A book club (sometimes called a 'reading group' or 'book group') is a group of people who get together on a regular basis to discuss books. Some clubs meet online, many meet in-person either in homes or public places such as a library, bookstore or cafe. There are so many reasons to be part of a book club. They can be an excellent way to enjoy books more and challenge your mind, they can also encourage you to read more, or to read books that you might not normally choose. The reasons that people give for joining a book club include reading a wide variety of books, making friends, having fun, meeting like-minded people and stimulating the brain cells!
Many book clubs start when a few friends get together and decide that they'd like to meet to discuss books on a regular basis. Thus, if you want to start a group - a great place to begin can be with your friends - but don't assume that they share your expectations about the sort of books to read or how the club will run. Some clubs stay very focused on book discussion, others may touch on the book before moving on to general chat; some expect members to prioritize book club, others are happy for people to drop in when convenient; some insist the book must be read before attending the meeting, others don't mind. There is no right way for a book club to run, but what is critical for the happiness of the group is that the members are in agreement on some of the basics, which we discuss on the next page.
Many book clubs are made up of people of similar ages and stages in life, but it's interesting to note that those groups that have a range of ages and/or a mix of men and women often say how much they value the different perspectives.
Before forming your own club, you might wish to visit other groups. Many libraries and bookstores run book clubs which are almost always open to the public and welcome drop-ins. These can be a great way to get a feel for how different book clubs run and how you'd like yours to be.
If you're looking to join a book club a good place to start is to ask like-minded friends if they're already part of a group. But don't be hurt if they say that they are but it's not open to new members, as one of the important dynamics of a book club is its size and therefore many groups restrict their membership numbers.
As already noted, many bookstores and libraries host book clubs and might also know of local clubs.
There is no one stop resource that we know for finding local groups. Having said that, with a little search engine legwork it's likely you'll find public groups in your area - especially if you live in an urban area. For example, a quick search using the terms 'book club new york' produces a wealth of potential options.
About one in five book club members belong to an online group. If you don't find a group to join locally, or you're interested in discussing a specific type of book, or are too busy to join an in-person group, or just don't want the committment - you are almost certain to find a group online that is just what you're looking for. Some online groups meet in real-time, but most are run as online forums enabling people to participate when convenient. For example, BookBrowse hosts discussions at bookbrowse.com/booktalk, and you are very welcome to join us!
In the next section we'll look at some of the things to think about when starting a new club. Many of the topics are also very relevant if you are considering joining a group, or if you're already in a book club that doesn't seem to be running quite as smoothly as you'd like.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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