How to Start a Cookbook Book Club

starting a cookbook book club

Do you enjoy reading and cooking? Have you thought of combining the two into a book club focused on cookbooks?

In our latest Book Club Q&A, Marie and Sally share everything you need to know to start your own cookbook book group!

Davina: Hi Sally and Marie, I'm so excited to hear about your cookbook book clubs, so without further ado, let's dive in! Firstly, Sally, what's the name of your group, what's your role in it and how did it get started?

Sally: Our group is called Books for Cooks and we're affiliated with Martha Washington Library, which is one of the branches of Fairfax County Public Library (FCPL) in Alexandria, Virginia. I'm the volunteer organizer and facilitator; my background was as a public school reading teacher and professional literacy staff developer, and now that I'm retired, I enjoy running a number of book clubs including Books for Cooks.

Davina: I just love the idea of a cookbook book club, melding two of the most important things in so many of our lives. Where do you meet?

Sally: Pre-pandemic we met at Martha Washington Library. Previously I had attended Cook the Book! meetings at FCPL's George Mason Library, facilitated by librarian Marie Cavanagh, so as to learn how to organize a cookbook book club. Using a template developed by Marie, the Martha Washington Library group began in February 2019, meeting on the first Tuesday of the month, while Marie's already established George Mason group met on the third Monday of the month, with some folks attending both.

Davina: So now FCPL has two cookbook groups. What fun! Marie – can you share a bit about how you came to start a cookbook book club?

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More book club Q&As

How to Have a Productive Book Club Discussion About Race

how to have a productive book club discussion about race

Over the past year, BookBrowse has been contacted many times by book club members asking for advice on how their group should approach discussing potentially sensitive topics, particularly relating to racial issues. While race is not the only topic that can be a challenge to discuss, it has been top of mind for many groups over the past year. In fact, in our October 2020 survey of more than 3,000 book club members, we found that 58% of US respondents said their book group had discussed racial issues during the year. And, of course, discussions are not just taking place in book clubs; according to a Pew survey published in June 2020, almost 70% of Americans said they had talked with family and friends about race and racial equality during the previous month.

With this in mind, here are some resources that BookBrowse's editorial team recommends to help these discussions be productive. Each takes a slightly different perspective, so one may resonate with you more than another.

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Successful Book Clubs Share Their Top Tips

Are you in a book club?

If so, you may be interested to know that tucked away in BookBrowse's book club section are 14 years' worth of interviews with a wide range of book groups.

Each one has something to inspire, and are full of interesting and useful information – such as the books that the groups have most enjoyed discussing (and the ones they didn't) and plenty of ideas that you can borrow to freshen up your own group.

Some provide a complete roadmap to starting a similar group or program, such as the interview with Adrienna Turner, founder of the C Facility Book Club at the Sacramento State Prison; or our latest interview with Marianne Paterniti, Book Groups Coordinator at the Darien Library in Connecticut which runs an impressive program of in-house book group programs and actively supports over 100 groups in their community.

You can browse the full archive or start with one of these recent interviews:

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Discussing Books on Zoom: The Pros & Cons

book clubs meeting virtually, discussion qualityIn the previous post about meeting virtually, we talked about how switching to a virtual format has changed some key factors for book clubs. Many respondents to our "Book Clubs in Lockdown" survey focused on the positive aspects of these changes, such as welcoming back members who had moved away and could now take part in meetings over Zoom. Others missed getting together in person and bonding over group meals and drinks.

But first and foremost, book clubs meet to discuss books. So, how are these book discussions actually taking shape when a group is meeting virtually?

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Zoom Book Club Meetings: The Pros & Cons

book clubs meeting virtually, the pros and consIn recent articles, we've been talking about how the COVID-19 pandemic has brought big changes to the way book clubs run their discussions, especially in terms of where and how meetings have been taking place. Before the pandemic, all but 2% of respondents to our October 2020 survey, "Book Clubs in Lockdown," said their book group (or their primary group if they belonged to more than one) had met in person; whereas at the time of the survey, two-thirds of those in groups that were currently meeting were getting together virtually, and almost all of these were meeting on Zoom.

While virtual meetings have their share of drawbacks, many of the respondents pointed out benefits:


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Book Clubs and the Pandemic: The Good and the Not So Good

book club meetings during the pandemic - the good and the not so goodAs we've been discussing in recent posts, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown have required book clubs to change course and do things differently. From the responses to our October 2020 survey, "Book Clubs in Lockdown," the most frequently reported change has been a switch from in-person meetings to virtual. In total, two-thirds of book clubs that were meeting at the time of the survey were doing so virtually, and of these all but a few percent were using Zoom.

We'll be looking more closely at how those virtual meetings work and what book clubs have to say about them in a future article. Here we look at some of the good and not so good aspects of the book club experience during the pandemic, irrespective of whether groups are meeting virtually or in person.


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