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Article: How to set up your own book club in 2024

Women reading around a table

How to set up your own book club in 2024

Women reading around a table

It’s easy to be cynical about it, but a new year offers ample opportunity to set new goals and think about what we might do differently this time around. Maybe your goals will be around health and fitness, or perhaps they might be around work and organisation. We know that many of our readers here at the Austen blog love to read novels and likely have ambitious reading goals for the year ahead. A great way to ensure you read more in the new year is to create accountability through a book club. You might, however, feel a little bit of trepidation about the task of setting one up. Here is a step-by-step guide to getting a group together to celebrate all things book. 

1. Decide what kind of book club you’d like to be

There are so many different kinds of book out there, with many different worlds to explore. You first need to decide what kind of thing you’d like to read - do you want the breadth of free choice and an opportunity to try new genres, or would you rather niche down? You might, for example, just want a group that reads through the works of Jane Austen once a year, or only reads historical fiction. Think about what you’d most like to read, or what might be most interesting to discuss in a group. You could also do step two first and then consult the members of your group on what you might like to read. Either way, it’s an excellent opportunity to get to know your fellow book club members and their tastes. 


2.Get a group together

Perhaps you already have some bookish friends in mind, or maybe you’re looking for an opportunity to meet some new people. It’s possible that there are places in your community that these opportunities exist - maybe someone at your local community centre or library will be able to help you find people, or at least fix a notice to a noticeboard somewhere visible. You could also look for local facebook groups, or take advantage of a site like Meetup, which facilitates social groups. You could even run your entire book club online using Zoom or a chatting app like Discord. It might also be wise to think about how many people you should have in your group - of course, a discussion is possible with just two of you, so you don’t need to set a lower limit. However, you might want to cap the numbers. If you’re meeting in a public place like a cafe or pub, there’s a good chance you might struggle to get a table with more than ten members. Online clubs offer a lot more freedom, so it might be possible to have many people taking part in each meeting. 

3. Decide how often you’d like to meet 

Once you have a group together, it’s time to consider how often you would like to meet. Whilst the standard of monthly clubs will work for a lot of people, it might not work for you. Maybe you’re reading novellas and short stories and meet fortnightly, or maybe you need more time to digest a chunky tome - you could even read books a few chapters at a time and meet once a week. If your aim was, for example, to read every Jane Austen novel in a year, you could just meet every two months. Think about the books you are planning on reading, as well as the schedules of your members, and plan accordingly. 

4. Think about who gets to pick the books

At my book club, every member who regularly attends gets to suggest two books that are then drawn out of a hat one-by-one until everyone’s two books have been read. This works well for us because we are already good friends and there are only six of us in regular attendance, so it works out that we have roughly a year’s worth of choices in the rotation. It might be that you appoint yourself the leader and pick all of the books yourself, or that you take a vote from a selection picked by a member each month. 


5. Decide which books to read 

The genre and content of the books are not the only considerations at play when it comes to picking a good book club read. You might want to set limits on the length of your books - busy people might struggle with books over 300 pages in a month, for example. It’s also good to be mindful of costs. You might want to limit your choices to books that are available in paperback so that you’re not constantly forking out for brand new hardbacks. You could also check if your local library has reader sets you can loan out for free, or if books are available cheaply in kindle format. 


6. Pick a time and place 

It might be that you want to seek out a permanent venue, like a library or cafe, for your book club. My book club meets at a slightly different coffee shop each time, sometimes matching our meeting spot to the theme of the book. With the former option, it’s probably a good idea to seek the permission of the proprietor to gather there, especially with a bigger group. With the latter option, it can be good to book tables ahead of time to ensure you’ll all fit. You also have to consider if you want to meet at a fixed time - say, 6pm every second Thursday - or whether you want to be flexible to meet the schedules of all of your members. 


7. Get reading! 

Book clubs are most successful when they have a core group of committed members who turn up to most, if not every meeting. If you are running a book club, it’s important to be sure that you’re going to be able to read and finish the books you choose, at least as often as possible. Try to make sure you carve out ample time to finish each book ahead of the meetings. 

8. Prepare for your discussion 

It’s up to you whether you prepare discussion questions or go for a more loose approach. If you know each other well, it might be that you need questions to guide the discussion so that you don’t get sidetracked, or conversely, you might find questions too restrictive. With strangers, questions might help to break the ice initially and then as time goes on it could be possible to relax the format. It’s good to have a structure, even if that is just that each person around the room gets to share their thoughts uninterrupted before you start discussing the content. 

What are your 2024 reading resolutions? Are you part of a book club or considering setting one up? We’d love to hear any advice you might have to anyone looking to set one up.

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