When you hear the term "book club" what image comes to mind? Many readers not in one see them as social groups more interested in gossiping than discussing the book at hand, an impression that is often perpetuated in the media at large.

BookBrowse has been researching readers and book clubs for more than 15 years, so we knew that this perception wasn't accurate, but we didn't have hard numbers to prove the case. So, over the past 18 months we set out to find out exactly what's going on in book clubs, gathering responses from over 5,000 people through two surveys. We've recently published the findings in a report which we've titled "The Inner Lives of Book Clubs" because it's the first report to really get to the heart of the book club experience. And what it shows is that the perception that many have of book clubs is vastly different to reality.

For example, most book groups spend the majority of their meeting time together focused on the book, with 90 percent of public book clubs (such as those that meet in libraries) and 84 percent of private groups spending at least 40 minutes discussing the book. Many spend longer, and most endeavor to stay on topic during their book discussions (a subject we'll cover in future posts)

Typical time spent discussing the book by length of book club meeting

What is particularly intriguing is that, in general, the longer a book club spends on discussion, the happier the members are. For example, 55 percent of those in groups that discuss the book for 20 minutes or less tell us they are "very happy" in their book club; this rises all the way to 81 percent in groups that discuss for 75 minutes or longer!

The relationship between discussion length and happiness in book clubs

That's not to say that socializing is not important; few in book clubs feel that a social element is unimportant (another topic we'll look at in future posts), it's just that, for most, it's secondary to the book discussion because, as many observe, it's through the open debate and sharing of perspectives that friendship grows.

Stay tuned for more findings from "The Inner Lives of Book Clubs" in future posts!

And if you would like to comment on this topic, please do so below.

About "The Inner Lives of Book Clubs"

This report is recommended for librarians, publishers, authors, booksellers--and, of course, book clubs!

It is based on two surveys of more than 5,500 people, supplemented with insights from BookBrowse's more than 15 years of research, during which time we've surveyed over 20,000 readers, both in and not in book clubs. The respondents to the first survey consisted of 2,723 people currently in at least one in-person book club, 1,581 who had been in an in-person book club in the past that they no longer attended (some of these were also currently in a book club), and 502 who read at least one book a month and had never been in a book club. Additionally, 1,434 book club members completed a follow-up survey to provide more depth and clarity on specific topics. Methodology and demographics are included in the report.

Click to buy "The Inner Lives of Book Clubs"

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The Inner Lives of Book Clubs Report