So You Want to Start a Book Club?

When I moved with my family to a new town seven years ago, I had just left a long time corporate law career, I knew no one, and the transition felt, in many ways overwhelming.

I came up with a crazy idea late one night, while working on a secret novel manuscript after all my children were asleep and I was dying for some adult conversation – I should start a book club.

While I was a voracious reader, I had never been in a book club, and I wasn’t really sure how to go about this crazy idea of mine. But somehow I managed to pull it off. I put together a fabulous group of seven women who continued to meet monthly for years discussing books alongside other important life topics including career changes, kid crises, and even launching a judicial campaign for one of our members (she won!)

Since my first novel debuted in 2014, I’ve been invited to dozens of book clubs across the country (live and via FaceTime) and I continue to be amazed at the importance of the role of Book Clubs in our communities.

Here are some tips for starting a Book Club – shared from my own experience and from the experience of some of my favorite readers.

1. Decide where you want to meet
One of my favorite Book Clubs meets monthly at the local golf club where it was started several years ago by a member. The group consults with the resident chef to create a special menu theme for each book and even a special wine pairing. Consider whether you have a similar meeting place in your area? Or you can easily re-create a similar ambience by rotating regularly amongst members homes. (We’ll even do the work for you! Keep your eye right here on this Blog for regular book and wine pairings and themed recipes.)

Also consider whether the local library has space you could reserve. How about the local book store? Or maybe you want to meet at a coffee shop or café? Perhaps some combination of public meeting places and private homes throughout the year? This way you reduce the number of times you have to vacuum your living room floor to a more manageable count. Wink.

2. Decide how you want to choose your next Book Club selection.
There are Book Clubs who choose their selections for a few months at a time, or even for the entire year, so members can plan ahead. Others pick monthly, allowing moods and tastes to fluctuate constantly. Some Book Clubs let a rotating host pick the next selection, while others put ideas into a basket and choose at random each month. No matter how you choose, it’s best to set up the selection process at the outset so everyone knows what to expect and no one can claim they didn’t have time to read the book!

3. Decide how big or how small you want the group to be.
Some Book Clubs stay intimate – with 4-5 loyal members while others welcome 10-15 members, knowing that availability will fluctuate monthly with schedules, vacations, etc. I’ve been to Book Clubs who know each other well from the neighborhood and see each other often outside of Book Club. But I’ve met others who constitute a diverse crowd whose only substantive face to face time happens at the Book Club itself, usually over delicious food and often a special promised wine pairing meant to convince everyone to cancel all other plans that night. I have to say the conversations at those latter diverse Book Clubs often (there are exceptions, of course!) prove to be the most engaged and robust. One Book Club I attended even had a “wait list” as it had grown so large, and the group had been hand-picked by its founder to include members of varying ages, occupations, and lifestyles. I assure you there wasn’t one break in the conversation that night. It was a fascinating discussion! 

4. Say it out loud.
You’d be surprised how easy it is to recruit new members to your Book Club. Send out an email to one or two friends at a time, and if they are interested, ask them to share your email with one potential new member. Mention that you are starting a Book Club at your office, the kids’ soccer games and piano recitals, or while volunteering at a fundraising event, and you will likely see lots of hands shooting up in interest. Some people are even members of multiple book clubs, but many people are just like you – interested in being part of a Book Club, but they just don’t know how to start.

Let the story begin,

Amy Impellizzeri

Amy Impellizzeri is the award-winning author of three novels, and her most recent THE TRUTH ABOUT THEA is one of our Books & Bottles debut selections.