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In honor of the release of my newest novel, The Restoration of Celia Fairchild, I wanted to revisit a favorite pastimes of mine – bookclubs. One of the biggest pleasures of reading a good book is discussing it with other readers. There’s no better place to do that than a book club.
There really aren’t any downsides to joining a book club. I mean, sure every now and then you might not love one of the books. But even that can have its benefits. Sometimes, discussing a book or character you didn’t care for can be even more fun than talking about the one you did! Who doesn’t love trash-talking the villain you love to hate?
There really are so many good reasons to join a book club.
For one thing, it will be help you find more time to read. Even though nothing terrible will happen if you aren’t able to finish reading the book (Really. I promise.) joining a book club is something of a commitment. That means you’ll be more likely to put aside some time for reading.
Also, joining a book club can help keep you from falling into a reading rut by introducing you to authors, genres, and subjects you might have missed otherwise. Participating in a book club is also a wonderful way to meet new people and make new friends.
Then there’s the food.
Food Makes Everything More Fun
Many book clubs, especially those who meet in member’s homes, make food and drink a centerpiece of the festivities. Menus can as simple as a bottle of wine and a few appetizers or as complicated as a full course meal based on a theme or location from the book.
I really love those book-themed menus. A lot of my readers feel the same way.
That’s why I decided to create a four-course feast with recipes all inspired by my newest book, The Restoration of Celia Fairchild, and its Southern setting.
- Parmesan and Sharp Cheddar Cheese Straws
- Grapefruit, Pecan, and Goat Cheese Salad
- Easy Bacon and Egg Breakfast Pizza with a White Sauce
- Key Lime Pie Bars with a Cornmeal Crust
HOW TO JOIN A BOOK CLUB
Book clubs have been around a long time but interest in joining book clubs – especially for women – surged back in the 1990s when Oprah Winfrey started a nation-wide book club for her viewers. Since then, the popularity of book clubs has continued to grow.
Today, joining a book club is easier than ever. Bookstores, libraries, churches, and community centers often serve as gathering places for local book clubs. Many clubs focus on a specific type or genre of book – fiction, non-fiction, historical, romance, etc. A bit of research will likely lead you to many local book clubs that might be appealing.
Go High Tech
Thanks to the Internet, online book clubs are also gaining in popularity. This is a real boon for people like me, whose travel schedules make it hard to attend face-to-face meetings.
A couple of years ago, I was the moderator of an online book club on Facebook sponsored by Mary Jane’s Farm Magazine and my then publisher, Kensington Publishing. Moving to a new publisher means I’m no longer the moderator but it was a great experience. If the idea of an online book club appeals to you, then you might want to check out the Farmgirl Book Club on Facebook.
Another online group I discovered recently is the Lowcountry Book Club, moderated by author Susan M. Boyer, this group focuses on southern fiction, set in the coastal lowcountry. They talk about all kinds of books so it’s a great place to get recommendations, but they also choose a specific book to read every month and then invite the author to the group of an online chat.
There are plenty of similar virtual groups out there; a little searching online will deliver a wealth of options. But you also might want to start your own group.
HOW TO START YOUR OWN BOOK CLUB
Over the years, many people have asked me how to start their own book. It’s really not difficult. But you do need to make a few decisions.
Who and how many will participate?
If you and your sister, or you and your best friend, decide you want to read a book each month and then meet at a local coffee bar to discuss it, that’s a book club. It can be as intimate and as easy as that.
Including more people isn’t much more difficult – you can have a book club of four neighbors, six of your old friends from high school, or ten people who belong to your church or synagogue. Having more than twenty members for an in-person book club can make discussion difficult but, with the right moderator, even large group clubs can work. Membership can be single-sex, co-ed, or couples. It’s up to you.
What kind of books are you going to discuss?
Will your book selections be only fiction, only non-fiction, only mystery, only classics? Or would you prefer it be more free-wheeling, exploring a different genre each month? Again, it’s up to you and your members.
Where and when will you meet?
Does daytime work better for you? Or is an evening club more convenient? Will meetings take place in your home? Or will members take turns hosting? If you’d prefer to meet in a public place, chances are your local library or bookstore would be happy to host your meetings. Be sure to call in advance and ask for permission.
Will you serve refreshments?
If so, what kind? Many clubs keep it simple, just offering coffee, tea, and cookies. That’s a good option if you’re meeting in a public venue such as a library or church. Just make sure you’re allowed to bring in food.
If you’re meeting in members’ homes, you might want to offer wine, cocktails, mocktails, and an assortment of appetizers, or even a brunch, lunch, or dinner menu. Many in-home book clubs have appetizers for most meetings but a special meal once or twice a year, perhaps during the holidays or before taking a summer hiatus.
You’ll need to establish who is responsible for providing refreshments. Should it be the person who is hosting? Or would you rather share and rotate the responsibility?
Who will pick the books in the book club?
Of all the decisions you make before starting a book club, this is the most important. If any resentment or dissention rears up in a book club, nine times out of ten it centers on who gets to pick the books.
Unless the whole group chooses a leader ahead of time who will choose the titles, I recommend rotating the choice among the group. Another option is to present a list of three to five possible titles at each meeting and allow people to vote. Adopting a more democratic book selection process will engage members more fully and ensure that you don’t get stuck in a rut, reading the same type of book month after month.
However you go about doing it, whether your club is large or small, online or in person, joining or starting a book club is a fantastic way to read more books, make more friends, and enjoy life fiercely and fully.