As a reader, I’ve been through… um… probably fifteen to twenty book clubs in my life. I’m not a serial book club abandoner, but things change. I’ve changed clubs when I’ve changed locations, when my genre interests have changed, and when the club has fallen apart. Sometimes people leave and the club just can’t keep going, and sometimes the leadership changes and torpedoes the club with new rules and bureaucratic foolishness.
But when one club ends, another must begin and so I resume the hunt for a good book club. Of course, “good” is a subjective term. The first thing to do before you head out to the clubs is define for yourself what kind of book club you want to join. No club is going to be good for you if you hate the choices, or if the schedule doesn’t suit you. (Or if the leader is a megalomaniac who creates a hostile or unhappy environment. Not that I’ve ever been in such a club… Riiiight.)
Think about the following:
- What genre(s) do you want to read? Do you want a club that focuses on only one type of book, or do you want something more adventurous?
- Are there topics you’d prefer to avoid? Joining a club that frequently discusses religious or political books, or books about sex or alternative lifestyles isn’t a good fit if you’re averse to those topics.
- What do you want from a book club? Education? Friends? Serious discussion? Fluffy chat and good food? Different clubs and different people offer different experiences. Knowing the type of experience you want to have will help you narrow down your choices.
- How much time can you commit to reading and meetings? Is one book/meeting a month too many? Not enough?
- How far are you willing to travel for meetings?
- Online or off? Do you prefer to meet people in person, or does an online club better suit your personality/time constraints?
- Are you comfortable with all genders in a club, or would you prefer a single-sex club? If discussing steamy romance with men in the room is going to make you uncomfortable, that’s something to consider.
- Do you want to meet in public places, or are you comfortable using other people’s homes? When you know the people involved, it’s no trouble to have meetings at their homes. But if you find a group online you’d like to try, are you okay if it meets at the home of someone you don’t know?
- Do you want a club where people share hosting/book choosing duties, or do you want one person to lead all the time? Some people prefer for one person to be the leader and make all the choices. Others want a group that takes everyone’s opinions into account.
- Are you comfortable sharing opinions, or would you rather sit back and listen? Some groups are raucous with everyone contributing and they expect new members to be the same. Others are okay if you’d rather observe and only contribute occasionally. Online clubs can be a good fit for us introverts.
- Are kids welcome, or do you need childcare? Book clubs at libraries and bookstores sometimes welcome kids. Some even schedule story hours to match book club time. Some people welcome kids into their homes, others prefer you find other options.
- Will you host? In a club where hosting duties rotate among member’s homes, you’ll likely be expected to take your turn. Are you willing, or is your home off limits?
Finding Your New Club
Start with your local library.
Libraries are the best. Many host book clubs on their premises and the librarians can help match you to the best one based on your interests. Even if they don’t host, many libraries can direct you to local clubs.
Try the local bookstore.
Bookstores often host a variety of bookclubs. This is especially true for independent stores, although the big chains offer them, too.
Universities/colleges aren’t just for kids.
Your local university library likely hosts some book clubs which are open to the public. They may also know of some off-campus options, as well. Similarly, your local community college may host book clubs.
Check Meetup/NextDoor for groups in your area.
Meetup.com can be a great way to find groups in your area. For something closer to home, check out a site like NextDoor which may have postings about clubs in your neighborhood.
Facebook is home to a lot of online-only book clubs.
It may not be the coolest social network anymore, but there are tons of virtual book clubs out there. You can also find the pages for local clubs and get information about joining up.
Goodreads has tons of online clubs for every interest, but they also list local clubs, as well. Once you set up your profile and tell the site where you are, it will direct you to clubs in your local area.
Start your own.
If you can’t find what you want any other way, it may be time to start your own. Gather your friends, or ask at the library if you can start a book club. Go forth and conquer.
(Photo courtesy of justcallmeang)