Book Club Etiquette
Be careful not to let one or two people do all the talking. It’s not uncommon in any group for stronger personalities to dominate the conversation while quieter people have little chance of getting a word in edgewise. Since the point of a book club is a group discussion, keep a few tricks up your sleeve if you have some particularly chatty members who tend to hold the floor. For example, structure the conversation by going around the table to let each member have a chance to talk about one aspect of the book that was most significant to them and lead a mini-discussion on their topic of choice. Or ask a quieter member for their opinion to get a good conversation going.
REMEMBER TO TALK ABOUT THE BOOK
All of you committed to spending a considerable amount of time reading the book. With that in mind, remember to actually get around to talking about it. Don’t let the evening slip away with only chatting about the kids, the latest reality TV show or gossip. If your book club gatherings usually devote 10 percent of time to discussing the book and 90 percent talking about everything else, warn prospective members before they study up on the latest read.
GET PERMISSION FOR NEW MEMBERS
Ask the group before inviting new members to the club. This is a common courtesy to others in the group and the key to keeping it manageable. If everyone in the book club keeps inviting new members, you could quickly have a few dozen members, which makes it far more challenging to host and to have a good discussion.
WHERE'S THE JOINT?
Pick the ideal venue for a meeting. Hosting it at your home is great if that’s an option; you will have control over the food, drinks and noise level. If you choose a restaurant, wine bar or coffee shop, scope it out in advance to make sure your group can have a quiet area to yourselves long enough to discuss the book.
READ THE BOOK
If you didn’t read the book, come prepared to ask questions about it. Some book clubs welcome all members even if they didn’t get a chance to read or finish the book. If you go, be prepared to participate in the discussion by asking questions and showing genuine interest. You can actually help facilitate the discussion. But don’t expect others to give you a complete rehash of the story. Also, resist the urge to lure others who have read the book into a non-book related conversation.
Be gracious in your comments. If you didn’t like the book, don’t trash it by saying “This book was terrible!” This and similar conversation-killing statements are disrespectful to others who did enjoy it and also to whomever chose the book. It’s fine to say that it wasn’t your cup of tea. Beyond that, find constructive ways to contribute to the conversation instead of making sweeping, dismissive comments.
Bring some questions for discussion. Some books come with their own discussion guide at the end. Also, there are several resources online to help you with this, such as ReadingGroupGuides.com.
BOOKS ARE OUR FRIENDS, SO PICK SOME
Agree on how to choose the next read. Decide up front how you will choose books for the club to read. Will the host make the selection of the month? Will the group vote on the next book? Decide in advance and follow the rules.
TAKE A CHANCE
Keep an open mind. Even if the next selection isn’t something you think you’re interested in, give it a chance. Part of the joy of book clubs is getting exposed to new books and new ideas that you wouldn’t have experienced before. And after all, isn’t that the point of reading in the first place?