Choose a name for your club
Your book club’s name helps anchor its identity, the same way a book title sets the stage for a great novel. Many book clubs center around a theme, which is reflected in its name. “I started a book club three years ago, and decided it would have no theme, would be open to men and women, and that anything goes,” says Hima Dasika, founder of the NYC Chill/Anything Goes/No Themed Book Club. Dasika’s book club’s name, despite its claim to no-theme fame, says it all. It makes clear to any interested reader that the club is casual, the reading eclectic, and the mood, fun. The book club name you choose can act as an advertisement, helping you attract members who will participate, attend meetings, and stay engaged. The name can target lovers of a certain genre, such as thriller books, or specific age group. It can also target alumni groups, or specific professions. “My college book club has a theme that changes annually. This year, the focus is on multiculturalism. I’m also in a local neighborhood club, which is pretty loose. Book club rules are all over the place,” says book lover Stephanie Plaut.
Find your people
“I started a book club because I wanted to fill my free time with conversations between like-minded women in an informal environment,” says Anastasia Garcia, founder of Fiction Addiction: Women Hooked on Books. One way to find members is by prospecting within your own social circle. “I started out by sending an email to friends that I knew loved to read. Several years later, I brought the book club to Meetup.com, to increase our reach and membership numbers,” says Dasika. Another way to find members is by putting up flyers at libraries or coffee shops, posting on the PTA’s e-bulletin board, or on local list serves. You can also start your club as an open or closed Facebook group. “The greatest thing about book clubs is that it’s a great way to find your people. You come into a club, meet once a month, and create a shared bond,” says Michael K. Wagner, manager of The Moderns: The Modern Library 100 Greatest Book Club.
Create a reading list
“You need structure to make meetings work, but want to stop short of being the book club police. Even so, someone needs to decide what books will be read, and in what order,” says Dasika. A loosely-held rule in Dasika’s club concerns book length. “It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but we usually choose books under 500 pages long. I’ve found that people have a hard time reading longer books in time for meetings,” she explains. In Garcia’s club, the opposite holds true. “We strive to encourage reading outside our comfort zone, with graphic novels and extra-long books, of over 1,000 pages. We’ve read wonderfully eye-opening, terribly cringe-worthy, and downright frustrating books together,” she says. Wagner peruses book lists, such as the Modern Library’s Top 100, and New York Times bestsellers, picks out titles he finds most interesting at the beginning of the year, and has his membership take a poll, and vote. Other clubs float member suggestions throughout the year, and decide which ones they wish to read. Whatever system you choose for your club, make sure everyone feels like they have a voice, keep it simple, and be consistent. Looking for inspiration? Here’s the most iconic book set in every state.