What is more satisfying than finishing a good book and having a great friend who you can talk about it with? This feeling is the one that inspires many book-lovers to join book clubs. Some book club members feel the urge to join because they just can't seem to finish a book they start, no matter how much they've been enjoying it; having a group of people to check-in and discuss the book with helps many readers see a book all the way through. Whatever your reason for joining, being part of a book club can be an incredibly rewarding experience that helps you engage more with the literature you enjoy, and also introduce you to a new group of friends.
A book club, essentially, is a group of readers who all decide to read one book at the same time. Often meeting once a week – or less often, depending on the group members' schedules – they determine a set number of chapters to read before the next meeting. Then, at the next meeting, the members discuss the major issues and plot developments that have taken place since they last met. Many groups follow a predetermined list of questions, though others simply let group members bring up any major plot point they wish to discuss. Readers can ask questions about passages they didn't understand, and everyone can discuss what motivations or circumstances caused a character to behave in a certain way.
For many book club members, the friendly community atmosphere created by their group enhances their enjoyment of literature. However, these groups – because of their tightly bonded nature – can seem difficult to break into. If you're interested in becoming part of a book club, consider some of these basic tips for starting out.
You basically have two options for becoming part of a book club: join an existing group or form your own. If you have a circle of friends you can interest in forming a book club with you – go for it! There are no strict rules on numbers or what kinds of books should be read; you and your group members can figure out what works for you. If you need to find a group to join, however, look for information provided by community organizations: your public library is a good place to start, but also check with your park district, local book stores, and community centers like the YMCA. These more public book clubs will more receptive to new members and have procedures for getting you involved with the group.
Once you've chosen a group to join, it's time to get started reading! Remember, book clubs are supposed to be fun, so don't feel pressured to completely understand or analyze every passage of the assigned reading. Instead, take notes as you go, either in a notebook or in the margins of your book. That way, if you have any questions or came across a major insight, you'll have them prepared for the group at the next meeting. By asking questions, you can often spark some engaging group discussions; maybe others were equally confused, or maybe everyone has a different interpretation of a particular scene. There are no right and wrong answers, and most group members are eager to hear how the book impacted you.
Speaking of “no right and wrong answers”, there is a certain amount of book club etiquette that must be practiced in order for the experience to be positive for all members. Keeping an open mind to every group member is absolutely essential; having a lively discussion with other group members who disagrees with your interpretation can be fun and informative, but being combative and telling someone their thoughts are invalid is completely unacceptable. Book clubs are not about winning or “getting it” the most. Express your opinions, and let your club-mates express theirs.
Some book club members have the opposite problem of bring too timid to express an opinion. Don't make the other members do all the work! The enjoyment of book clubs for most members is not just getting to share their own thoughts, but getting to hear everyone else's as well. What makes book clubs so special is the amalgamation of many voices and ideas. An idea you have that you think is either bad or stupid, might be just the one to spark everyone else's interest and begin a great discussion. Participation is absolutely necessary for being a positive member of a book club.
Being in a book club can be a hugely rewarding experience, so if you're interested – get out there and join! You'll come out with some great books under your belt and, most likely, some good friends too.