The Importance of Book Clubs and How to Start Your Own

Whether you live downtown in a major city or on a quiet street in a rural town, starting a book club can generate meaningful conversations, create friendships, and enrich your life in a way few other social gatherings can. And, it’s really fun.

Book clubs lend themselves as a safe place to express opinions, disagreements, and questions that might not otherwise be considered or discussed. In a time where social media dominates the way we communicate with one another, making time for real human interaction outside of work meetings and obligations is important and worth making an effort towards. When we share dissenting points of view and still listen and respect one another, our compassion grows and the world becomes a better place.

Neil Gaiman explains that, “Fiction does something unique in that it takes us out of our heads and puts us into other people’s heads. And I think reading, and experiencing fiction through reading, is something that gives us empathy. And that, I think, is vital

It’s no secret that reading generates empathy. Reading forces us into shoes that are not our own and circumstances we’ve never experienced. Immersed in a book, in another person’s story, we find ourselves seeing the world through a perspective different from ours. Not only does reading invite you to widen your viewpoint, it’s also a sure way to gain information, use your imagination, and learn.

According to the Pew Research Center, 76% of American adults read at least one book in the past year. For many people, reading more is a regular goal or New Year’s resolution that they strive towards. But making time to read is a challenge! Lives are busy, schedules full, and Netflix offers a form of entertainment that requires substantially less brain power. Enter: Book Club. It offers a reason to read, along with gentle accountability and occasional peer pressure. Just the motivation you need to crack open a great novel, right?

On top of learning something new, starting or joining a book club will improve your social calendar and just maybe, bring you some of the greatest friendships you didn’t know you were missing. I can attest to both of these results.

In my book club, we’ve bonded over characters who make terrible decisions, disagreed about sad endings, and laughed at one another’s dramatic reactions to plot twists. We’ve also discussed race and religion and politics. We cover the gamut.  

Not to mention, we’ve read some really great books.

So, if you’re ready to improve your reading habits, your social life and your cultural competency, don’t wait, start your own book club today! Below are a few tips for getting started:  

Start Small

You don’t have to gather ten people at your home to conduct a successful book club. In fact, the smaller the group, the more time you’ll each have to discuss your thoughts and opinions. Gain interest from your friends, coworkers, neighbors, and relatives and bring together a group of people who are genuinely interested in reading and gathering regularly.

Be Mindful of Diversity

It’s important that your book club unites people of varying opinions and backgrounds. If you all agree on everything, where’s the fun in that?! Make sure to extend an invitation to a wide audience of personalities.

Have Snacks

No one can discuss literature on an empty stomach. Appetizers and easy finger foods are sure to liven up the discussion and make your book club members happy. Food and drink alone can make a party.

Choose Wisely and Facilitate Questions

I have found the best way to choose a book is to trust Democracy and vote! It is one of the highlights of my life to find a few books for our book club to vote on. I do a lot of research online, on Instagram and at my local bookstore. I look for something relevant or a crowd pleaser with varying reviews. We like to rotate fiction and nonfiction, but it’s completely up to your group’s discretion. I’ve listed some of my personally beloved book club reads at the end.

Relax and Have Fun!

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! Gathering a group of people is no small feat. Know that the first meeting might be awkward and funny. Know that your friends are happy to be there. Know that your book club will be the start of something special.

Fiction Picks

Silver Bay, Jojo Moyes
Rules of Civility, Amor Towes
The Almost Sisters, Joshilyn Jackson
I See You, Clare Mackintosh

Nonfiction Picks
Text Me When You Get Home, Kayleen Schaefer
Option B, Sheryl Sandberg
You’ll Grow Out of It, Jessi Klein
The Boys In the Boat, Daniel James Brown

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