Reading can open up new worlds, introduce new ideas and take a participant on exciting adventures. One way to get in the habit of reading more is by joining a book club.
“I think being able to discuss things that are happening in books, and different characters that inspire us or unnerve us for some reason, with others … helps us realize we’re not alone,” says Leanne Cheek, the reader services coordinator with the Pioneer Library System, which has 12 branches serving Cleveland, McClain and Pottawatomie counties.
And speaking of public libraries, they’re a great place to start when looking for a book club. Pat Cawiezell, buyer and author program coordinator at Magic City Books in Tulsa, suggests libraries and independent bookstores as a place to search – no matter where you live. He also suggests checking with your work place, faith community or other civic organization to see if any book groups are meeting.
“I think the biggest thing is there’s no right or wrong way to do a book group,” says Lunden England, former librarian and current marketing and communications specialist at PLS. “It’s just have fun and go with it, and if the book’s a small piece or if the book’s a large piece, that’s awesome either way. Don’t be intimidated by a book group.”
Starting your own group with friends is also an option. PLS offers book discussion kits on loan to help. These kits include a dozen copies of a book, plus a binder with discussion questions and other relevant information to get you started on the right track. There are many to choose from with book genres to interest any reader.
“A book club allows you to be in one place with a group of people that have all read the same book, and to be able to engage with it that way and discuss,” says Cawiezell.
There are many ways to run a book club. After all, some clubs may be more serious about the literature and some may be more focused on the social components. It’s a win-win either way. More public book clubs, typically the ones run by libraries or bookstores, tend to focus more on the book, experts say, as that is the part that galvanizes the group together. But sometimes, book groups can give an already established group of friends a reason to stay in touch.
“One of the things a book club can do is keep you connected to [a] group [of people], and it’s month in and month out,” says Cawiezell. “Ultimately, being able to connect with other people while you’re reading, which can be a very solitary experience, is exciting.”
Tips for Running a Book Club:
Cawiezell of Magic City Books had several tips for running a successful club.
• Meet at least monthly. Less frequent meetings means there’s too much time between gatherings, especially since some may have to miss occasionally.
• Stick to discussion around the book everyone read – don’t let conversation veer off onto other books that some may not have read.
• Different groups choose the next book to read in a variety of ways, but it is helpful if everyone has some say in what is read.
• Discuss any topics that are off limits for the group – such as overly sad material, horror, politics or other specific topics.
• Bring some discussion questions to each meeting, but be sure to listen as people talk. Once the discussion gets going, the interesting topics will reveal themselves.
Main photo cutline: Book clubs are a great way to stay well-read, connect with others and learn about new topics. Photo courtesy Magic City Books