Reading a book should be a visceral experience, involving all of your senses as you live vicariously through the characters, character reactions, and character motivations. If this isn’t your experience when reading a book, either the book just isn’t very good, or you’ve just seen too many movies based on books and you expect the book to move as quickly. If the reason is the former, just stop reading that particular book. Life is too short to keep reading something that doesn’t affect you on a personal level. And if it’s the latter, stop watching movies based on books until you’ve read the books first. We all know the books are better, and that way you’re not judging the book based on the inferior movie.
So, now that you’re reading books that move you, books that shake you, and books that peak your imagination, you’re ready for the ultimate experience in reading: reading with others. More specifically, the book club experience. If you’ve never experienced being a member of a book club, and you call yourself a reader, you’re completely missing out. Don’t get me wrong, reading a book by and for yourself is wonderful, and you don’t have to give that up to be a part of a collective. However, branching out of your reading “comfort zone” and sharing your reactions with others can be quite enjoyable and illuminating.
The trick, though, is to find the right book club for you. You need to find a group of like-minded individuals, i.e. informed, discerning readers who appreciate the reading experience as much as you do, if not more so. One way to find those readers is through simply looking around you. You’d be surprised how many people you may be friends or acquaintances with fit this profile. So, ask around. Others may be trying to form a book club as well, or might have already done so, and you could just hitch a ride on their coattails (no reason to reinvent the wheel). If that method fails, though, you could try starting one of your own. What I did was canvas my Facebook friends to see who might be interested in a book club, and we went from there. Suddenly, I was in a book club with fourteen like-minded members, and that’s when the real fun began.
Book selection comes next, and while it’s extremely exciting, it’s also a quite daunting prospect. A helpful website (that can also house your book club) is bookmovement.com, a site that not only gives suggestions for book club selections, but also shows you what other book clubs who have registered on the site are reading. This can be very helpful with your brand new book club. Then you have to figure out if you’re just going to pick all the books your club reads, or if you’re going to let it be a group project. One method is to have a different member each month pick the book for that month, but another is to vote on each possible book every month. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, but, in the end, the decision is yours, and remember that you can change it if you feel it isn’t working the best it can for your club.
Then comes the discussion. It’s not good enough to just read the book and just let the discussion flow. While a lot of book clubs follow this method, it lends itself to a petering out of sorts. You exhaust yourselves of topics that come to mind right away and you’re left with time and nothing planned to fill it. So, in order to avoid the void, simply do an internet search for book club discussion questions, and of course add your book title. People have already done the work for you in most cases, you’ll find out when you do the search, and you now have ready-made questions for when there’s a lull in the discussion. You’ll find it helps out a lot, and your clubbers will be grateful that you thought of it.
I’ve also found that for longer books, you may need to add on time, so instead of a month to read something like Stephen King, or like the Lincoln biography that is over 1000 pages, give your clubbers two months to read it. They will appreciate you for that as well. And choose books that aren’t brand new on the shelf. Not everyone is flush with money like you are, so by choosing books that have just made it to paperback, or have a large library presence, you’ve given more people options to acquire a copy of the book. Oh, and also, if anyone gets wind of your club and wants in, don’t be elitist. Let them join. The more the merrier! Happy clubbing!