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how to start a book group

After you have found potential members for your book group, the first step your book group will need to take is to discuss and agree upon the structure and ground rules. Establishing this before hand will ensure that everyone will know what is expected and that you don’t spend too much time at each meeting determining details of the next meeting. It will also help everyone determine whether this is the right group for them, and will eliminate disappointment in the future.


Choosing the Format

Book groups are part social and part informative.  It should be a pleasurable and looked forward to experience, a “time-out” of your busy schedule to relax in good company to share your love of books. Hopefully, with good food and wine! .

  • How often will your group meet? Will it meet on a specific day? (E.g. the first Tuesday of each month.)
  • When will your meetings take place? For how long? Will it be for a set amount of time, or by mutual agreement at each meeting? And how much time will be allotted to socializing, book discussion, and selecting the next book?
  • Where will you hold your meetings? Will it rotate at member homes, or will you meet at a public venue, such as a library or restaurant?
  • Will there be food? If you’re meeting in member homes, will the host be responsible for serving dinner or light refreshments, including or not including drinks? Or will it be potluck? If you’re meeting in restaurants, is it the same one each time? Will you split the bill or will everyone order and pay separately?

The Book Selection Process

You probably have a stack of books to read by your bed. And so do the members of your book group. Being part of a book group is a wonderful way to get exposed to new genres and authors and expand your literary horizons.

  • What types of books will your book group read? Open to all genres or restricted? For instance, are all members comfortable reading poetry, or do you all want to read mysteries?
  • Are there any financial constraints to consider? Should all book selections be available in paperback?
  • Are there any time constraints to consider? Should all book selections be of a certain length?
  • Will members take turns selecting one book, or will each member “pitch” several choices for the group to vote on? How many choices can be offered?

Discussing Your Books

One of the exciting things about being part of a book group is the diversity of viewpoints. Each member has a different background and brings a different perspective. Each of you will also have different constraints on your time due to work or family obligations. Both of these factors will impact the type of discussion you can expect in your book group.

  • What sort of discussion do you want to have? Will members be expected to provide in-depth analysis or do you just want to exchange views?
  • Who will lead or jump-start the discussion? Is it the host/hostess responsibility, the member who selected the book, or is up to any member?
  • If there’s no leader, how will you ensure that every member can participate in the discussion and that one member doesn’t dominate? Is it okay for members to occasionally not have read the entire book, but still attend the meeting?

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