While book clubs have been around for quite some time they’ve been getting more media coverage in the last few years. Many books which are being promoted as good for clubs, or have become popular with clubs, are now being published with discussion questions in the back. I can’t recall that my book club ever pushed those questions much but we do come up with lots to discuss.
If you are new to an area and looking to meet people they can be a good place to start. They probably vary in how books are chosen but the two clubs I’ve been in had a similar system. One in Ottumwa met at a now defunct bookstore and we would spend time periodically kicking around options for the next few months. It ended up being majority rules but we always met at the bookstore. A club I’ve joined in St. Paul, begun by friends, rotates among the members’ homes and, while the person hosting has the final say in choosing a book, she’ll bring the ones she ‘s considering and if there’s one which most have already read or someone really doesn’t want to read it, then we narrow from there. We do try to limit ourselves to books which are readily accessible at the public library so that we don’t have to buy a book. Some interesting new books have long waiting lists but I think we may have gone back later to pick it when it becomes more available. This group schedules the meetings through a website called Goodreads, which also allows you to list books you’ve read and give recommendations to people with whom you’re connected.
If you are looking for book clubs in an area where you don’t know anyone then many times local bookstores and the public library will have groups already set up. The St Paul Public Library, for example, has clubs all over town with specialties or general reading. One blog I’ve been following, Home Between Pages, has been doing periodic 24-hour read-a-thons. People have been invited to do the same at their individual homes and, while people have had their own pile of books, it is an activity wherein people could feel a part of a “community.” I have yet to try it though I’d probably only get 12-16 hours into it before needing sleep.
If you can find a club which meets your interests and needs then it should prove to be a good addition to your life. A person will meet people they wouldn’t have known otherwise, read books not normally read, and gain fresh insights on an old favorite. If there are no book clubs in your area or ones which fit your schedule or needs then there are plenty of resources for ideas in starting one. Goodreads, meetup, and books such as Good Books Lately : The One-Stop Resource for Book Groups and Other Greedy Readers by Moore and Stevens are good places to start. Nancy Pearl, a librarian who writes for NPR, has written some books which could provide ideas for the books themselves if you’re stumped on what book to choose. I hope you start or join a club, you never know where the journey could take you.