The Making Of A Book Club

Stick around here long and you will hear about my book club the Bookies.  If you have been visiting me for any amount of time already, feel free to insert your eye roll here.  :razz:

This time you can blame Shirley at My Bookshelf who asked me, “Would you do a post about keeping book clubs energized and enthusiastic with some tips, please?

You don’t have to twist my arm to get me to talk about book club!  Any time you can bring books and people together… I am in.  :D

To start with let me give you my credentials.  I am pretty much just like you.  I am a book lover who loves to read and loves to talk books.  The Bookies started in fall of 2001, of course at the time… I did not know when I placed a note by the time clock at Wal-Mart that I was starting a book club and anyone could join, that it would turn into The Bookies. 

That first book I posted as a “read this and meet me here on blah blah day at blah blah time” was Dance Upon The Air by Nora Roberts.

I posted the note three weeks in advance and then I waited.  No one approached me.  No one asked me about the book group I was going to start.  The evening of the event, I told my husband I was going to see if anyone showed up but had an idea I would just be sitting alone in a pizza shop having a diet Pepsi with my book.  I would be home probably in thirty minutes chalking this one up as a fail.

Turns out…

I was not alone.

That evening Angie (my friend who runs the blog By Book Or By Crook) and Sandy joined me to discuss out book.  That day was August 14th, 2001.  We had a blast, we picked a second book, Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard was that book.

That second meeting was scheduled at the same place, same time, for September 11th, 2001.  Yes.  9-1-1.  That fateful day in history and I went to the meeting just in case someone showed up and as it turned out, all three of us came.  We shared in our sorrow over the days horrifying events and we reviewed our book.

Through the early years we grew to 8 members and remained that way until about year 5.  Around then we had a growth spurt that took us to 14 members and by year 8 we had 18 members.  During those growth spurts was when I started worrying about how to manage such a large group keeping us all on the book topic and keeping it interesting… that’s when we got creative.

Being such a large group it was hard to find restaurants to accommodate us and if we did find one, I worried that our laughter or our discussion might be disturbing the other patrons of the restaurant.  When we took turns opening out homes we decided to potluck food around the theme of the book.  Not only did this stretch our creative thinking, it bonded us through the food to the books.

Another element we added was visual props surrounding the book discussion.  A few of the ladies in the group would bring pictures or their laptops to show articles that had to do with the books topics.  For instance in a book we read once dealt with a lot of Victorian themed items.  Pictures were brought of what these items were and what they looked like.  More recently we had a power point of shoes, Italian foods and scenes of Italy played during our book review (Thank you Adraina Triginiani!)

In 2006 we added the July Queen Event where we do not choose a book to read for the month of July however we meet and grill on the lake either at a members home or at a park and we all dress in formal wear and try for Queen of the Bookies.  (The Queen breaks all book choice ties and chooses a place to meet if we are undecided during her rein).  This idea came from a book club read called Same Sweet Girls by Cassandra King.

Bookies Queen Event 2011

Bookies Queen Event 2010

Bookies Queen Event 2009

Bookies Queen Event 2008

Yearly in December we have a Christmas party, do a gift exchange and read a Christmas related book. If a book we read turns into a movie we try to attend as  a group.  We even have a Bookies Bucket List – things we would like to do as a book club.

We made a Facebook page to communicate the book, the food, where we are meeting, etc…

We have few rules.   We realize that life is busy and I would much rather have someone come and hang out with us even if they did not have time to read the book. As of July 2013 we added the rule that you needed to attend at least 6 meetings a year to hold your Bookie spot as currently we have a wait list of people wanting to get into our group.  We also implemented that we will not (in the future) go over the count of 16 Bookies.  It just gets too hard to find places big enough for us to meet, especially during the winter when we have to be inside.

Keep it fun, keep it interesting.  We grew together.  Start out with books, with food, with great conversation.  See which way your group grows.  Every book group is different but they can all be unique and fun. 

Currently Bookies is at 18 members.  We dont always all make every meeting, but we are really good at communicating our thoughts on the book and rating through emails, texting, and facebook.  I think the fact that we connect so well helps keep us a strong group.  We care about one another.  We celebrate birthdays and babies.  We hang together when someone if going through something rough.

Through our 11 years of existence we have had our growing pains and made it through.  It is not always easy to organize – but it is always fun :D  A group of motley crew people brought together…

by a book.  :D

I would love to hear about your book groups!  Or if you have questions I did not answer, leave them in the comments and I will respond. 

About Sheila (Book Journey)

Bookaholic * Audio Book Fan *Bike Rider *Rollerblader *Adventure Seeker *Want To Be Runner*Coffee lover *Fitness Fan * Movie junkie

Posted on February 23, 2012, in Book Stuff, Bookies Review and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 48 Comments.

  1. What a fabulous post: your club seems to have the magic ingredient….not just a love of books and great texts, but a group of great people who are ready to be relaxed about books, bring together and what both can teach us.

    Thanks for a lovely read.

  2. You probably have the best book club out there!

  3. (sorry, being together! typing and looking over four year old nephew at same time :-D)

  4. we have a problem with people coming to socialize (they don’t read the book) which makes the discussion start a lot later…a lot of times a discussion won’t start until 10pm…hey..i gotta work the next day!!!
    what do you do about that? supposedly some of them are “trying out” the book club

    • I have heard that Diana from other groups. One girl that came int o our group was surprised that we actually read and discussed the book. :D

      I usually play the role of moderator, we talk but I try to rope people into the discussion… some days are easier than others… for the most part, we all partake in the discussion.

      We start at 6:30 and normally end around 8 pm.

      For newbies I have a sheet I hand our explaining how we do book club – it says times, how we choose books, how we vote, what months we do extra stuff etc… maybe that your be helpful for your group with an added start and end time, nicely putting that we try to be done by ________ so people can get home to kids and families and bed! :D

  5. I enjoy my book club!! It seems after a few months people aren’t interesting and it dropped off, but immediately people were wondering if we were going to do it again. I thinks lives are busy, people want to be a part, but sometimes don’t get any time to read. Just keep going and hopefully everyone will have a great time.

    • Dalene, we have months of lower attendance too…. we just stay consistent year around. People hear all the things we do and they want to be a part of our group. And you are right – there are times I dont get to read the book either :D Thats ok – life happens :)

  6. There should be a novel written about your book club and how it grew! Love it….

    Remember that book The Jane Austen Book Club? It was made into a movie…dreams, anyone?

    I especially love how you all got “creative” with food and props and Queen events. Totally awesome…

    • Oh I do remember that movie!!! :D

      We did go through a tricky time there Laurel – the transition into a larger group was not an easy one… it is easier to run a smaller group that is for sure but each of these ladies bring such a varied opinion to the table that I am so thankful we made the adjustment.

      I tried to think of things people could do to really feel a part of the group. :D

    • I recently watched this movie and loved it! I chose it on NetFlicks because it was about a book club and ours has gotten rather stagnant. I’m always looking for ideas to jazz things up. Thanks Sheila for writing this post. It has given some great ideas and now I realize it won’t happen overnight, but rather, over the years. Thanks!

      • Shirley thank you for challenging me to write the post. In the early years we would just review the book… it was years of growing together, learning each others personalities and reading books out of our genre comfort and finding… we liked them! :razz:

        Try introducing some little things… push your group to think outside the box… our best reviews I feel are when they get personal – when we can share our own family traditions, or tragedys…. I have to say that is when I felt we grew together the most.

  7. I love the evolution of your book club. You make it sound so easy but I think you just have a very special group of people.

    • I agree Leslie. I think we had a strong core group that developed through the early years. That group helped make the adjustment into a larger group. We could have easily fallen apart or the group may not have wanted to do food together or bring extra things like props and online information…. I am blessed to be a part of them. :)

      I remember a couple of reviews in the middle years that I drove away from thinking that is the book that killed book club…. our opinions were so strong… but we learned to value each other and it works. *whew*

  8. I agree with Leslie — you make it sound easy, but I think your book club is very special! I’ve now been part of two book clubs that didn’t make it past a third meeting. Not sure really what happened with the latest one — there was initially a lot of enthusiasm, but we couldn’t seem to figure out a time to all meet. I got discouraged and gave up. (It was annoying to read the books — including one that I really didn’t enjoy — and then not have hardly anyone to discuss them with!)

    • Ugh… that would be hard. I tell the girls all the time we have something special going. In the beginning I thought that was how it worked for all book clubs, the more I talk to the more I realize that is not true.

  9. Thank you for this, Sheila. I think I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been wanting to start a book club for years. I so admire your book club and always enjoy when you post about it. I think you have finally given me the incentive to take the plunge, possibly this Spring. I think I will put up some flyers at the two local libraries closest to me and perhaps at Kroger and a couple of other places. I’m thinking we could meet at Panera Bread at first until (if) we get too big, as you said. Then we’ll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it. I love your ideas too and may just adopt many of them down the line. Incidentally, I’ve pinned this post for future reference and I thank you again. :)

    • I hope it goes well Michelle! Hang in there through thick and thin. We sat at around 5 members for the first few years… a few came and went after a meeting or two… it took a long time to get where we are not and if you would have told me my note on the time clock would have resulted in 11 years of books and an awesome group of women who love hanging out together I would have thought you were crazy.

      You just never know when magic will strike…. :D

      Keep me informed I am rooting for you!!!

  10. I loved this!! We need you to clone yourself and start book clubs all over the world!! :D

    • Staci thanks but it is not just me – I think it is a group of exceptional women who make it all work. Angie has been there since day one with me and brings a lot to the group, and as I go through the list – they all add something wonderful that would be lacking if they stepped away. :D

      Great group of readers!

  11. This was awesome! I so want to have a book club and I hope to “steal” some of your ideas if I ever get one off the ground. I love the Queen idea — that looks like such fun and a creative and fun way to manage “disputes” about books! And the dresses!!

  12. I am writing a brief post about this with a link to your post here because I am sure it will help many more out there. How did you make your puzzle graphic? HTML is virgin territory for me.

    • Shirley – I use a program called Picnik on Facebook…. it is wonderful and is sadly coming to an end in mid April. I think you can just google Picnik and it should some up. Then upload your picks and have fun (it is addicting!!!) I think you will find the puzzle thing under effects…. have fun! :D

  13. My book club is having its 5th anniversary next month!! We’ve got a great group of women and I love it, but I don’t think I’d be able to talk them into the Queen Event, ha ha. Looks like so much fun, though!

    • Lisa you may be surprised – that first year my friend Amy (in the red dress in the chair – she won Queen!) and I thought we would be the only ones who dressed up…. we were shocked to see that most of them got into it! :D

  14. This was so nice to read as our bookclub seems to be going through some serious growing pains at the moment so I might be bringing some of these ideas back to them!

  15. I’d really like to join your book club! I tried for a while through church but we just didn’t have enough interest in the same books.

    • I tried to run a church one as well Gina and that one I think I found I just did not have the time to keep up on…. the books are hard to choose too… we were a smaller group.

      Come and visit us anytime! :D

  16. I had much difficulty creating a book club when I first moved to Massachusetts. I tried tacking a note at a place called “the Book Cafe” with a time, book title and discussion but no one showed up. So I crashed another group I found and it is going pretty good. :)

    I would love to spend more time discussing the book but that’s the book geek in me. I guess I have my blog to ‘get it all out’ and it’s always a great delight if anyone of my clubbers reads it. (a few do! in case I forward this post to them all and ask if they want to dress up one time!! and they see this…)

    We actually got a ton of interaction on our group page in Facebook which is fun.

    • Care, I think we have a mix of the “book geeks” who really want to discuss the book more deeply and that probably accounts for a lot of our deep and fun discussions… some of the group brings things out of the book that i did not even pick up, like a famous building, or a food…. I al always so impressed when we can pull more out of the book then I ever thought was there.

      We just started using our facebook page this year and I am loving the interaction too!

  17. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

    What a great post, I have been thinking about trying to start a book club and love your story! I am thinking of basing the meetings around a theme though so instead of one book, every member can choose a book they want to read as long as it fits in the theme. I have a few people interested already.
    The hard thing will be organising meeting space.

  18. Wow! thanks for the post. I followed another blog to this one. I started a book club in Colorado but, since I have re-located to a new state I have been apprehensive about starting another one because I needed some good advice. This was perfect! Thanks! I love the Bookies Queen event idea! That is a great way to decide who will break voting ties etc. Thanks so much! :)

  19. Just found you via Goodreads, Sheila – great post! Your club sounds wonderful. :-)

    We’re an online book club so it works really well for people who may not have much time to make face-to-face meet ups. We’ve been together since March 2000 and play trivia games with our picks along with other book related trivia throughout the month. We’ve got international members who’ve been with us for years, one in Scotland and another in Australia – and we’re always looking for great new members!

    Our biggest piece of advice for any book club is to have structure. Without it, the group falls apart. For example, since we limit membership to keep things cozy, there’s a no lurking policy. Lurkers turn your group into a graveyard, LOL.

    So here’s to books!

    The Reading Cove ❧

  20. Love the idea of having a Queen, though am not sure my book club will do it. I’ve run it for 16 years and so cherish the time I’ve put into it.

  21. Love the post and I love all the extra things you do as a book club … it sounds like such fun, if I lived closer I’d want to join!!

  22. Thanks for the pointers! A friend and I just started a book club. We had our “organizational” meeting earlier this month and will discuss Cutting for Stone as our first book next month!

  23. I stumbled on to your blog and u seem like such a great and enthusiastic person. Makes me want to start a book club of my own:-),

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