The Mermaid's Tale

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The care and feeding of a book club


caring for a book club
A book club can be a delicate balance of practicing good etiquette and fervent discussion about a book. It seems a simple thing to start a book club: invite a few friends over to discuss the books each person has read lately. With a bit of advance planning, you might even suggest a read (or re-read) of a particular book for the club's discussion that day. However, it is in reality a delicately nuanced social interaction which can go wrong very quickly if an argument starts during a meeting.

Try these tips if you would like to participate in a book club that does more than meet for drinks once a month.

How to start a book club

Decide on a genre

While it is fine to read any book that strikes the club's fancy, there will be far less distention if everyone can agree on a genre. Do you all like sci-fi? Spiritual texts? Bathroom funnies? Ideally a book club should be a meeting of like-minded book readers.

Decide on a meeting schedule, and try to stick to it

If all members know that the book club meets on the third Thursday of each month, it will be less disruptive to the schedules of potential attendees.

How to maintain a book club

Actually read the chosen book

If you just want social hour, visit the local pub. The focus in a book club should be reading the selected book. Remember that it is okay to skip a meeting if you haven't read the book yet.

Practice good etiquette during club meetings

Humans in a group tend to be an unruly bunch who talk over each other. Be polite, and remember to take turns so all members can have a chance to speak. It should go without saying to avoid discussions of both politics and religion during meetings.

Is food being served during book club meetings?

Be mindful of members with food allergies. In many cases, it may prove best to meet in a location where no food is served (the library itself, perhaps). Additionally, food may provide too much of a distraction when the focus should be on the book being read by the club. Eat before or after attending the meeting instead.

Promote the club if possible

Ask at local coffee shops, bookstores, and the library about posting flyers about book club meetings. This is a good way to gain new members who might enjoy this particular book.

Remember to give back to the community

With enough members in the club, there should be resources and to spare. Ask for volunteers to tutor local children, or collect toward a scholarship fund for a local school. This will also help make your club more "accessible" and public.

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