How To: Book Club
Happy Friday, everyone! I want to use today’s column to talk about something I’m so passionate about: book club! I started Literally because I wanted a place to connect with my peers, to meet new women in my community, and to read things outside of my normal preferences. We’re six months and nearly 30 members in, and our monthly meetings have turned into something I sincerely look forward to.
I’ve had a few gals say they want to start their own book clubs outside of Portland thanks to our happy members - and I can definitely attest to the power of women inspiring each other. I learned lots of tips and tricks for starting a book club from a friend who is part of another very successful club in Portland, and I’m going to share them with you today, with the hopes that it will inspire some of you to start your own groups!
Where do you meet? We meet once per month, and our meetings are hosted by a different member each time. This month, for example, my dear friend Kate is hosting. That means we’re discussing one book from a group of three that we voted on last month. Kate is responsible for providing snacks, drinks, as well as book discussion questions. We Venmo our hostess each month to help with the cost.
How do you choose what to read? The hostess for the month presents three books at the previous month’s meeting. So in the example above, Kate presented her three choices at the end of our September meeting. She reads a description of the book and we do our research and ooh and ahh (I have video evidence of this, it’s pretty cute). Then, we vote. We tried open voting for a few months, but found that members were more honest when we did blind voting. So we pass out little voting slips, each member writes her choice out, and the hostess tallies, and we ooh and ahh some more. I record all of our picks, as well as our unselected books, in a Google Spreadsheet, in case anyone wants to read the books we didn’t select!
What do you do at your meetings? Lots of things! The beginning of our meetings is devoted to meet and greet (and snacks!), as we’re filling out our roster and have new members each month. Lots of chit chat, meeting new ladies, catching up with everyone, it’s great. Then we get into the main event - book discussion. Our hostess leads the way, asking questions, and it usually turns into lively chatter: did we like it, did we hate it, how does it relate to our experiences, was the writing good, would it make a good movie, etc. The length and cadence of the discussion is usually determined by how much we like/dislike the book, so no two meetings are ever the same! Finally, the hostess for the next month presents her three books and we vote. Wham bam!
How do I organize a book club? Do you have a few friends who would be interested in joining you in forming a club? Then you're on your way! Creating and managing a book club definitely takes a bit of work, but it’s very doable. I manage everything in Google Docs - so a sign up chart, a member list with info including Venmo, contact info, etc. Meeting invites are sent from Google Cal a week in advance, and I hosted the first meeting myself just to set the tone. I send a re-cap email after each meeting, and try to post on Instagram as much as possible. I also took inspiration from other clubs in my community, as well as online clubs like Belletrist and Our Shared Shelf. I have big dreams for this club, and sometimes it’s frustrating to have a very limited amount of time to work on it, but I’m so glad it’s a part of my life!
What else? Do you have any questions about starting your own book club? I’m happy to answer them! Shoot me a DM at @Literally.PDX or here at Ladies Who Launch!
P.S. All image credit goes to illustrator Julia Rothman! Check out her work, it's so so great :)