Choose a discussion leader
While a leader is not necessary, many groups find that having one providesfocus to the discussion and helps to make transitions from one member’s comment to another’s. Often the person who suggested the book becomesthe discussion leader, but your group can also rotate leaders, appoint apermanent group leader, or invite guest speakers—local teachers, librar-ians, booksellers, etc.—to lead discussions. There are even professionalbook group leaders for hire. Margot B. of Greenwich, Connecticut offersanother perspective too, sharing a tip from her book club: “We have foundthat not having a leader not only keeps everyone in the group invested andinvolved, but also keeps everyone on equal footing and equally responsiblefor keeping things lively and moving.”
Set a meeting time
Most groups meet every 4 to 6 weeks, and discussion tends to last 2 to 3hours. You may find it helpful to designate a certain amount of time forsocializing—either at the beginning or the end of the meeting—so that your discussion of the book can proceed uninterrupted. Of course, finding a day and time that works for everyone may be difficult—consider setting regular meeting days and times to allow members to plan ahead. But, dobe flexible and don’t try to accommodate everyone’s schedule every time.Some groups are content as long as the majority of the members attend.Other groups have a meeting regardless of how many members can makeit. Keep in mind that you can make your own rules and even discuss a bookfrom a previous meeting.
Pick a place
A popular meeting place for many reading groups is a member’s house.Often members take turns hosting the meeting to alleviate the pressure onone person. But there are plenty of other options as well. Your local book-store or library may have a space that you can reserve free of charge for your meeting, as may your places of worship, community centers, or workplaces. If you are meeting with people you do not know, it may be best tochoose one of these informal, public spaces—or a coffee shop, restaurantor bar—for your meetings until you feel more comfortable.
Ask each member to bring at least one question to the meeting to helpgenerate discussion. Suggest that members mark up their books as theyread—making notes of favorite passages, key scenes, and questions thatarise. Background information can be equally helpful to have at handduring your discussion—author biographies, interviews, reviews, histori-cal background, cultural information, etc. It is usually the group leader’sresponsibility to provide these materials, as well as a list of potential dis-cussion questions. Or delegate so that everyone is involved and sharesthe fun and responsibility of discovering information. Reading groupguides, like those found at the end of the Reading Group Insider andat ReadingGroupCenter.com, often include everything you need to getstarted. Your local library and the internet are also good resources for thiskind of information.
Set the tone
The atmosphere of your group meeting is entirely up to you. The morecreative you are, the livelier the discussion will be, and the more enjoyment you’ll get out of the experience. Does your group prefer to meet for a socialhour before discussion starts? Would you like to meet more casually overdinner? Can you bring some of the cultural aspects of the book to yourmeeting? Consider the music, food, and customs described in the book andtry to re-create some of that for your group. If you are reading a historicalnovel set in England, try meeting for high tea. If your book is full of refer-ences to a certain artist or composer, bring a sample of that person’s workand share it with your group. Experiment with new kinds of foods, samplea new restaurant, or take a field trip to a place that has some relation to
the book you just read. Better yet, ask your local bookstore for a scheduleof authors who will be in town in the coming months and plan to read oneof their new books before their arrival. Then attend the event with yourgroup. Most importantly, relax and enjoy the discussion