How to start and run a book club

Whether you’re an avid book lover, or someone looking to engage with reading for the first time – book clubs are a fun and social way to share the joys of reading with others.

Interested in starting and running your own book club? Follow these easy steps below or download our printable guide.

1. Assemble your readers

Starting a book club begins with people. Decide what kind of group you want to bring together: you might be an existing group of friends, or be connected through school or community groups; you might be genre-lovers, or first-time regular readers.

The size of your book club is up to you, however we recommend around 8-10 members – big enough to allow for no-shows, and small enough to make sure everyone has the opportunity to share their thoughts.

Top tip: Picking a catchy or unique name for your club will help you with communications between members, making it easily searchable in messages and emails.

2. Choose when and where to meet

Once you’ve got your group, you’ll need to decide where you’d like to meet. Some book clubs enjoy meeting in public spaces like cafés, pubs, or libraries, while others prefer the comfort of their own home. You can also opt to run events virtually or as hybrid in-person and online events, to allow more flexibility for book members to attend.

Next, decide on how regularly you’d like to meet. When choosing the frequency of your meetings, consider the varying paces at which different members read. You might want to opt for the traditional ‘once a month’ meet-up, or perhaps allow for longer gaps between meetings to allow everyone to finish reading the book.

3. Work together to select your books

Now that you’ve got your group, how do you decide what to read? A few easy ways to go about it include:

  • Take turns to select a bookEach member of the group gets the opportunity to select a book of their choice for the group to read and discuss.
  • Come to a group consensusDedicate the last ten minutes of your meeting to discuss ideas for your next read and come to a decision as a group.
  • Take a lucky dipAt the end of each meeting, everyone who has a suggestion for the next book puts the title in a hat to be drawn at random.
  • Find an existing curation or programThere are plenty of organisations and groups that curate book club programs. Check in at your local library or bookstore, or explore our list of national and state-based book club programs.

4. Manage the conversation

In order to ensure that everyone gets the most of your book club meetings, it’s a good idea to make sure everyone is on the same page about how you’d like your catch-ups to run. 

Groups of friends might prefer a more informal dynamic, while book clubs where members are less familiar with each other might prefer a more structured approach.

Some members will come to meetings with strong ideas and opinions, while others may be more content to listen along. While healthy debate is encouraged, it’s a good idea to set some ground rules about the kind of language and tone members should use (e.g. criticise the book, not the speaker!) to ensure that everyone’s views and perspectives are heard and respected.

Stuck for prompts? We’ve put together a handy list of book club prompts that can help get the conversation started. Many publishers also provide dedicated reading group notes for their books to download free of charge off their websites.

Top tip: Our friends at the Scottish Book Trust recommend the ‘likes, dislikes, puzzles and patterns’ approach, where by everyone “tells the group what they liked and disliked about the book, something they found strange, and any patterns or connections they noticed.”

5. Adapt your book club as needed

Now that your book club is up and running, it’s time to enjoy the ride! Remember, there’s no one right way to run a book club, so be open and adaptable to change if needed. Sometimes members of your group may not get around to reading the book – and that’s okay. Group members might drop out and be replaced by new readers, or you might find that the original timing or structure of your book clubs needs to change as the group grows and develops. The most important thing is to foster an open and inviting space where people can come together regularly to share the joys of reading together.

Interested in running a book club but don’t know where to start? Download and share our handy guide – including top tips, book club prompts, and more.