Keeping the book club magic alive

My friends and I started a book club over three years ago and, miraculously, it’s still going strong. Apart from the odd month around Christmas, we have met once a month to eat, drink and chat (and sometimes the chat actually revolves around books). While at times it has been fondly referred to as binge drinking club, we do always end up discussing the book, and we give it a rating out of ten and choose our favourite character – not necessarily the character we liked the most, but the one we thought added the most to the book. The rules are pretty simple – the hosting duties rotate around the group and whoever hosts also chooses the book for that month.

A few people have asked me recently for advice about how to keep the book club magic alive and, well, the truth is I have no idea what exactly has made the club successful so far, but here are a few things that I think have helped.

Books:

  • Variety: the best thing about book club is that I’ve read a whole heap of books that I would never have picked up otherwise. We have read a massive variety over the three years, spanning literary fiction, popular philosophy, classics, crime, memoir, satire, YA fantasy and speculative fiction, to name a few. I think it’s the variety that has kept everyone interested (that and the wine obviously).
  • Length: be realistic. Not everyone in the club would consider themselves to be an avid reader, so it’s important to choose books that are a realistic length to get through in a month. There’ll be no Ayn Rand or The Luminaries for us.

Food:

  • We usually try and theme the food around the book: we had a Greek feast the month we read The Slap, a cocktail party for The Great Gatsby, gumbo for Zeitoun and hot dogs for Bossypants.

Wine:

  • Have it.

General:

  • We have started keeping a journal to record all of the books, scores and our favourite characters. This means when we’re old and crusty, when our eyesight has failed us but our drinking arm is still strong, we’ll be able to look back on the past 50 years (fingers crossed) and marvel that we kept it going so long.
  • We don’t hold back on spoilers, so if someone comes who hasn’t read the book they do so at their own peril.
  • Oh, and did I mention wine?

Aside from all of these things – the most important ingredient is obviously the people. At the risk of getting sentimental, the girls in my book club are awesome and getting to spend a night a month with them all in the one room is a privilege. Book club is never a chore, even when the book is awful – hell, I read the Jessica Watson biography for those girls and I don’t regret a second of it. So, my main piece of advice – choose your bookfellows wisely.

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Categories: Book life

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4 replies »

  1. This sounds great. I’m delighted that you found a good group of bookfellows and that the conversation (and wine) has continued to flow for so long. I’ve never been in a bookclub, although I have been in some writing groups in the past.

    I know it can be very difficult to keep the momentum going with groups at times so kudos to all of you. 🙂

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  2. Thanks for posting, definitely great tips for me because I’ll be the host for my book club discussion next Saturday. I totally agree on the food although I can’t think of something simple for ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ theme. I better google for ideas!

    Do you have structured discussion questions or are they random/free-flowing?

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    • To Kill a Mockingbird was the first book I chose as well 🙂 It was so long ago I can’t remember what I cooked, but there’ll be heaps of ideas online.

      I think for our first meeting we had some structured questions, mainly because we didn’t know how it was all going to work. But now we just go round the circle and everyone gives a mini-review, which often leads to ad hoc discussion, and then we have a bit of an all-in discussion after that.

      Like

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