There are a great many books that are very enjoyable to read but have little to discuss, and others that are hard going, but generate good discussions. The sweet spot is to find books that are enjoyable and good to discuss. One way to increase the chances of reading the latter type of book is to make it a requirement that somebody recommending a book has to have read it first. The exception to this, perhaps, being books that are already well established as book club favorites.
There are many different ways to choose books for your book club, and there is no reason to stick with the same formula all the time. Here are a few suggestions:
- Each person takes it in turns to choose a book and, unless there is mass disagreement, their choice stands.
- One person is responsible for bringing, say, 3 choices to the meeting and the group decides which to read.
- All bring a suggestion and then the group agrees which are the top choices to read - and thus the next few months of books are decided.
- Use BookBrowse! We only feature books that we wholeheartedly stand behind as best in class, and have a whole section of recommended book club reads - including our Top 10 Most Viewed Books list which is updated weekly.
- Choose a theme for 2-3 books in a row. Or revisit the same theme from time to time (for example, some clubs make a point of reading a book set locally or by a local author at least once a year.) BookBrowse's book club recommendations are sorted by title, author and genre, time period, setting and theme.
- Avoid getting stuck in a rut, if the last few books have been contemporary fiction, how about a non-fiction choice? If you've even reading a lot of historical fiction, how about a fantasy? Some genres produce more books suitable for discussion than others, but every genre has books that make good choices for book clubs.
- Look for recommendations at your library or bookstore. Most libraries have lists of recommended titles and 'librarian picks', and many libaries will be happy to work with you and your group to find book choices that you're likely to enjoy (and some even have special book club kits to borrow - with multiple copies of the book, or will help source copies within the library's collection).
- Check out lists of awards such as The Pulitzer Prize, Booker Prize and National Book Awards. Many of these books make good choices for book clubs. See our Awards lists.
- It's unlikely that everybody will agree on every book choice every time. Make it clear when the group is set up, and when new members join, that a majority vote will carry - encourage members to treat new genres or authors with an open mind - after all most people join a book club to expand their reading experience.
- Select your books at least two meetings ahead of time, so that you have time to buy/borrow and read the book. Some groups plan their entire year's reading at one meeting, others prefer to stay just a few books ahead (40% of groups plan at least 4 months ahead).
- Be cautious of committing to books too far ahead as the mood and interests of the group will likely change over time and you could find yourselves tied into a book that is no longer of interest.
- At least for the first few meetings, choose reasonably short books with a ready prepared reading guide. Avoid books that are bound to become controversial (e.g. religion and politics) until the group members have had time to get to know each other.
Initially, it's best to choose books that have a discussion guide. A discussion guide, also known as a reading guide, is simply a list of suggested topics. Not only will the discussion guide provide interesting avenues for the conversation but it also signals that the book is likely a good choice for book clubs.
Don't feel you have to follow the guide rigidly (and don't read it until you've read the book as it will likely have spoilers), it's simply a resource to get the conversation going and to turn to if the discussion is running out of steam or going off course.
BookBrowse offers many hundreds of book club recommendations sorted by title, author and genre, time period, setting and theme - all with reading guides.
Not every book has a formal reading guide - in which case check out our DIY Discussion Guides page.
See Leading a Book Club Discussion for more about discussion guides..