Setting up a book club, The Literary Professionals

Setting Up a Book Club

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Book clubs are everywhere, and growing in popularity all the time. I was very proud to be work on the Bord Gáis Energy Book Club for a number of years in my role as Literary Programme Manager and learnt a lot about what people look for in a book club. My work there also reiterated something I had known for a long time; book lovers are amazing! The joy and pleasure they have in the books and authors they read is a delight and sharing that together in a club is so enjoyable.

Now, in my personal life, I’m in a book club with some friends and of course I was the first person they asked for advice on how to set up and run it. Here’s my guide to setting up a book club:

Invite Members

Select a group of interested people to join your book club. These can be friends who are keen to carve out some more reading time, book lovers, fellow parents, or brand-new friends. You can find members by posting a notice in your local library or book shop. Often, if you align your book club to a book shop you might be able to get a small discount on your books if all members buy them together.

A good number to start with is 4-8 members, too many and the conversation can often veer off course and the book might get forgotten. Decide very early on who is going to be in charge of the organising of the book club, communicating information, booking venues and issuing rules. Having someone lead the club can ensure it runs much more smoothly.

Decide on a Theme

Many book clubs like to go with a theme, often one that is particular to the interests of the group. Equally just focusing on great reads is fine too, there are enough of them about! Try to be clear before you start about what, if any, the theme will be. Some ideas are:

  • Non-fiction book club
  • Classics book club
  • Bestsellers book club
  • Parenting book club
  • Memoir book club
  • Foreign writers book club
  • Award-winners book club

Decide when and where

Pick a regular time and date for your book club. It can be so difficult to try to get everyone available on the same date so what often works is to decide early on, on a regular day e.g. the first Friday of every month, and then everyone will always know when the book club is on and you won’t have the hassle of constant communication trying to suit everyone’s busy schedules.

For a location, many people chose to host the book club at home. My Mom is in a book club for over ten years and each month the club is hosted in different members house and they provide the food. If that sounds like too much work check out reserving a space in a local café or restaurant. You’ll need somewhere relatively quiet so you can all chat and hear each other’s opinions. Make clear before you start what the payment option will be i.e. everyone pays for themselves, bill is split or a kitty is started, its saves time and stress on the night.

Decide on some basic ground rules

You don’t need your club to be strict and lacking in fun but a few basic rules before everyone starts will help members know what to expect and how things will work. Be clear about identifying the purpose of your club, how books will be selected, where it will take place, how the discussion will be run etc. There’s bound to be a mixture of personalities in your book club so try to ensure there are some guidelines in place so that everyone can have their say and be heard. Issue the ground rules by email before your first meeting and then you won’t have to be telling people what to do!

Decide how books will be selected

You just pick a good book right? Surely it’s as simple as that! There are so many ways to select a book for your book club. You can base it on a theme, see above, you can select one person who might be a big reader to offer three suggestions each month and vote on a favourite, or you can take turns each month and have a different member select a book they loved and would like to share. Get this decided early on and make it part of your book club guidelines so you don’t have to figure it out each time.

Figure out how your club will be run

I’m going to do another post on this next week in more detail but in the meantime some things to think about are:

  • Will there be a moderator?
  • Will you issue reading topics or questions for discussion in advance?
  • Would you prefer just a casual, open discussion or would taking turns expressing an opinion on the book work better?

Settle this before you start so everyone knows what to expect.

Tips for choosing books

  • Consider choosing a book that most people haven’t read.
  • Check the book is easily available.
  • Don’t chose a book you have never read in case it’s a dud!
  • Don’t chose a book that is far too long. People have busy lives.
  • Try to chose books that will have lots of content for discussion.
  • If you have selected the book do some research on it in advance.
  • Don’t chose a book that is so specific you know most people won’t enjoy it. It’s good to have varying discussion but a book everyone hates reading is not a good use of time, it should be enjoyable.

Places to look for new ideas include: your local library and book club, the bestseller lists, reviews in newspapers, book clogs and review sites.

If you want some ideas drop me a mail at and I’ll send you on a list of titles to get started with!

Happy reading.


Setting up a bookclub? Read our guide to how to start one. 

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