At your first book club meeting, or whenever new people join your reading group, it's good to spend a bit of time getting to know each other. This can be as simple as going around the group taking it in turns to introduce yourself and saying what you like to read and what you're looking forward to about the book club (if you're new) or what you like about the club (if you're an established member). Or, if this sounds a bit intimidating, or you just like the idea of getting to know people in a different way, an alternative is to play a game!

The purpose of all the activities is to give people a chance to meet each other and to share information about themselves. Emphasize that (whatever activity you choose) it's meant to be a fun game, not a test, and that nobody will be keeping score!


Pass The Hat

This game is best in groups of about 10 people or less.

Think up one or more questions per person (if the group is large have one question per person, if it's small then you might want to have two questions each). Cut the paper up so that each question is on its own piece, fold the papers up and put them in a container.

Each pull out a question, then ask who would like to go first (this is a better system than taking it in turns to pull a question out which can put a person on the spot with little time to think, which might be just fine for some questions, but not for others that take a bit more thought.) Once somebody has answered his/her particular question, other people might want to share their own answers.

You'll probably want to set a time limit per question in order to keep things moving along - you don't have to announce this up front, just keep an eye on the time yourself and move on to the next question if things are going too slowly.

Example Questions:

  • What was the first book you remember reading/being read?
  • What is your favorite book of all time?
  • Which book has left the most lasting impression on you?
  • Which book have you read most frequently?
  • What books are on your bedside table at the moment?
  • Name one book/author that you really can't stand?
  • What type of books do you like reading most?
  • If you were given the money to buy a book today, what book would you buy?
  • Where's your favorite place to read?
  • Which character in a book do you think is most like you?
  • Which character in a book would you most like to be?
  • What book do you plan to read next?
  • Which literary character would you most like to have a 'significant relationship' with?

Important: The questions above assume that the group who are getting together already consider themselves relatively well read. If you're starting a group with people who may not think of themselves as "readers", it would be best to consider more generic questions, such as favorite sport, favorite place to visit, person they most admire, etc. This game is intended to help people feel comfortable with each other, not embarrass them by asking questions they're not comfortable answering!

Pair Share

If you think that some members of your group might feel uncomfortable coming up with a quick answer to a question in front of people that they don't know well - as in Pass The Hat - arrange people in pairs (if there's one person left over, make a group of 3) making sure that, whenever possible, each person is with somebody they don't know. Give each pair a short list of maybe 3-5 questions and about 10 minutes to 'interview' each other. Have each person report back on what they found out about the other.


Wordplay

This is a game that you could use at a first meeting or just as a bit of fun at anytime - suggested by 91-year-old subscriber Antoinette Ciancarelli!

We play BookBrowse Wordplay at our book club at least once a month. I type out the "expressions" on index cards and pass them around to the members to guess the meanings. I pass around a grab bag of inexpensive little gives to the winners and tell them to close their eyes and pull out a gift.


Quiz

This works best for groups of 8 or more. Give each person a copy of the quiz and a pencil; and about 15 minutes to find a person that fits each description, or knows the answer to the question. When the time is up, reconvene the group and have fun sharing the answers.

These questions are ones that we thought up in a couple of minutes - you can probably come up with much better ones! Aim for about 10 to 20 questions. Use double spacing so that there's room to write down an answer.

For added interest, you could contact each person in advance and ask them for one interesting fact about themselves - and include these in the quiz.

Example Quiz

Find somebody who

  1. Has read a book of poetry in the last year.
  2. Likes to read in the bath
  3. Has fallen asleep with a book in their hands recently.
  4. Reads more than one book at a time.
  5. Likes to listen to audio books.
  6. Has been in a book group before.
  7. Has children.
  8. Has been married for more than 5 years.
  9. Will admit to being nervous being here.
  10. Moved house in the past 2 years.
  11. Can quote at least 2 lines from Shakespeare.
  12. Knows the heroine's name in Wuthering Heights.
  13. Knows the name of one member of staff at the local library.
  14. Knows the name of Barbara Kingsolver's first book.
  15. Can recite a tongue twister (e.g. She sells sea shells on the sea shore.....).
  16. Drives a red car.

Examples of questions specific to one group member. Obviously you need to create questions relevant to your members...

  1. Was born in South Africa.
  2. Plays saxophone in a local band.
  3. Has a dachshund named Lilly.
  4. Whose favorite book of all time is The Phantom Tollbooth.
  5. Etc!

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