So you want to start a book club?
Maybe you’re a book lover looking to meet fellow book lovers. Maybe you’re not reading as much as you’d like and want to encourage yourself to pick up a book more often. Maybe you already have a group of friends interested in getting together to talk books and don’t know what to do next. Or maybe you’ve never even thought about starting a book club, but now you’re thinking it’s an awesome idea.
Whatever your reason for starting a book club, you’ve come to the right place! Running a book club is not only a fun way to enjoy books and meet new people, it’s also a great way to learn new perspectives and participate in some healthy debate.
Lucky for you, we’ve put together the book club tips and resources you’ll need to get your book club up and running.
Whether you're looking for a book club kit or a copy of your club's latest pick, you can check out both digital and physical books for FREE with a library card. Don’t have one? Sign up for free online.
1. Determine What Type of Book Club You Want to Host
There are countless kinds of book clubs. Some book clubs are highly social, while others are seriously academic.
Maybe you want to start a book club that only reads titles by local Edmonton authors (we made a list of a few talented local writers to start with), or perhaps you’re open to reading anything and everything.
A theme can help you make all the other decisions about your book club, so whatever your focus (or lack thereof!), make sure you know what it is before you start doing anything else.
2. Figure Out Who You Want to Invite
Whether you want to host a book club for just you and a friend or bring together a large group of people, it’s important to figure out who will come to your book club. Big groups can offer a wide variety of ideas and viewpoints, but smaller gatherings can be more intimate and allow you to really get to know your fellow book club members.
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question and it may change over time, but it’s important to consider before you get started because the size of your book club will affect when and where you can meet, and may even impact what books you’ll read.
You should also consider how you’ll find members. Will you invite close friends only? Do you want to expand your social circle and welcome anyone who’s interested?
It can be daunting to find people to join your book club, but books really do have a way of connecting people. Try starting with three friends and asking each of them to invite one, two or even three friends of their own.
Neighbourhood and community boards on social media channels like Facebook are also great places to connect with fellow bibliophiles.
3. Decide Where Your Book Club Will Meet
You know who you’re inviting or at least have an idea of how many people to expect. The next thing to consider is how you’ll meet.
A book club doesn’t need to meet physically. Thanks to the Internet, running an Edmonton book club doesn’t mean everyone needs to be in Edmonton!
Both Facebook and GoodReads allow you to host groups that can be open or private. GoodReads has some really unique book clubs like the EVERYONE Has Read This but ME – The Catch-Up Book Club that is worth a look if you’re interested in finding out more about hosting a virtual book club.
Some book clubs run both virtually and physically, either alternating online and in-person discussions or running both at the same time. Think about what will work best for your group of book lovers.
4. If You're Meeting in Person, Find Somewhere to Meet
If you want to host a book club that meets physically, consider how much space you’ll need.
If it’s just yourself and one or two other people, your options are almost endless: coffee shops, restaurants and even each others’ homes are all great options.
If you’re looking for space for a larger group, consider public areas like the Edmonton Public Library.
We might be biased, but we think the Library is the perfect place for a book club to meet.
EPL has different-sized meeting rooms at our branches that you can book for your group.
So long as your book club is not for profit (and we have trouble imagining one that’d be for profit), then the room rental rates start at $15 for a half day. Learn more about booking a room online.
5. Decide How You’ll Choose Books
You’ve figured out what kind of book club you want to host, who you’re going to invite and where you’re going to meet. It’s time for the big question: what books will you read?
Remember thinking about the theme of your book club? That can really help narrow down options. And if you’re reading this because you want to start a book club, we bet you already have a bunch of great titles in mind!
This is the time to let your group help you make decisions, because book clubs work better as democracies than dictatorships. Some book clubs use a formal voting or nomination process while others simply discuss each choice as a group.
However you decide to make your choice, there are a few things to keep in mind when picking a book. Topic, length and reading level are all important to consider with your book club members in mind (and why it’s so important to get everyone’s input!).
If you’re having trouble deciding on a title, NoveList is a great resource. An online readers’ resource, it offers thousands of themed lists and other relevant ways to search for new reads. Whether you’re looking for something on a specific theme or trying to hunt down something similar to a title your book club loved, NoveList can help you gather options.
Last, but certainly not least, if you’re still having trouble finding a title that will work for your book club, talk to a friendly EPL staff member. We’re always happy to help (and we love providing recommendations). And you can talk to us in person or via our online chat.
6. Think About How Members Will Access the Books
You should also think about how everyone will access the book. Here’s where EPL can really help you get your book club started. We have over 100 Book Club Kits that you can borrow. Each kit includes 10 copies of the same title, which are loaned out for six weeks at a time. With new titles added all the time, Book Club Kits are an easy way to ensure all your book club members get a copy of your next read.
One of our eBook and digital audiobook resources, hoopla, is also an amazing way to ensure all your book club members can access whatever book you choose.
Digital books—whether eBooks or audiobooks—are a great option for book clubs. They can be accessed from just about anywhere and, with hoopla specifically, all of your book club members can access the same title simultaneously—no worrying about holds!
If that weren’t awesome enough, hoopla also has a Book Club Hub that highlights a different title four times a year with eight additional complementary titles and resources to support your club’s discussion.
7. Set Up the Discussion
You’ve figured out all the details, everyone is happy with the book you’ve chosen and you’re excited to host your first book club meeting. Now what are you going to talk about?
Even if you’ve read the book, guiding a book club discussion can be a little daunting. Thankfully, there are a number of wonderful resources available to help you guide your book club:
- LitLovers contains over 3,000 book discussion guides, generic questions and information about how to talk about books
- Reading Group Guides has over 4,000 discussion guides with reviews and questions
- GoodReads is an invaluable source of book reviews and book discussions
- Check out the authors and publishers' websites—many will have interesting news about the books, discussion guides and even author answers to book club questions
- Check the back of the book—the kinds of titles that tend to be popular with book clubs increasingly come equipped with discussion questions printed at the end of the actual book
8. Don’t Forget the Logistics
In the fun of starting a book club, it can be easy to forget some of the little details, but they can make or break it. Things like how often your book club will meet, what time you’ll meet and how you’ll communicate all of that and more with your book club members between meetings are all important considerations.
How often you meet may depend on the group or the books you choose. When to meet can be tricky, too, and may need to be adjusted as your book club develops. But all of that will be impossible to coordinate without a way to communicate with your fellow members.
Email, social media, texting and even a phone chain are all valid options. Just make sure to choose one or you might find yourself hosting a book club that no one knows about, and that’s no fun at all.
Bonus: Wait! Don’t Want to Run a Book Club, But Want to Join One?
Hosting a book club can be a great experience, but there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to take it all on. Why not join one of our Book Clubs of EPL instead? Several of our branches host and run books clubs for a wide variety of reading tastes.
You can register for any book club you want to join online or by calling the branch. After registering, a copy of the book will be reserved for you. It’s as easy as that!
Ready to take the leap and start (or join) a book club? Browse our book club resources for more help on getting started, choose a kit for your club’s next read or join one of EPL’s book clubs.