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Tips for starting your own book club

1. Get a small but solid core group together: It's much easier to start a book club with another two or three people with whom you already have a connection. Consider yourselves the rock on which the book club is built. See who of your friends might be interested, or try your work colleagues, class mates, parents you've met at a play group etc. If you can get at least 3 people together you have a solid core and then slowly you can build on a larger group with their help by spreading the word through friends of friends, or posting fliers in your local library, gym, school, church, work place etc.

2. Decide on a regular meeting time: Once you have a core group, decide upon a regular date and time which suits you all and stick to it. If the group gets bigger and you find a new date and time would suit more people you can reassess and change it, but avoid constant changes. Keeping it to the same date and time avoids confusion, forgetfulness, favouritism and ensures a certain level of commitment to the club. It's like signing up to an art class or a gym class – the book club becomes a fixed event in everyone's schedule. (It's still worth designating someone to send out reminders to everyone via email though!)

3. Decide how long the meetings will last: Even if you are happy to spend an entire evening together socialising it's good to give a "time" to the book club part of the evening to keep the book talk discussion focussed and productive. Then when the time is up, endless banter about anything else can follow!

4. Decide on a venue: Would you rather a) meet in a public place or b) at someone's house?
If the consensus is a) a public place - this could be a conveniently located bookshop (many now have lovely seating areas), your local library, a café or restaurant (with comfortable seating, remember you will be there a while!) or even the pub! You could agree on the same place or have each member of the club pick a different café or restaurant to try out each month.
If the consensus is b) at someone's house - you could alternate the venue and have each member host a meeting at their home on a rotating basis. Alternatively, there may be someone in the group who'd be happy to host it at their house every month. However, if food is part of your get together, a good idea would be to at least alternate who brings the cake or biscuits for the group, or if a bigger meal is expected, have a pot luck dinner (everyone brings something) so the host isn't always having to provide the food as well as the venue.

5. Discuss the expectations: Some people join a book club purely to meet new people and for a jolly time, others are looking for a place for some serious and scholarly discussion. Make sure you explain what kind of book club it is and what the commitments and expectations there may be.

6. Choosing the books: A good way to make sure everyone feels as involved as the next person in the club is to rotate who gets to choose the next book club read. The "book chooser" could also be responsible for leading the discussion that month. You also need to establish any book choice rules in advance eg. book choices must be: fiction or available in paperback or must not be sci-fi or fantasy. Don't forget to check our suggested Book Club reads and remember you get 20% off if you buy 5 or more of the books for your club.

7. Creating good discussion: You could choose to have a designated discussion leader (there are some people who are naturally good at this) or, as mentioned above, rotate the job to the "book chooser" or the host of that month's meeting. A few things to bear in mind if you are leading the discussion (but valid for anyone taking part in the discussion) are:

a) Be sure you've read the book! Worth keeping notes on page numbers referring to bits of the book which struck you or highlight a point you want to make at the meeting.
b) Come up with at least 10 discussion questions - ones which are not too general (ie. did you like the book?) to kick-start discussion when it starts to lag. For inspiration you can check out our suggested discussion points for each of our book club reads. In fact, it's a good idea to encourage everyone (not just the discussion leader) to turn up to the meeting with at least 3 points to discuss. It takes the pressure off the leader to come up with good topics and, once again, helps to get everyone involved.
c) You want to facilitate discussion, not take over completely so open with a question and let others answer first. Or, if you wish to voice your opinion first, be sure to open the discussion by inviting others to comment on your thoughts eg. "Did anyone feel differently about this? Does anyone agree", "How did anyone else feel about this?"
d) Without putting them on the spot, occasionally try to coax words from the more silent in the group and politely ask the louder people to wait their turn if they interrupt or dominate the discussion.
e) Don't dismiss (or allow anyone else to dismiss) someone else's comments. Conflicting opinions make a book club all the more interesting and each view needs to be listened to and respected even if not agreed upon.
f) Keep track of time and wrap up the discussion by asking each person to rate the book (1 to 5) and/or give a final overview of their thoughts of the book.

8. Enjoy yourself!

P.S And don't forget, if you pick one of our books to discuss at your book club, we'd love to hear what your group had to say about it. Post your own review on the relevant Book Club Choice page or a "group" review on behalf of your club. Also, once they've read the book you can remind your book club members that they can ask the author a question about it and you can start the next meeting by reading out the author's feedback.

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