Whenever the conversation turns to books, someone invariably chimes in with, “I wish I was more of a reader.”
An understandable want; reading is an excellent way to become more knowledgeable and empathetic and as a hobby, it’s super flexible and affordable. Plus, nothing quite like being that mysterious someone in a darkened corner of the local coffee shop with a well-worn paperback to up your cool factor.
Well – Cool in a nerdy way.
A little over two years ago, one of my work colleagues, Jess, threw out the idea to start a book club in the Social High Rise office. According to her blog on this, she was pleasantly surprised how quickly everyone responded with a resounding “yes!”
Office book clubs are not only a great way to read more books but to have the support and motivation you need if you don’t consider yourself “a reader.” I’m happy to report that in the two-plus years since we started the SHR Book Club – we’re still going strong!
Here are some golden rules for keeping your book club chugging along from your friendly neighborhood book nerds.
Everyone Gets to Pick a Book
In the beginning, we would choose a genre and people would submit a book suggestion within that genre. Then we would vote on the book we wanted to read from that list of suggestions. Whoever submitted the winning book would come up with discussion questions for the meeting, pick the next month’s genre, rinse and repeat.
If that seems over-complicated, that’s because it was. To be fair, we all agreed to and were excited about this system and it did work for a very long time. Recently, we’ve decided to simplify things a bit. Instead of picking a genre, submitting books, voting, etc. – we simply go down a list of book club members. Whoever’s turn it is gets to pick whatever book they want; no voting, no genre, no strings.
This has breathed new life into our book club as it turns out some people were getting put off by our original system. Some had a hard time finding a suggestion that fit into the specific genre, some people would never have their book chosen and started to become frustrated, and getting everyone together to vote every month was a hassle, to say the least.
Not only is this process much easier, but all of us get to choose what they want to read with the group! Everyone in your book club should get to pick a book, not only for their own excitement and buy-in but to change up the types of books read as well.
Change It Up
Book clubs, in general, are an excellent way to read a wide variety of books. Everyone has different interests and perspectives and reading books chosen by others will push you to read from many genres. I can confidently say that most of the books we have read for book club were ones I would not have picked up on my own or was not even aware existed.
Surprise surprise, I not only enjoyed them but found many new subjects and authors I now pursue on my own time. Our most recent pick was “Circe” by Madeline Miller. I had never even heard of “Circe” before but I loved reading it. And guess who’s looking up other novels by Miller? Me! I also got everyone to read “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini and it was well received. Afterward, my colleague, Jess, asked to borrow one of Hosseini’s other works, “The Kite Runner” from me. #HumbleBrag
P.S. – Read “A Thousand Splendid Suns” because it’s seriously one of my favorites. You can thank me later!
Sharing is Caring
A system I seriously encourage is to share the chosen book. Buying a book every month can really start to add up and sharing is a simple solution to this. If someone has a copy already, great! If someone has a library card and the library has the book, time to hit the library! If a book or two (or three depending on the size of your club) does need to be purchased, you can take turns on who buys. Not only is this cost-effective, but it also helps speed up the reading process.
I consider myself an above-average reader, but it’s amazing how much faster I read when someone is waiting on me to finish. I don’t want to take too long and not leave them enough time to read, so I power through. I actually enjoy the challenge of speed-reading as well!
If you are sharing books, I recommend giving them to speed-readers first so they can whip it out and pass it on. If anyone is genuinely stressed out about having someone waiting on them to finish, they should be near the end of the line or receive a copy of their own. At the end of the day, book clubs should be a fun and relaxing hobby.
Chill Out, Nerds
One of the best things about the SHR Book Club is that we’re non-judgemental. We understand that not everyone is an avid reader, or hey, sometimes life gets in the way. So we don’t give anyone a hard time if they can’t finish the book by the time we meet or if they can’t read it at all. Everyone is welcome to the meetings whether or not they read the book, it’s more about togetherness than it is about pages read.
We’re also willing to bend the rules to accommodate as many people as possible. This last summer, most of our members were traveling for weddings or vacations and reading a book through all of that simply wasn’t realistic. So we changed it up and switched to documentaries instead. Watching an hour-long documentary was far more doable for those people and we were still able to learn new things and have worthwhile meetings. When things settled down, we switched back to books.
This applies to meeting places and times as well. If half your book club can’t meet on Wednesdays, find a different day that works for everyone. If no one can host a meeting at their place, don’t try and pressure someone to host, go to a casual restaurant or a public park instead.
A book club is not the Illuminati, it should be open-minded and relaxed. The more you complicate things, the shorter the life of your book club will be.
Are you part of a book club? What are some tips and tricks you’ve discovered to keep your book club fresh and interesting?