Thursday, April 3, 2008

Sharing a Love of Books

Recommending today: Honey for a Woman's Heart. Check out my review here. If you want to be inspired about reading, feel like having a book club at your fingertips, or want a wide variety of books to put on your 'want-to-read' list, this book might be the thing for you!

A post from the archives:

A few readers have asked if I would explain how my book club was formed. If you want an 'official' word on the subject, try here, or maybe here, but the following is 'our story.'

A friend and I were enjoying chocolate desserts at a restaurant together. She mentioned that nothing would be better than a book club where everyone ate chocolate while talking about books. Because I am an organizer/planner, letters were typed up to a small group of ladies, and we had ourselves a planning meeting within a month or so.

I would suggest choosing a few ladies (or couples, or mixed group...) and setting up a time to meet and discuss your options.

Here are a few things to consider:

1. Who will be included in your group? How many members do you want to have? How will you invite new members?

For us, we started with a group of about 8 ladies. A few members invited family or friends, and after 2 or 3 years, we were up to 15. It has been our experience that 10-12 members is about right for us. We are now at 13 and don't plan on adding any new members unless we get down to 10, or so.

I would also suggest that any prospective new member be invited as a guest for a few months to see if they fit in with your group before formally adding them. It is amazing how one personality 'mismatch' can throw off the group dynamic.

Also, I would talk about commitment expectations. Not every member will be able to make it to every meeting or read every book, but you want some level of commitment to the group. Ask each person to be realistic about what kind of time and effort they can put in.

2. What will you read? How will you choose books? How many books would you like to read?

We are a fairly conservative group, so our book choices reflect that, but we don't have a specific type of book we read. I actually prefer a varied selection of classics, mystery, humor, non-fiction, Christian, and modern literature.

Previously we have just given out suggestions randomly and made up a schedule from there (usually trying to alternate 'heavy' books with lighter reading). This year we are being more specific. Each member has specifically suggested one book. We read one book a month.

3. Where will you meet? How often?

We meet in a different home each month. Having 13 members means that each person can host once a year, with one member opting out, or we can schedule more than a year out. This is another consideration when choosing the number of members in the group. 8-12 members fit fairly well in a living room. More, and it's tough to arrange everyone for an intimate discussion.

For the first few years, we scheduled specific days. We are now meeting on the last Thursday of every month. In November and December we will meet on the second Thursday.

4. Will there be food?

Now, I think this is one of the most important questions. Grin. We, of course, are the ChocLit Guild, where chocolate is as important as reading a book. Again, a different member brings dessert each month (not the same month as hostessing). Sometimes it is fancy, sometimes it is just brownies and ice cream. In December we have a cookie exchange. The hostess is responsible for providing dishes and beverages (usually tea or coffee, juice, and water).

5. What kind of book discussions would you like to have? Will there be a specific leader?

Our discussions have been spontaneous and laid back. With fewer members, this works fairly well. As the group has gotten larger, we have needed more structure. This year the member who suggested the book we've read will lead the discussion. Hopefully each individual will have more 'voice.'

We meet at 7 P.M. and the first half hour or more is mostly small talk. Our book discussions last an hour or two, and then we usually end up chatting until 10 or later.

Another consideration: A handful of the ladies in the group have young children. Not much would be accomplished at book club if children were there, however, in 3 1/2 years, seven babies have been born!! This means that nursing babies under a year old have been a delightful presence at our meetings. Also, because we are meeting past bedtime in the homes of these children, they usually make a short appearance at some point in the evening.

I would strongly encourage you to start your own club. It has truly been one of the shining joys in my life for the past few years. ChocLit Guild is one of the only things that I do for myself in this season of young children. It has encouraged me to read when I felt that I had other things I should be doing. It has gotten me out of the house and into the company of adults. It has given me something to look forward to when I felt mired down by soggy Cheerios and dirty diapers.

The pleasure of all reading is doubled when one lives [or talks] with another who shares the same books. ~Katherine Mansfield


Sarah at SmallWorld said...

I left a picture for you on my blog! Except now I'm traumatized because I reader rightly pointed out that the teapots are turned the wrong way, but I left a lengthy, though weak, defense in my comments!

Laura said...

Thanks for this, Heidi. I just watched THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB and realized that a book club could be so useful for me since I don't want to gossip, slander, or discuss other "real" people, but I still want to hash out thoughts about human nature, etc.; it's much kinder to talk about the people in books! :) Maybe I'll get a club started soon!