Resolution to Read More? Start a Book Club!

Resolution to Read More? Start a Book Club!

book club readingA new year’s coming, and we know many people want to read more books in 2018. There are so many recent and upcoming IVP books on our reading wish list! But isn’t it more fun to read with others? Won’t a community of book-lovers help you stick to your literary goal? Maybe it’s time to start a book club.

Book clubs or reading groups are great for many reasons. You get to catch up with old friends or meet like-minded new friends. You get to learn new things and discover interests. You get to hear the perspectives of other people and form your own opinions, critically thinking about the topics you explore.

But starting a book club can be intimidating on your own. We’ve gathered some practical tips and tricks to help you take the leap and begin a successful reading group. Here are some questions to get you started:

1. What is the purpose of this book club?

This is the very first thing you need to consider. What’s the main goal—to learn new things and think critically, to bond or catch up with friends, or to meet new people? The answer to this question will inform not only who you include, but also how you structure your group. If the purpose is mostly social, perhaps planning the meeting around a shared meal or drinks would work best. If your intent is more educational, book choice and thoughtfully prepared discussion questions will be really important. When you are inviting people to attend your first meeting, make sure the purpose is clear up front, so people know what they’re signing up for and come prepared.

2. Who should I invite? Where will we meet?

The purpose of your group will help you decide who to invite. But some aspects of the guest list can get fuzzy. Is it a closed, invite-only group? Are members allowed (or encouraged) to bring other interested people as guests? If you’re worried that your reading group will turn into social hour, you might consider inviting a mix of friends and strangers, or asking people from different social groups (co-workers, family members, friends) to attend. That way, personal conversations are less likely to derail your discussion.

Location is big factor in setting the tone for your group. Choose a place that will be quiet and calm enough for everyone to speak and be heard easily, and a place that will also feel comfortable. Looking to foster a friendly, social group? Perhaps you want to meet in someone’s home and center your time around a shared meal or snacks (it’s always a good idea to consider rotating the location so no one is burdened with hosting every time). If you’re more interested in the discussion, or perhaps you don’t know each other that well, maybe a public place like a library or coffee shop is best.

3. What kind of books will we read? How will we choose?

Choosing your books is the fun part! At least it can be—but we all know book opinions can be strong opinions. Save some hassle and decide ahead of time (or decide as a group at your first meeting) how you will choose the books you read together. Are you all interested in a certain theme or genre? Or do you want to mix it up and read something totally different each month? Have group members throw out ideas, compile them all, then set it to a vote. Or perhaps you want to give each member sole deciding power by rotating the choice each month. Make sure you are aware of what reading level your group wants to stick with. Too low, and you won’t have very stimulating discussion. Too high, and you might lose people or frustrate them.

InterVarsity Press has many books that are great for discussion and that include discussion guides. Take a look at our selection here. If you’re looking for national bestsellers, check out the New York Times bestsellers list and the USA Today best-sellers.

book club reading group4. Who will lead the discussion, and how?

This also needs to be clearly established at your first meeting. Nobody wants a book club dictator! Decide as a group if you will have one moderator that leads all discussions, or if you’ll rotate facilitating duties each time. Make sure the leader knows what they’re expected to prepare so there’s no confusion, and set ground rules for respectful discussion so the moderator can lead the conversation well.

How will the book discussion flow? Will each person come with questions prepared, or will you use an outside resource, or even questions included in the back of the book? If you’re looking for free downloadable discussion guides for InterVarsity Press books, check out our Discussion Guides page for ideas, plus discover books that have discussion guides included in the back.

Don’t forget about book-themed activities or food—if you’re adventurous, you can plan games and snacks that fit the theme!

5. How do we keep ourselves organized?

Once your group gets rolling, you’ll want an easy way for everyone to communicate with each other to discuss meeting times and other details. A Facebook group or group text can work well, but there are also online tools that can help. Check out bookmovement.com if you’re looking for a centralized location for organizing your book club’s schedule and reading list. It can also be helpful if each month’s facilitator sends a reminder email a week or so before you meet, to catch procrastinators and remind everyone of your meeting time.

The most important thing to remember about starting a book club is that you have to make it work for your group. If you have other tips and tricks, or stories of successful reading groups, we’d love to hear them in the comments! Here’s to a new year full of great books and even better discussions with friends.

One Reply to “Resolution to Read More? Start a Book Club!”

  1. Thank you so much for this helpful article. I plan to start one with my friends when I come back to Manila (Philippines) after my studies here at Westminster Seminary California.

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