My book club has somehow managed to keep going for three years. We've had members join and members leave, had members get pregnant, have babies, change jobs, face loss, and still return. Three years may not be a long time in the grand scheme of things but in book club years, it's an epoch. If you're one of those people who's always wanted to join a book club but somehow never managed to get there, here are my eight top tips on how to start and sustain a book club.
1. Stop hoping someone will invite you to book club
Seriously, just stop. Every single person in my book club — including myself — had sat around for years waiting to be invited to book club. Sometimes invitations would come but things would never quite fall into place. Just move on. If you want to be part of a book club, say yes when someone invites you and then just go. Alternatively, start your own.
2. Invite lots of people to book club
Once you decide to start a book club, the next step is inviting people. But you can't just invite three or four people. Most people have busy lives, and I don't mean parties every night. Sometimes people just need to run errands or fetch an aunt from the airport. People can't always make book club, and you can't always shift the dates to accommodate them. You need to have enough members so that even if half of them members can't make it in a given month, there are still enough people to attend. Pick a minimum number of confirmed attendees for book club to go ahead and then just run with it. At my book club, we've agreed that we need a minimum of three people for a quorum.
3. Find a method of communication that works well for everyone
I suggest you dispense with the special forums and email services and just skip straight to WhatsApp. It's the most direct and immediate way to keep in touch with people and also to adjust plans on short notice.
4. Don't expect everyone to read the book
The book club pick isn't a set work. Some people might find the book choice boring, or annoying, or they might just be so engrossed in another book that they don't have time for this month's selected book. But also, life happens — work gets busy, people get sick, Netflix drops an entire season of Luke Cage overnight. People in your book club won't always have time to read the whole book. Sometimes they won't read any of the book, and that's okay. There are other books to talk about outside of the official pick.
5. But at least try to read the book
It's just less fun if people don't read the book, so there really has to be some kind of commitment to at least give it your best shot. If members aren't committed to doing a bit of reading (or listening, if they're into audio books), you're going to run into some serious problems. If nobody tries to read the book, consider converting your book club into a supper club.
6. Keep it attainable
One way to encourage people to read the book pick is to make sure it can be read before the next meet up. We may all have Marlon James' Seven Killings on our "to read" list but that doesn't mean we need to pick it for book club. Members should always ask themselves whether the book they have in mind is of a reasonable length and engaging enough to keep others reading.
7. But stretch yourselves
A book club could easily be sustained on a series of light reads but one the great joys of book club is reading a book you would never have chosen yourself and finding yourself utterly engrossed. My group has read all sorts of books, from young adult novels like E Lockhart's We Were Liars to award-winning novels like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah. (We would have read Sadegh Hedayat's the Blind Owl too except for, you know, that whole suicide thing.)
8. Have fun
Yours may be the wine-drinking kind of book club, or it may be the cake-eating kind of book club. It may be the kind of book club where people spend 10 minutes talking about the book and the rest of the time talking about their lives. The secret of book club is that it gives people who may have very little in common both a reason to get together regularly and a jumping off point for conversation. Take the plunge, and then just have fun.