The wrong kind of book club is as boring as watching paint dry. The right kind of book club will show the world in a different light, bring you closer to your friends, and give you a reason to get tipsy and laugh maniacally once a month (besides your period, that is).
A great book club simultaneously fulfills 3 of the 5 Tenets to Live the Good Life: Rally the Tribe, Nurture the Spirit, and Strengthen the Mind. In this instance only, I give you permission to multi-task.
The key to a great book club is in your mission. If the mission is evaluating the author’s thought process and fact-checking historical accuracy – yawn – you’ll probably find it hard to get members and even harder to sustain it long-term.
A mission that everyone finds interesting, like reading a certain genre or subject of books, is a good start. A friend of mine belongs to a food-centric book club. Each month they have a cookbook, novel or nonfiction book about food and a food theme where each potluck dish has to contain the specific ingredient. It’s like Iron Chef! When you ask people to get creative before they even walk in the door, your conversations are going to be better.
“You are so right! Why don’t we talk about this more?” ~ Facebook message
Mix of Friends
If everyone agrees with you, it’s going to get boring fast. What I loved about my book club in Seattle was the difference in perspectives of the women in the group. We had new mothers and grandmothers, several childless women, artists, entrepreneurs, people with conventional jobs, people with unconventional jobs (a shaman, believe it or not), single, partnered, separated, gay and straight women.
Men are welcome additions to book clubs, too. In fact, I just got a great email from a man today who is reading my latest book. Tell me a man who reads a book about women’s confidence to better understand his love life is not the kind of man you are dying to meet. And no, I’m not giving out his email address.
You will regularly blow your mind when you hear something you were so sure of refuted, challenged, or enhanced by someone with a different life experience than you. Recruit a variety of people you know – not necessarily just your good friends – to make it unforgettable.
“You know that woman you totally envy? The one that always seems to be doing cool things and hanging out with interesting people. You could be that woman and this book will show you how.” ~ Amazon reviewer
A Book You Can’t Stop Talking About
Pick something that inspires conversation, a subject that affects you, an interest you all share, or something controversial like a biography of someone you admire or despise. I wrote Strip Off Your Fear (SOYF) specifically for book clubs. I want women to talk about the subject of confidence, speaking up, and living the life you want instead of what everyone else wants you to do. And I definitely want women to speak up when it concerns their rights, their bodies, and the way they are treated in society and by their governments.
“So far this book is not just speaking to me but shouting…I think I’ll keep reading.” ~ Facebook message
Some books now come with book discussion questions of the mind-numbing sort. Do you care what I was thinking when I wrote this book, or do you care what you and your friends think about what I wrote? Believe me, that second discussion is going to be far more meaningful in your life.
I did include discussion questions in SOYF, but I also included a recipe for delicious food, a signature cocktail, The Skinny Strip, and a soundtrack. I have redeemed myself from lame author-dom. Drink up, shake your ass, and have the conversation that means most to you.
Here are a few basic rules to keep it easy. I find the fewer rules you have the better, and these are mostly to spread the work around and keep things flowing so no one person is left with all the work.
- Hostess picks the book, either by vote or by dictatorship, and suggests menu theme.
- The previous hostess leads the discussion to take some pressure off the current hostess (who will lead the discussion next month).
- Everyone contributes an item of food and/or drink.
- Use Facebook or Evite to send out invitations so you can see the number of responses and bring food accordingly. It also just makes life easier than a string of group emails and the dreaded ‘reply all’ button.
- People will always have to miss for some reason or another, but if they’ve missed the last 3 or 4, odds are they are not finding enough value in the club to make it a priority. Find a replacement. A good book club looks for new members all the time to add to the conversation, and you’ll see that there is always room since not everyone can come every month. You can have a 5-minute conversation at the end of each meeting to talk about inviting new members and deleting inactive ones.
“In Chapter One, these words: ‘It never occurred to me I could disagree, modify, go another way, or be different. It simply wasn’t done.’ And with these words, I knew that Betsy Talbot was telling her story…and mine…and that of many, if not most women.” ~ Amazon reviewer
You can find the cocktail, soundtrack, recipes, and discussion questions for SOYF here. Yes, I really, really want you to talk about confidence and being comfortable in your own skin with supportive people in your life. You can adapt all of your monthly discussions to have a food or music theme. How cool would it be for someone to create a playlist for each book selection to play while you’re eating and socializing? Your book club can be as interesting and fun as you decide to make it.
One of my friends has the greatest question at the end of each discussion. She always wants to imagine what the characters are doing now – at this instant – and we spent a lot of fun nights discussing what they are doing as we are talking about them.
Since I wrote Strip Off Your Fear about you and me and every woman we all know, I’ll ask you this:
How does our story continue?
If you haven’t gotten the book yet, you can buy it on Amazon (and check out our great reviews). Not quite ready to start your book club? No problem. You can sign up for the International Book Club Discussion + Twitter Party on April 23 with Femmenation radio host Debb Whitlock and me. I’ll be calling in from China, where I’ll be testing my confidence over the next few months in Mandarin.