Book clubs can be a lot of fun. It can be a way to make a solitary past time into a social activity. It can also be stressful, though, particularly when it comes to picking the books the club will read. Inevitably there will be moans and groans no matter what book is chosen. Book club picks may be too long, too serious, or about issues some people find problematic. You’ll never be able to please everyone, but here are ten ideas on how to make your book club picks more interesting and acceptable to all.
Involve everyone in the decision. There are many ways to let everyone have a say. A different person can pick the book each month, meaning everyone will eventually get to read a favorite. You can set up polls or voting methods to let people winnow down the choices. However you do it, make certain that no one person is doing all the picking. That leads to resentment.
Offer multiple options. In diverse groups or groups with people of different reading ability, it may be best to choose two books and let readers choose which they wish to read. It is possible to have a discussion about two books, particularly if the books are linked in some way. (One choice is historical fiction, while the other is non-fiction about the same period, for example, or they are both mysteries.)
Stick to a theme/genre/topic. Having the whole world of books to pick from can be overwhelming. It’s easier if the group sticks to a topic/theme, at least for a time. Maybe you can do two or three months of one thing and then move on. It doesn’t have to be a permanent choice, but it can make choosing a bit easier.
Pick books that offer multiple formats. The more ways people can consume the chosen book, the better. Some people will prefer audiobooks, others prefer print. Some will want a paper book, while others want ebooks. A movie adaptation or graphic novel can make understanding easier for some. Not every book is available in all formats, of course, but where possible pick something that offers the most routes for consumption.
Set a length limit. I love a good door-stopper book, but not when I’m under a time limit to finish it. Most people have jobs, kids, and other interests and it’s unfair to ask them to read 1,000 pages in a month. Big books create too much pressure and make people resentful. If you agree to a huge book, set the meeting date for two months away to give people more time. And don’t make huge books the norm, unless the entire group is okay with that.
Consider affordability. Not everyone can afford a hardcover every month, so at least make sure your picks are available in paperback. It’s even better if your library has multiple copies to lend, or if the book is free/cheap on Amazon. Older releases are also available in used book stores or at book sales.
Compare TBR lists. Have people in the group keep a “TBR” (To Be Read) list and compare them when choosing books. There’s likely to be some overlap of titles or interest in there, and this can make it easier to pick a book.
Don’t stick to “literature” or what other clubs are reading. A book club doesn’t have to read literary fiction. You can read non-fiction, humor, romance, mystery, etc. You can read graphic novels, comic books, or any other format you prefer. Don’t stick to what other clubs or “lists” are reading, either. Sure, there are some good books on those lists, but it may be more fun to pick something off the beaten path. Pick what your group is likely to enjoy, or look at what you enjoyed in the past and aim for something similar.
Avoid controversial topics unless the group specifically agrees. Heavy issues, politics, religion, etc. are best avoided, particularly when a group is young. If you don’t know how people will react, you risk alienating some members if the book is too controversial. Keep it more neutral until you know the group dynamics well enough to know what will trigger good discussion and what will trigger fights.
…But make sure there is something to discuss. Lightweight books are fun to read, but there’s often not much to discuss. Make sure that whatever you pick actually offers some room for discussion. Or save the light stuff for the holiday meeting so you can keep the discussion short and get to the holiday treats!
(Image by ClarissaBell)