Tips on Starting a Book Club IRL
We obviously loveeeee to talk books online, and there is such a great community available on the internet, but there really is no substitute for the experience of talking about books with real live people in the real world, face-to-face. Community in real life is so important, and the literary one that exists out there is pretty amazing. If you're interested in meeting up with people in person to gush about books and have a great time, here's how to do it.
First, check if theres anything locally that particularly strikes your fancy. Between us, Rikki and I attend (separately or together) a Sci-fi/Fantasy book club, a Classics book club, and a Banned Books club. They each are very distinct in their styles, and we found them by combing through the websites of our favorite local bookstores. You can also check for meet-ups in your area (there's a book club near us that meets at a different local brewery each time I've been dying to check out!), and generally just use good old google, to see if you can find the vibe you're looking for.
If meeting up with strangers to talk books isn't your jam, start some conversations about it with your friends. I bet you know some that like to read, or maybe secretly like to read, or would be willing to try it out, or maybe they even know other friends that would be into it. Rikki and I just buddy-read just the two of us and then meet up to talk about the book and watch the movie; proof you definitely don't need a huge group of people to make it worthwhile.
Once you have a group together, decide if there's a specific genre you all are interested in reading, or just do a free-for-all, and take suggestions for books from any genre. You'll probably want to either keep the length of the books reasonable (like max 300 pages) or split longer books (think Gone With the Wind) into chunks over a couple of meetings. It's also worth considering occasionally choosing a book by a local author, or an author that will be touring in your town, and taking a field trip to meet them at a signing or event.
You'll also need to decide where you'll meet up. Do you want everyone at your house every month, or maybe you can rotate who hosts? You could also easily meet somewhere public; ask a local restaurant if you can use their event room, meet up at the library, see if a local bookstore has space for you, or even convene at a local cafe for coffee. The important thing is that the setting is the most relaxed, fun, place for your specific group to meet. Rikki and I go to each other's houses for our buddy reads, but our other book clubs meet either at a bookstore (which even gives book club members discounts on the books we read!), in a cafe, or in a private room of a local restaurant, which is extra relaxed because everyone inevitably orders a couple drinks and some snacks :)
Once you've got a place, agree on a date and time. The flexibility you have will be dependent on your venue, but consider something like meeting the first Sunday of each month for brunch at your place, or the third Tuesday night of every month at a bookstore, whatever works for you guys and your chosen meeting space. Having a simple shared google calendar can also help you easily coordinate schedules, and is definitely worth looking into.
Above all, keep it fun; book clubs should never feel like a chore, or be nerve-wracking to host or attend. The point is to ask interesting questions and have an open discussion of thoughts and feelings about a novel in an easy-going setting. To really kick it up a notch, consider watching film versions of the books you read, pairing cocktails (or wine) to your novels, or even throwing a literary dinner party (look, we aren't the only ones!) specifically themed around the novel. Meetings should feel a bit like a celebration of the book, so do whatever feels good for you!
Lastly, just be sure you keep your book club an open platform for people to make suggestions on anything, and a fun, easygoing place to be. Good luck, friends!
Do you belong to a book club? Or have you started one? Seriously, tell us about it!