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Cover Image of The Emperors Children by Claire Messud published by Vintage Books
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Starting a New Book Group? Here's How To Avoid The Pitfalls


If one of your New Year's resolutions is to start a book group -- you're in good company. But it's important to lay the ground rules early and get into good habits.  Here are some of the ways you can -- avoid the pitfalls.


January 12, 2008

Purchase Early

Buy the book right after it has been selected to have sufficient time to read it.  The fastest way to dissolve a book group is to regularly have a room full of people who didn't read or finish the book—everyone begins to wonder what they're doing there.  We recommend buying your books at an independent local book store. If you only have chain stores, then purchase online individually or as a group. If you can manage to pick books one meeting in advance, you can schedule delivery (usually free of charge) to the host and everyone will get their copy at once to take home and start reading right away. (Cartoon caption: "I just bought a new country - it's cheaper online.")


Choose Wisely

Don't rely on a stranger to guess your reading taste. Select books that will support lively discussions by using reviews, listening to interviews, and browsing the BookBuffet Book Archive that lists books read and recommended by other member book groups. The strip of book covers across the home page are pulled randomly from this list each time you refresh the page.


Come Prepared

Bring your notes and quotes from the book or your journal. I write on the pages of my books because I tend to keep the ones I've read and studied. Some people consider this a sacrilege, but by underlining, writing in the margins, turning down page corners and transcribing my favorite quotes with page references in the back of the book, I get more out of the book - and I can refer to these notes when discussing the book.


Stick to a Schedule

Plan and schedule each meeting to allow time for friendly chitchat followed by focused book discussion. Adhere to break schedules and respect the agreed upon ending time.


Mix It Up

Genres, Styles, Authors, Eras! Complement or contrast your previous selection by alternating national and international authors, switching from fiction to non-fiction, or going from current bestseller to modern classic or ancient tome.  Don't forget short story collections, plays, screenplays or poetry for meetings when you are pressed for time. Consider reading a longer, more challenging work over a two-month summer or winter holiday break. 


Add Interest

Attend author readings, book fairs, or go on other book-related "field trips" such as attending the movie or play based on a book you've all read.  If you're in a same-sex group, invite partners to attend one meeting to pitch their favorite book for your group to vote on—competition can be intense! Fair warning: men typically pick biographies or books on history, and their fiction choices can be different than the female protagonist driven stories that women's groups lean toward. Refreshing! (Cartoon caption: "Charlotte's Webcam")


Keep Potential Members Interested

Allow one member, perhaps the host, to invite a guest or friend to join the discussion from time to time.  That guest may be the perfect new addition when a member drops out or you want to expand.  Don't allow your group to shrink through attrition—new blood, fresh ideas and viewpoints help groups to thrive.


Enjoy your book group experience! Drop us a line & don't forget to register your group with



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