It’s October, finally. The swarm of back to school has abated—and perhaps made us a little nostalgic for long ago days of reading lists—and schedules are beginning to settle back into patterns. The weather is turning cooler, and rain pelts the window. In all, it’s the perfect time to curl up with a cup of tea (or something stronger) and a favorite book. It’s also National Reading Group Month and, we gotta say, sharing the joys of a great book with dear friends is almost enough to forgive the end of Daylight Savings Time.
Are you in a book club already? If not, why? Granted, sometimes book clubs get pegged as wine-sloshing gossip groups—we’ve gone to some like that, and they’re great fun—but they don’t have to be. Book clubs come in every style, from alumni reading groups led by professors, to re-reading children and young adult fiction from an adult perspective, from avant-garde sci fi to military history or memoirs. Just like there’s a book or genre for anyone, there’s also a book club.
Getting in to one—now, there’s the rub. If you’re looking for low initial commitment, we recommend checking out your local independent bookstore or public library. They often host public book clubs, providing the books in bulk (library) or even at a discount (bookstore). There’s seldom a need to RSVP or register; just slip into a chair to learn about and discuss Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone or Barbara Kingsolver’s latest. (See our list of some favorite indie bookstores and their reading groups below).
Other places to try would be that clearinghouse of social groups, meetup.com, or asking around at your office, gym, place of worship or favorite coffee shop. Someone has probably had this great collective reading impulse already, and it’s fairly simple to join a book club that’s already up and functioning; however, you’ll probably have to RSVP, perhaps provide snacks or take a turn leading, and it’s sometimes more difficult to make schedules align.
And if you’ve struck out at the coffee shop and the library? We suggest starting your own book club. It takes a little organization, but there’s also a lot more liberty in terms of location, reading specific genres, and so forth. Before you get started, take a few minutes and ponder what you want from your book club: do you want inciting commentary and scholarly contextualization or a reason to catch up over delicious desserts (or something in between)? To read the classics you only Cliff-noted in college or the fluffy summer fiction you missed? Do you want to read the collected works of one author? To reunite with old friends or get to know the neighbors better? Where will you meet, will you take turns leading and hosting with other members, and how large do you want the group to be (for meeting in a home or quiet cafe, 6-12 tends to be an ideal size)? Decide if you want refreshments and if they’ll be themed, homemade delectables, or simple cheese and crackers.
When you have a decent idea of what you want in terms of tone and theme, start floating it around your own social group and see who’s interested. Ask everyone to bring 2-3 book suggestions to a first, organizational meeting. Set some ground rules about how often (usually once a month) you’ll meet, where, and for how long. Discuss hosting and leading responsibilities as well. Ironing out a schedule can easily be the most difficult part of this process. Finally, discuss book suggestions and see if a clear favorite emerges for the next text. If not, take a vote, take turns or even toss them in a hat and draw the first few months’ of readings.
Next thing you know, you’ll be deep into plot points, authorial perspectives and crudités. You’ll be getting to know your books—and friends—more deeply, and what can better than that on a chilly autumnal evening?
To get off to the right start, you can shop book club tools that will keep you inspired, in-sync with your club, and organized. Try scheduling your chapters by due date in a new 2014 datebook. We’d recommend the planner+notes format - dates on the left, your thoughts of the book on the right. If you’d like to keep notes in an exclusive journal, you’ll love Paperblanks journals, with embellished manuscript covers from great authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald and other muses. If you’re into more of a polished/professional notebook, we’d recommend the Rhodia Webnotebook, Moleskine Classics, or the Blackwing Luxury Notebook. Of course, to write all your notes, you’ll love the Blackwing pencils, the preferred world-famous pencil of writers for it’s all around grace, smooth lead, and replaceable erasers. When you’re all wrapped up with your book, check out the unique format of the Moleskine Book Journal, an organized way to record your thoughts for an overall book review, with step by step prompts to draw the most out of your experience. To wrap it all up, carry your book club tool kit to your hip book club meetings in this uber-cool Moleskine Messenger Bag. With the right products, every page turn will bring your well-read adventures in your book club to life!
Here are some of our favorite indie bookstores (you can tell we spend more time in the West: what are your favorite East Coast and Southern bookshops?) and the reading groups they support:
Pasadena, CA: Vroman’s Bookstore
San Francisco, CA: Books, Inc.
Boulder, CO: Boulder Bookstore
Denver, CO: Tattered Cover
Washington, DC: Politics & Prose
Seattle, WA: Elliot Bay Books
Tell us: what is your book club currently reading?