I’ll be completely honest with you, it’s a little hard to believe that I’m writing about a book club. Right now I’m coming out of a long phase of not reading. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t always this way. At one point in time, (which seems like lifetimes ago) when I didn’t have many responsibilities, I read all sorts of books, for fun, and even collected enough books to start a home library! But then life happened and reading became a pesky chore that I just made myself do from time to time. So I gave up on reading altogether for a good while. Until one day a good friend of mine invited me to a book club that she was starting with a group of mutual friends. Out of fear that I would be left out of a social event, I quickly said “yes” and only later considered my answer. I figured I would give it a try, and if I really hated it, I would quit coming. But in the (almost) two years that we have had book club, I only missed three meetings (and only because we were in the middle of a major move)! I look forward to book club every single time and am so excited that I got back into reading, and reading with a passion, not just out of duty. Thank you so much, Lesya, for starting this book club, being a great organizer, and for pulling me out of my reading rut!
I realize there are many different ways you can host a book club and there are no “right” or “wrong” ways of doing it, but I’m hoping this list will help guide you in the right direction and give you the courage you need to start a book club yourself and inspire those around you to read!
The 5 W’s For Hosting A Book Club:
The Who: This is probably the most important aspect of your book club. These are the people you will read with and spend a lot of time with, so start with a group of friends that you’re familiar with. Over the years, the group will naturally expand as more members join and you will have an opportunity to connect with new people and make new friends. I’ve loved getting to know all the members of the group in deeper ways and really bonding with this group of girls. We started out with a core group of five people and we’ve had an additional five members join in. Out of the ten people, we consistently have about six or so that show up every time, so it’s never too big of a group. With this group size, everyone has an opportunity to speak and share their thoughts and it’s a big enough group to have a good conversation going without it ever getting too quiet or awkward. What’s great about being part of the book club is even when there are seasons in life when you don’t have a chance to make it, you still feel connected because you are reading the same book. So even after missing a couple meetings you can get right back into it. Some members will drop out if there is longer period of time during which they won’t be able to attend book club, but then they rejoin the group when we start a new book
The What: Deciding on what books you will read with your group is also very important to the life of the group. If you choose books that not everyone in your book club collectively agrees on, you will start to notice how members start dropping out and coming less frequently. The interests of your members will vary so talk this over with your group and try to take suggestions from everyone and decide on a book that everyone will be excited to read. Look up reviews and best sellers lists to help you decide. We also like to switch things up, just to make everyone in the group happy; we go back and forth, from novels, to biographies, to non-fiction, just to get a little bit of variety. Our favorites have been:
- Bread & Wine (by Shauna Niequist): This was the first book we read as a book club and we all really bonded over it. Many of us agree that this has been the best book so far and it is an excellent choice for your first book to read together. We have grown to absolutely love Shauna and her style of writing and are already reading her 3rd book while patiently awaiting the release of her 4th book in August. In this book, she talks about the importance of community and her personal experiences of life around the table. She shares some of her family’s favorite recipes which we loved making and bringing to book club to share. A lot of the recipes from her book have quickly become our families’ favorites as well and we are excited to share these recipes with you in the weeks to come.
- Redeeming Love (by Francine Rivers): When the talk of reading a novel started surfacing around the group, I was really hoping it would blow over. I couldn’t imagine myself getting caught up in a novel the way I did with Redeeming Love. All I can say is, if you think you don’t like novels, read this one! It has a little bit of everything- romance, comedy, heartbreak, and action. And it all ends in a redemptive away– my favorite kind of ending!
- 50 Women Every Christian Should Know (by Michelle DeRusha): A book composed of short biographies of Christian women who left a lasting impact on the world. Spanning chronologically over eleven decades and set all around the world, this book was very eye opening to all of us and made us realize what a dear price many women paid for their rights and freedom. We are so lucky to live in the age that we do. This book definitely expanded our world view and gave us some incredible women to look up to.
- Bittersweet (by Shauna Niequist): Shauna says it so much better than I could ever rephrase it so here is an excerpt from the prologue: “Bittersweet is the practice of believing that we really do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul. Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands. Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity. Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, earthy.” Bittersweet, page 11
The Where: Since we all have places of our own and love to host, this was a no brainer as we decided to host at our homes. Every time we meet, a different member takes on the responsibility of hosting at her home. This doesn’t entail much other than just giving us a place to meet, although we always go out of the way and prepare something yummy to snack on as well as some beverages to sip on while we meet. We all bring a snack to share and then we have a variety of goodies to munch on (this isn’t mandatory but it makes hosting so much easier). However, if hosting at your own place is not an option, meeting at a local coffee shop (check out our list of suggestions HERE), restaurant, or even a park are all great options. We’ve met in the park several times during the summer to break out of our routine and it was so refreshing!
The When: We decided on meeting every other Monday because this was most convenient for all of our schedules. It wasn’t as big of a commitment as weekly meetings, gave us ample time to get out reading done, and built up the anticipation for the next gathering. Most of us have kids and meeting in the evening has allowed our husbands to come home from work and watch the kids so we can get away for some quiet, quality girl time. I know some groups meet only once a month after reading the entire book, but we prefer to meet throughout the reading of the book so we are all at the same place, and talking about it as we read. Plus, we just love any excuse for a good hangout and twice a month seems reasonable.
The Why: There is something about reading that is so powerful. It expands your horizons, takes you to new places, lets you see the world through a different person’s eyes, and can be a life changing experience. As you read, you inevitably learn. For many of us it seems either like a chore or a simple pleasure that we don’t have time for. That is exactly why you need to start or join a book club! It will give you the motivation you need to get back into reading (if you’re like me) or help you make reading more of a priority and set aside time for it because you will have clear goals. In this age of television, gossip, and constant busyness, it feels so good to sit down with friends, savor meaningful conversation, and learn new things together. Not only that but you get to learn more about your friends. The discussions at book club often time lead to a jumping off point for deeper conversations that you may never get to on your own. Bottom line is, you will never regret taking the time to slow down, read, and be refreshed and grounded by the friendships you make along the way.
Other tips and suggestions for hosting a fabulous book club:
- It’s helpful to have one designated person in the group who is the “leader”. This pretty much means they help start and guide the conversation and perhaps come up with a few questions to ask about the book at your meeting. Study questions can easily be found online, as well as sometimes in the back of the book, so you don’t necessarily have to come up with the questions by yourself. The leader can also change from week to week if this is too much pressure for one person.
- Book club is meant to be a fun and social event, not a stressful classroom environment where you are afraid to fail or give the wrong answers. Don’t be afraid to speak your opinion or share your thoughts on a certain matter and try to make everyone around you feel comfortable to share their thoughts as well. You may not always agree on everything, but that is the beauty of it!
- Make it fun! For the first part of our meeting we like to unwind, munch on snacks, and simply catch up on our lives. Once we’re all caught up on each other’s lives and chatted it up, we then get into the book discussion for the second half. We really like this format because it makes it so much more enjoyable and really just feels like a fun ladies’ night– not at all the image I first got of a boring book club.
- Throw parties! To commemorate the completion of “Bread & Wine”, we decided to do a formal dinner party and cook a big meal together. We got dressed up, had our husbands join us, and even got babysitters for our kids. We gathered at April’s house to cook up a storm in her two kitchens (yeah, I said TWO kitchens…talk about house goals!). On the menu was a balsamic pork tenderloin, sweet potato fries, goat cheese biscuits, mac and cheese bites, green well salad, and for dessert, ice cream with homemade salted caramel toffee. It was such a fun experience that we decided to do a big finale for every book. Our husbands (of course) loved that idea because they got to be involved and eat delicious food as well. We just started reading a new book but are already planning our next party and how we will celebrate the completion of it… a spring themed progressive dinner has been suggested and its sounding like a pretty good idea to me!
I hope this post left you feeling inspired to get into reading if you haven’t already and share that joy with friends. If you don’t know of any book clubs, be the fearless leader and start one today, your friends will thank you for it! [Just like we are eternally grateful to Lesya ;)]
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