Monday, April 7, 2014

So You Want to Start a Book Club, Part 1 - Joining an Existing Group

No surprise, but I talk about books all the time.  And not just on this blog--whenever I can.  Luckily, I have the social skills to recognize when my listener starts with the blank glance, but few things are better topics of conversations for me than books.

Because of this, I have many people saying that they'd love to be in a book club, but they can't find one or they don't know how to start one.

I've been in book clubs for several years.  I'm currently in two--one that I was invited to join by a friend from my MOPS group and one through my church.  Since I don't have any reviews scheduled for this week, I decided to do a little mini-series on book clubs.

As Julie Andrews said, let's start at the very beginning.



You are not in a book club, but you want to be.  At this point, you have 2 choices.  You can either join an already established group or you can start your own.  The rest of this series will be focused on starting your own group, but I wanted to devote this first installment about joining an established group.

Honestly, this is the method that I would recommend.  As you'll see in my next two posts, starting your own group isn't always as easy as it sounds.  Plus, if you join an existing group, the wrinkles are (usually) already ironed out.

How to find an established book club.

Friends and Acquaintances
So, the good thing is that book clubs are everywhere.  You probably know at least 5 people who are in book clubs, which can make this task very simple.  If you know someone who is an avid reader, the chances are good they are in a book club.  I would say to ask people who share some of your other interests first--you will be more likely to find a book club that is a good fit.

However, please don't be hurt if someone says their book club is not accepting new members.  Some clubs feel that they operate better with a smaller group--and this is wise.  If someone says that there "isn't room" in their book club, don't take it personally and just find another group.

If finding a club through a friend doesn't work, don't worry...there are still other ways.

Groups and Organizations
As I said, one of my book groups is through my church.  While it isn't universal or even usual for places of worship to have book groups, it certainly is not heard of.  I will say that Church/Temple/Whatever clubs do tend to focus more on the spiritual side--either by reading spiritual works or finding the spiritual in secular works--so keep that in mind.

I have also heard of groups at places of employment.  This usually isn't something "sponsored" by the employer, but put together by other employees.

Bookstores and Libraries
Libraries frequently host book clubs.  My library has at least 3 going--one in the daytime, one in the evening, and a mother-daughter group which I plan on joining with my own daughter in a few years.  These groups are usually pretty well advertised--just ask at your library or grab their newsletter.

Another option is to head over to your local indie bookseller.  Many of them keep a community board where book groups "advertise."  I have yet to see anything like this at Barnes and Noble (although to be fair, I rarely go to B&N).

Check the Internet
Many book clubs are organized through Meetup.com.  The advantage is that you will be able to find exactly what kind of club it is, when they meet, and how they operate before even really expressing interest.  Also, these groups should only list themselves as "open" if they are accepting new members.  However, many of these clubs also charge a small fee to cover the Meetup charges.  I would say anything less than $5 a year is probably reasonable.

I've also seen book clubs listed on Craig's List.  Honestly, I would consider this a last resort.  I'm not really a fan of Craig's List in general and, really, I'd consider Meetup a far better venue.  But, hey...if you are comfortable with Craig's List, feel free to give it a try.

So you found a club....now what?

I would suggest asking the club if you can "check out" the group before you actually join.  If they say no, then I would recommend staying away from the club.  Honestly, that is just common sense.

If you have time before your "trial meeting," make an effort to read the book.  You'll get a better feel of how the discussion works if you can actually participate in it.  Of course, that isn't always possible--but it is nice.  Also, ask about what books they've read in the past to get a feel of what kind of books they like.  If they read mostly mysteries and you don't like mysteries, this probably isn't the best group for you.

Be sure to trust your gut.  If you feel that you just don't "fit" in the group, look for another one.  In a perfect world, people should always be nice and welcoming but, alas, we do not live in a perfect world.  If you don't feel welcome, find a group that is welcoming.

Make sure you know the schedule of the book group--what days and times do they meet?  If you won't be able to be at least a semi-regular participant, then you really should reconsider joining that group.  After all, if you decide to become part of a group, you owe it to yourself and to the other members to be as active as possible.

Well, if you still can't find a book club that works for you, come back tomorrow.


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