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How to run a book club

Genre: Fiction, Non-fiction
Audience: Adults

Last updated: 18 July 2023

A group of people enjoyed talking, reading and drinking coffee together in cafe

Book clubs are a brilliant way to share your love of reading with others and get out of your reading comfort zone by trying something new. Our team of book lovers shared their thoughts on what makes a great book group and some top tips to get you started.

Choosing where and when to meet

First, think about where you will hold the meetings. Some people enjoy meeting in public spaces like a café, pub, or library to make it feel more of an event. Others prefer the flexibility of attending book groups virtually. If you can offer a hybrid option, your members might be more likely to come along even if they feel tired after a long day.

Your format and location will also impact the time you decide to meet. Will you choose immediately after work when some members may have caring responsibilities or want to eat dinner? Will some be travelling to join? Discuss with your group what time and place works best for all. 

When choosing the frequency of your meetings, remember that not everyone reads at the same pace. Don't feel you have to go for the traditional once a month – consider longer gaps of six or eight weeks to give everyone a chance to finish the book.

It can also be useful to send a reminder email two weeks before the meeting, nudging any members who haven't started reading yet.

Set limits

Similarly, setting an upper limit on the number of pages in your book picks helps make reading manageable for members with busy lives. Depending on your group, you could opt for shorter books or give yourself longer between meetings if a bigger book is chosen.

You should also think about financial limitations. Not everyone will be able to get their hands on that month's book if it has just come out in hardback and all the library copies are reserved. Set an upper limit of what to spend on books or agree to stick with paperbacks to make sourcing the book accessible for all.

Work together to pick your reads

The best way to decide what you will read is to get the whole group involved! Whether you ask for suggestions and set up a poll, or let each member take turns choosing, it will be more fun if everyone has their say.

The mix of everyone's tastes will likely give you a great range of genres in their suggestions. Try including graphic novels, novellas, and poetry for shorter reads. Find out if the books you're planning to read have audio or eBook versions available. This should cover all reading speeds and preferences.

Remember to be open-minded when trying something new that another member has chosen. Be respectful in your criticism even if the book was not your cup of tea as it may be someone else's favourite!

For a low-pressure way to get started, choose books that your group was already planning to read. That way, you won't get too sidetracked from your to-be-read list with other books you feel you have to read.

Structure or no structure? 

You don't want to plan your meetings too strictly and take away the fun, but a little structure can help members who are less confident talking in a group. The 'likes, dislikes, puzzles and patterns' method used in schools can be a great starting point. Each member tells the group what they liked and disliked about the book, something they found strange, and any patterns or connections they noticed. 

An informal alternative

If you find having to read for a book group is too much pressure and takes the joy out of reading, why not set up a meeting (or a WhatsApp group) to chat about books generally? Gather with your friends to discuss any book they've read or ask them to bring recommendations on a particular theme. Everyone talks about the books they love and leaves with recommendations for what to read next!

Looking for recommendations to get you started?

We've got lots of book lists to choose from on our website! Check out our 16 books to beat a reading slump for favourite page-turners in a range of formats, genres and lengths, or 25 books you won't want to put down chosen by our newsletter subscribers.