When one season of life ends, it’s easy to lose touch with friends—the common threads holding us together no longer seem to exist. While keeping up with girlfriends on the same path might take the least amount of effort, we also want to nurture and deepen the friendships we’ve invested in for years. What better way to do that than by throwing some chips and dip on the table, grabbing a glass of wine, and cracking open a good novel?
Book clubs connect us despite the fact that our daily lives might look very different. We can experience a story and learn how our girlfriends related to the same characters we did (or why they didn’t). And it always feels good to exercise that part of the brain you might not have used since British lit in college.
But while the idea is alluring, the logistics of organizing a book club can be overwhelming. We have busy lives, after all! It’s hard to commit to one more event on the monthly calendar. But if your gal pals are on board to start a book club, here’s what you should consider in order to make it a successful endeavor:
PICK A VENUE
Think about where you want to meet. A coffee shop? A friend’s house? Try finding a central location or rotating which member hosts. Take into consideration the variety of schedules. Someone who works in the evenings might only be able to meet on Saturday mornings. If a friend’s living situation makes it too difficult to host everyone, she can team up with another member and help host by bringing food to a meeting. (And keep in mind that with several calendars to reconcile, it’s unlikely that you’ll find an ideal time slot for every single woman in your book club.) Most book clubs meet on a monthly basis, more often might be unreasonable and less often loses momentum.
CHOOSE YOUR BOOKS
How do you choose a book that everyone will enjoy? Well, you probably can’t. But in order to make the experience fun for everyone, you can vote on books or switch off who chooses the book. One common method is for each member to choose the book for the meeting she will host. You might also consider mixing it up with genres. There could be a strong fiction versus nonfiction dynamic, so remember that you don’t have to stick to a novel every month. Throw a memoir or biography in there!
If it’s your turn to choose, keep the rest of the group in mind. (That urban gardening manual or twelfth-century hagiography you’ve been dying to read might be interesting to you but likely won’t be a home run for everyone else.) Choose a book that won’t feel like a burden but a treat. That doesn’t mean you have to read fluff, but you might want to steer clear of War and Peace.
PLAN FOR DISCUSSION
You’ve got different personalities! If you’re bold and opinionated, don’t steamroll over your shy, sensitive friend or monopolize the conversation. Be courteous. If you find yourself talking more than the rest of the group, try crafting thoughtful questions to spark the discussion instead of just sharing your insights. If you need help coming up with discussion questions, some editions include them in the back of the book. Or you could search online for helpful resources. Feel free to disagree with your friends’ interpretations (that’s what makes discussing interesting, after all), but try not to be argumentative. The goal is to connect and stretch our brains a bit.
And here’s a thought, having your friends gathered in your living room is ideal; however, if they’re scattered across the globe, technology to the rescue! Create a Google Hangout, use Skype, or just set up a Facebook group. You can chat about books in your jammies from your couch with your literary-inclined friends on screen and across the world.
So, don’t be timid. Call around and make it happen. Encourage the life of the mind while nourishing your friendship over a glass of red wine. It may take a little more effort than feels natural at first, but it's worth it.
Photo by Natasha Murray