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Book Club Entertaining Tips

Book clubs are a time-honored tradition that always results in fun, fellowship and, hopefully, a great talk about a great book that will stay with all the members for years to come. Book clubs has always been a part of my life and, on more than a few occasions, I was enlisted to help my mother and grandmother polish silver and hand wash crystal to make sure every element of book club was perfect. Now, as an author, attending book clubs—whether in person or via Skype—is a weekly affair, one that I always look forward to. For an hour or two, I am privy to the inner-sanctum of these women’s lives, a place where they are free to be themselves with friends who, quite often, they have known for most of their lives. As a design blogger, I understand the importance of these traditions, of the details that make book club events what they are. Take a peek at some of my favorite tips for creating a simple, memorable book club experience.

1. Prepare your space for discussion.
Whether around a table or in a circle or semi-circle in the living room, set up your book club area to facilitate discussion. Even comfy floor pillows can help you make the most of your space. I go to so many book clubs that tell me, “We usually don’t even discuss the book!” Why in the world not? Discussing the book can be enriching, fun and helps open our minds to think in new ways. The only thing better than a great book is a perfect person to talk about it with. On that note…

2. Be ready to spur the discussion along.
Many books come with discussion questions in the back, so it’s great to have those handy. If not, check the publisher’s website or, better yet, invite the author to Skype or FaceTime with you! Who better to ask all those lingering questions than the person who actually wrote the book? If you don’t want to be in charge of questions, task each book club member with coming up with one. Usually, when the discussion begins, it’s easy to have it flow from there.

3. Don’t stress about the menu.
I’ve been to some book clubs that agonize over pairing a book club menu to the book. That’s such a cute idea, especially if the book has companion recipes, but it can be stressful, especially for those who don’t love cooking. There’s a reason that Southern book clubs serve chicken salad at almost every meeting. It’s a simple, delicious crowd pleaser that isn’t messy and can be eaten while talking. When in doubt, plan a menu that’s light, simple and can be prepared ahead of time, so you can enjoy the festivities when the guests arrive. Plus, overfull bellies don’t make for good book talks!

4. Offer drink options.
Most of the book clubs I visit love to have a good glass of wine. This is a fun place to get creative by pairing book to wine or even a signature champagne cocktail that goes along with the books.

5. Bonus points for party favors.
I love a good party favor. Who doesn’t? And the best part about party favors is that, quite often, you can work them into your book club décor. For Slightly South of Simple, I had packets of wildflower seeds customized on Etsy that could be tied to a napkin and placed on a plate to create a pretty tablesetting for sit-down events and tied to books at signing events. Once planted, they were a reminder of an afternoon well spent. Other fun party favors include small vases of flowers that can double as place card holders, small candy or chocolate boxes or special cups, glasses, or julep cups that guests can take home.

Kristy Woodson Harvey is the national bestselling author of Dear Carolina, Lies and Other Acts of Love, Slightly South of Simple and the forthcoming The Secret to Southern Charm. Her writing has appeared in numerous online and print publications including Southern Living, Parade, Traditional Home and O.Henry.