How to Reboot Your Book Club This Year

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Today’s post is contributed by Kathy Schultenover, book clubs manager for Parnassus Books.

I can’t tell you the number of people who have told me, “Book club saved my life.” They’ve cited reasons such as being shut in at home with a baby or infirm spouse, feeling loneliness or depression, moving to a new city and knowing no one, or needing somewhere to turn for intellectual stimulation. I truly believe book clubs provide a vital sense of community, and I love helping clubs get started and stay active with fun, interesting reads.

Often I hear from groups who say they’ve run out of steam and ask how they can get back on track. From time to time, that stale feeling creeps in for most longstanding clubs. If your book club has gotten into a rut — or if you’re simply looking to reboot your club in 2019 with a fresh sense of enthusiasm — consider a few tips I’ve found helpful:

1. Does your group usually read fiction? It seems most do! Perhaps you could make this the year you explore other genres like memoir, history, essays, and even cookbooks.

2. When life gets busy, it’s easy to fall into a skimming habit. Commit to reading more thoughtfully and mindfully this year. Take notes, underline, or highlight as you read, and you’ll be amazed at how having these passages handy during a book club meeting improves discussion.

3. Assign someone the task of doing some research each month before each meeting — or have everyone get online and dig up a little background material on the book. Book reviews and online book club discussion guides can also prompt great conversation. (LitCharts, BookBrowse, and Reading Group Choices are just a few of my personal favorite sites for this purpose. Now’s also a good time of year to peruse “most anticipated” lists.)

Could this be the year of nonfiction for your club?

4. Change your format this year! For example…

  • Create a designated pre-meeting (or post-meeting) social hour for chit-chat. If your club’s discussions have wandered away from books and onto jobs, families, and the news, breaking the evening into book-talk and non-book-talk may help get things back on track.
  • It can feel like a real novelty to have a month without a common book, in which everyone brings two recent reads to talk about and briefly share.
  • If you usually have a designated discussion leader, try going leader-less and ask each member to bring two thought-provoking questions or topics to stimulate conversation. This can bring out quieter members and get the whole group back into the mix.

5. Try a session designated to this very topic — fresh starts. Ask each member to bring one suggestion for a change she thinks might improve the club. Nothing personal (this is not the time to tell Janet no one likes her spinach dip)… just objective, positive ideas that could be fun to try or produce long-lasting improvements.

I think you’ll be impressed at how even small changes can bring about a whole new attitude in your club. Here’s to a re-invigorated book club experience for 2019! –Kathy Schultenover

Join us here in the store for these upcoming book club discussions. Anyone is welcome, and reservations are not required. All you have to do is show up!

screen shot 2019-01-15 at 1.08.39 pmFebruary – Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly — the official 2019 selection of Nashville Reads
Monday, February 11 at 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday, February 13 at 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, February 14 at 10 a.m.

March – Tangerine by Christine Mangan
Monday, March 18 at 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday, March 20 at 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 21 at 10 a.m.

Classics Club – The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
Monday, March 25 at 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Have a book club of your own? Remember to register your club with Parnassus, so your members can get their reads at a 10% discount. And if your company or organization would like help getting started with group reading, let us know! Email and put “book club” in the subject line.