A women’s book club can be a great way to make new friends with women who share your passion for reading. There is far more to setting up a women’s book club than simply inviting other women over to your house to talk about books, though. You need to establish the format and rules of the group before anything else. You also need to learn how to choose insightful or entertaining books that can appeal to a wide range of women.
Setting the Ground Rules
1Settle on a time to meet. As a general rule, weeknights are better than weekends. Narrowing down the best possible time can be a challenge in itself, though.
- A meeting that starts at 7:00 to 7:30 PM gives your members just enough time to eat dinner with their families and may make it possible for them to get back home before bedtime if they have children.
- Meetings can start anytime between 6:30 PM and 8:00 PM if your target membership consists of single women or women without children.
- If you want members who are stay-at-home moms, you can also meet during the late morning or early afternoon when kids are at school. Think of a meeting that starts sometime between 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM.
2Decide how often to meet. Most book clubs meet about once per month since a monthly meeting gives each member ample time to read each book. If you want your book club to be a little closer knit, you can also meet on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to discuss each book as you read it. Setting up checkpoints, such as having the first half of the book read within two weeks, can help keep members at the same pace.
- If you do opt to meet on a monthly basis, you can stay in touch in between meetings via e-mail. Staying in touch with one another can be just as effective at building a stronger connection amongst your members as meeting in person each week.
3Choose the right atmosphere. Many women’s book clubs are meant to be a little personal, so meeting in one another’s homes can work wonderfully. If you or your members feel uncomfortable with this idea, you can opt to meet at a coffee shop or library.
- Take turns hosting. If you do meet at one another’s homes, ask each member who feels comfortable or who has the space to hold a few meetings in her home. This prevents the stress from resting squarely on the shoulders of one or two people.
4Offer snacks. Whether buying bottled water and commercially packaged cookies or baking a fancy layer cake and brewing homemade iced tea, refreshments are a good way to get people to relax and open up. The snacks can be as elaborate or simple as you’d prefer, and you can also ask other members to contribute once your group gets established.
5Keep things casual, but maintain a few rules. A women’s book club is a good way to make new friends, but if you keep the structure too loose, your club may lose its purpose. Make it a rule that each member must read the book before coming to the club. You should also have some rule or guideline about how often each member must show up, and you should strongly encourage members to let you or someone else know when they cannot come.
6Give your members an idea of how long the meetings should last. A modern woman is a busy person, and knowing just how long a meeting will last can go a long way in encouraging her to come in the first place. Many book clubs meet for about 60 minutes, but you can trim that down to 30 minutes if your members are exceptionally busy or if you meet on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
7Consider scheduling in a bit of extra time for socializing. As your club members get closer, the temptation to talk about off-topic matters will almost certainly increase. You may want to schedule an extra 15 to 30 minutes before or after official book club business for members to chat and socialize about non-club matters.
1Start small. A group of five to eight members can be cozy and may offer a diverse enough range of ideas to get things going. As your club gains momentum, you can consider picking up a few extra members—as long as your meeting space permits it, of course. You generally do not want to exceed 12 to 15 members, however, since larger numbers make it harder for everyone to speak.
2Ask friends and relatives. Start with the women, especially those who you know love to read. If you cannot find enough women to join among your loved ones, you can ask the men in your life to a password of your book club onto other women they know.
3Move on to acquaintances. Women who you have a working relationship with our neighbors who you know but rarely speak to are good places to start. You can also extend the invitation to women you see all the time, like your favorite coffee shop clerk, as long as they are familiar enough with you to know your name and face.
4Advertise with caution. You can hang flyers up at the local library or post an ad in your city’s newspaper, but you may not want to accept anyone and everyone who contacts you for further information. Make sure that each woman who calls is really serious about attending, and ask a few questions over the phone to get to know her a bit before inviting her over to your house for the first meeting.
- If you invite too many women who you do not know, you may want to consider holding the first meeting in a public place.
Choosing Books and Leading Book Chats
Look for books that cover women’s issues. Both historical and contemporary issues are up for grabs. Just remember that not every woman will share the same opinion, especially concerning contemporary, political issues. Keep an open mind and use the experience to learn from each other rather than arguing.
2Search out books with strong female protagonists. Women are generally more avid readers than men, so plenty of modern books follow the lives of savvy businesswomen or strong mothers. Fill your book roster with these books to inspire and encourage your members.
3Study the works of female authors. You can choose historically significant writers, like Jane Austen or the Brontë sisters, or contemporary authors like P. D. James or Nora Roberts. You can also mix and match, and spend time comparing the ways that female writers of the past wrote versus female writers of the present.
4Start with books you’ve been dying to read. While your book club is just starting up, you may need to take the initiative and decide the first few books. If there are any you have in mind that might be a good fit for your women’s book club, add them to the list. Otherwise, you can look up a few bestseller lists to get ideas.
5Allow other members to make suggestions. After your club establishes itself, the other member will probably appreciate having the chance to offer their own input about the book selection. You can have each woman take turns choosing a book.
- Alternatively, you could also have each member bring up a possible title whenever she thinks of one and have the book voted on as a group before adding it to the roster.
6Come with discussion questions. As the founder of the group, you may need to kick off each meeting by getting the discussion going. Ask questions that invite the other members to analyze themes, characters, or implications. Stay away from questions that can be answered by sharing one’s unfounded opinion or by stating a simple “yes” or “no.”
7Ask the other members to come with questions. If each member comes to the meeting with a question or unique insight, a broader range of perspectives can be covered. The conversation will last longer and be twice as thought-provoking.
8Nudge the group back on track if the discussion gets derailed. If your members stray too far away from discussing the book and start talking about other matters, politely step in and ask a question to get the conversation back to the book.
What is a book club all about and how does it work?
A book club is where a group of people meet to discuss a book. Generally, the book is agreed upon ahead of time and a date is chosen for the discussion meeting. At the meeting, the group discusses what aspects of the book they liked and disliked, the book’s themes and messages, etc. You might also agree to divide the book into sections and have several meetings to discuss the individual sections.
- Taking notes and analyzing themes as you read can help you come up with insightful questions to take to your book group. If you have trouble coming up with discussion questions on your own, you can also check out reading guides, blogs, and message boards on the Internet for ideas.