show up to ooh and aah! Not to mention what repeated low turnouts could do to club morale. The right mix of members can keep the club lively. One suggested approach is to mix male and female readers, not necessarily couples, but of similar ages. Add craft beer to a Fifty Shades of Grey sequel discussion and who knows!

A book club’s size can be tricky. It’s exciting to keep adding members, but grow too large and some people may be less eager to contribute comments. Somewhere between 6 and 10 is ideal for comfort and also makes home-hosting a less daunting task. Above all, members who have some common linkages, but also offer diverse opinions, can make a book club an event on your calendar worth anticipating.

Now, get busy and read next meeting’s book!

Links:

Kansas City Public Library

Mid-Continent Public Library

Rainy Day Books

Johnson County Lifestyle

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