There are book clubs and then there are book clubs. The first is when you and a huge group of women, who may or may not have read the month’s assigned book, gather at someone’s house for margaritas, hummus and, oh, two hours of gossiping. Maybe 20 minutes at the end, those of you who actually read the book have a quick chat, but mostly this is a “big night out” for suburban types.
Then there are the book clubs. My beloved book club is filled with smartypants English majors from Williams. When it’s my month to pick a book, it is difficult to do so because they’ve read every book imaginable. We are ruled with an iron fist by a girl friend of mine who works in publishing and eats, lives, and breathes books. I am sincerely scared to not read the book each month or, worse, not attend the meeting. If we gossip, it’s way towards the end, long after I have gotten my ass handed to me on a platter, intellectually speaking. But you know what? I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
I’ve been in both types of book clubs and I’d like to think I know a thing or two about ‘em. After the jump, here’s rules for a book club — I mean, a book club — that actually reads.1. Establish what genre of book club you want it to be, if any. I’ve heard about book clubs that only read books written by women, as well as book clubs that only read books written by women who are not from America. You can have just a generalized book club — like mine is — but you can also get creative.
2. You are in fact allowed to choose books not in the Oprah Book Club. Not to hate on Oprah — I love a bunch of her book club picks. But my point is that you don’t have to just read the hot new novel or memoir that’s being promoted at Target. The fun part about book clubs is that each individual has the possibility to expose you to books you may never have heard about, let alone read.
3. Don’t change your meeting times and dates too much. Keep meetings consistent and try not to change the schedule too much, even though it is natural to want to move it around to try to include everyone. Inconsistency gets annoying fast. The group will surely fizzle out if people are pissed they have to constantly schedule and reschedule the meeting in their Google Calendar. Also make sure that everyone knows what the meal/drink situation will be. Are meeting at a wine bar? Getting dinner at a restaurant? Doing a pot luck at someone’s house? Should book club attendees just be expecting small munchables or a full spread? It’s OK to switch it up each week, but make sure hungry bellies know that to expect.
4. Put one person in charge of arranging meetings, but choose books collectively. The “choose books collectively” part probably doesn’t surprise you. (My book club votes on books via email.) But putting one — and only one — person in charge is important, too. Somebody has got to be the one with a final say on meeting dates, locations, and books. That should be your book club taskmaster.
5. Get a talking stick. Okay, I’m kidding about that part. But seriously, basic etiquette applies. When people are excited about ideas, they sometimes talk over each other. The book club taskmasker should make sure that someone gets to finish her thought after being cut off by Little Miss Interruption Pants. And the taskmaster also has to make sure that side conversations do not break out. It’s supposed to be a group discussion, remember?
I feel like this list of rules makes me sound like a tyrant. But honestly, a little structure goes a long way! Let book club be book club — and anything else is just a girls’ night out.