Starting a Club | First Meeting | Leading Meetings | Difficult Meetings |  DIY Guides | Games
Book Clubs Home | Interviews with Book Clubs | Reading Guides

Advice to bookclubs: How to Lead a Successful Book Club Discussion

Leading a Successful Discussion

Leading a Successful Book Discussion

It's your turn to moderate/lead your book club's discussion. What can you do to ensure a successful meeting?

  • The role of a moderator will vary from group to group. Some groups might be very formal with an 'official' moderator - for example if your group is run by the local library it is quite likely that a member of the library staff will lead the meeting; other groups might rotate the role; others may not feel they need one at all (which many don't).

    The moderator's role is somewhere between a chairperson and host/hostess. It's the moderator's responsibility to:
    • Keep the meeting on track - digressions are fine but if the conversation strays too far off topic it's your job to bring it gently back on track again.
    • Make sure that everyone feels that their voice has been heard.
    • Make sure that no one person's voice is heard too much (and that includes your own!).
    • Encourage consensus up to a point. This does not mean that everybody has to agree as it wouldn't be much of a discussion if they did, but that people express their alternate opinions in constructive ways that open a point up for discussion rather than disrespectfully squashing the opposition!

  • Firstly, make sure that the meeting gets off to a good start by ensuring that everybody knows when and where it's taking place. To that end it's a good idea to call or email a couple of days ahead to remind people!

  • Allow a little time at the start of the meeting for people to say hello, possibly grab a snack and get their socializing done.

  • Now you need to get the meeting started and, if the group is newly formed or you think needs a refresher, remind them of the 'rules' of your book group and how much time you have to discuss the book.

    Suggestion: A minute or two reviewing the 'rules' of your group can be time well spent. If you or other members feel there has been a problem in earlier meetings (e.g. one person dominating the conversation or too much off-topic conversation), this is the appropriate time to remind people what was previously agreed, without it appearing to be a personal attack on an individual.

  • Get an initial reaction from people about the book. It's quite likely one or two might not have finished it (maybe they ran out of time or just found it tedious) - it's not a big deal, this is supposed to be fun, not a test. Having said that, if after a couple of meetings you find many people aren't finishing the books in time you might want to review the types of books you're reading and/or extend the time between meetings, or check whether the people who aren't finishing the books actually want to be part of the book club!

  • Whether you use an 'official' reading guide or think up your own discussion points, decide ahead of time where you want to start the discussion and which discussion points you really want to cover - this will help you keep the conversation on track and enable you to throw in a new question if the conversation lags, goes too far off topic, starts to repeat itself or gets too contentious.

    It is quite likely that you won't get through all the potential topics for discussion. If the conversation is flowing the chances are that the conversation will naturally expand from the original topic into other interesting areas. If you do feel the need to move the conversation on, look for a way to weave the next discussion point into the current conversation.

  • Don't be too rigid keeping people on topic. As Harold Bloom (one of America's leading literary critic) says, the purpose of a book is

    "to get in very close to a reader and try to speak directly to what it is that they either might want out of the book or might be persuaded to see... [to persuade the reader] that certain truths about himself or herself, which are totally authentic, totally real, are being demonstrated to the reader for the very first time"

    Having said that, if the conversation is going way off topic (which might be defined as a conversation involving just a couple of people that is not of interest to the group as a whole), it's time to try to bring it back on track - perhaps by opening a new topic of discussion, or asking someone in the group for their opinion on the topic that was being discussed before the conversation moved on!

Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Mrs. Hemingway
    by Naomi Wood
    Naomi Wood's latest novel, Mrs. Hemingway, is a fictionalized biography covering in turn writer...
  • Book Jacket
    The Stranger on the Train
    by Abbie Taylor
    The opening chapter of Abbie Taylor's debut novel, The Stranger on the Train, took me right back to ...
  • Book Jacket
    Night Film
    by Marisha Pessl
    One of the central tenets of Hinduism states that the world as we know it is just an illusion –...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Tomlinson Hill
by Chris Tomlinson

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  163The City:
    Dean Koontz

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist


Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.