Thanks to my sponsor St Martin’s Press, I’m sharing about Kristin Hannah’s newest page-turner!
I joined my first book club when my children were small and I remember both how rewarding it felt to use my brain again and the challenges of carving time out to read. The beauty in being a part of that group though was that it pushed me to read books that were outside of my typical genre.
Historical fiction, for example, had never been on my radar until I joined a club.
Ironically, it is now my favorite genre.
Have you thought about hosting a book club? I have had the pleasure of hosting a local group and an online group and today I wanted to share 7 tips and strategies I’ve found for hosting a successful book club.
7 Tips for Hosting a Successful Book Club
1. Create Your Book Club Circle
Book clubs can be an opportunity to cultivate existing friendships or an opportunity to widen your net. If you don’t have an existing set of close friends, this can be a great way to get to know people from other contexts of your life. Consider starting a group through your church, with your neighborhood friends, a mom’s group, with your coworkers, your gym buddies, or as a way to get to know other moms at your child’s school.
Keep in mind, this club does not need to be just women either because men can add another dynamic to your book club discussions. If you have couples that you love to spend time with, for example, consider asking if they might like to meet up monthly for dinner and a book chat. I know that some of my best book discussions have happened when enjoying an evening with friends.
2. Have an Organized Kickoff Meeting
The quickest way for a book club to fizzle out is to not have a plan and get your members involved. With everyone’s busy schedules, it can be difficult to get a committed group and keep them committed for an entire year (or more).
In the past, our mimosa kickoff usually starts in September, once the kids have headed back to school. With a little more time in our schedules (sort of), it gives us a chance to regroup and make book selections. I ask each member to come with a book in mind and a month that they would like to host our chat. Allowing each person to make a selection and host gives everyone a chance to feel a part of things and allows the group leader to just micromanage the logistics.
3. Pick Books That Can Sustain a Discussion
The best books that we have talked about have meat to them and naturally cultivate an incredible discussion. Books with shallow plots are probably better for your beach bag than your book club discussion.
Stumped for a book selection this year?
Can I make a great recommendation for you?
As I disclosed earlier, I am partnering with St. Martin’s Press to share about Kristin Hannah’s latest novel and I TRULY believe this is a perfect pick for your book club reading.
I , honestly, would read anything Kristin Hannah writes, but her last few books have been among my favorite. The Great Alone is a contemporary coming-of-age story that is set in the seventies in rural Alaska. In this story, a former POW father comes home from the Vietnam War completely mentally changed from his experiences there. His behavior and decision-making is wildly erratic and when a property becomes available in rural Alaska, he decides that they should seize the opportunity to live off the grid and make a different life for themselves.
Braving harrowing and life-threatening conditions is what it is all about and thirteen-year-old Leni is caught in the middle of it all as they attempt to carve a new life in the wild frontier.
Living off the grid is not all it is cracked up to be and neither is surviving the difficult Alaska winters. Hannah writes so eloquently about this impossible marriage and the honest struggle of a Vietnam veteran.
As you can see, from my description alone, this has so many elements for discussion. The plot brings on the challenges of PTSD in veterans, what it is like to live with a mentally ill family member, homesteading (and if YOU could survive it), and if you would stay with your partner if they were putting your family through a potentially life-threatening lifestyle.
When I say that books have to have meat for discussion, you can be assured that there would be MUCH to talk about with, The Great Alone.
Look for books like these where the description alone showcases what kinds of ideas you could discuss in your book chats.
4. Don’t Be Afraid of Controversial Plots
One thing I have worried about is picking books that have controversial plots that might make people feel uncomfortable. What has surprised me though is that these are usually our very best discussions and that it is, truly, okay to have different viewpoints.
The way I lead these discussions though is that I ask that things are said with kindness and love, even if you don’t necessarily agree with one another. In an online discussion, I can swiftly delete comments that aren’t said with kindness, but that is a bit more tricky in an in-person book club.
Even in these tricky moments though, leading by asking everyone to be kind has always been a successful way to start a thoughtful conversation and I have never had any issues after stressing this importance.
It can be scary leading a controversial discussion, but I was surprised how it changed people’s viewpoints or hearing about someone’s personal story and why it made them feel differently than me. A recent discussion of a story on immigration, for example, lead to people sharing how it completely changed their viewpoint on the deportation process.
It makes me wish we had more kind and honest talks and how they could bring compassion to our discussions.
5. Prepare For Your Discussion
Discussion questions are so helpful to have, especially when first beginning your chats. I have found that selecting books with discussion questions already in place can be extremely helpful and relieve a lot of stress on leading a talk. The Great Alone, for example, already has a great discussion outlined for you.
I try to not limit our discussions to just outlined questions though. If it is a historical fiction book, for example, it helps to look up the true stories and images from that time in history. Reading or finding author interviews that explain why the author decided to write a book can also add a lot to a discussion.
6. Have Each Host/Hostess Decide How They Want to Host
I am happiest when I am entertaining our friends and family. It brings me great joy to share my table with them and feed them my food. Since this book is set mostly outdoors, I set up our outdoor table for a discussion.
It doesn’t have to be complicated though. This meat and cheese board, for example, is a fun way to share food with your book club friends without even cooking.
Sharing book club in the morning? Change the charcuterie board to a bagel board and load it with bagels and toppings.
The truth is, most people don’t love entertaining. It may bring them great stress, they may hate cooking, or they may be juggling a huge plate of craziness and can’t possibly add one more thing to their plates.
I GET IT.
Let each host/hostess decide how, where, and when works for them.
Food is not required to have a gathering.
Cooking is not required to have a gathering.
Opening YOUR home up is not required to have a gathering.
Allow each person to choose their style of hosting however or wherever they want to do it.
Book club should be fun and not stressful!
7. It’s All Too Much? Try an Online Club!
Painfully introverted? Haven’t found your people? Working full-time? New to town? Homeschooling? Single mom? Full plate?
Adding one more thing to your agenda can be an impossible task when you already have so much going on. Online book clubs can be an incredible option for someone that desires a book club, but just can’t make that happen in their day-to-day life.
You can join the free MomAdvice Book Club and be a part of a monthly discussion all year long!
The Great Alone is available in stores now and is highly recommended for your next book club chat!
To learn more:
Like Kristin Hannah on Facebook
Follow St. Martin’s Press on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram
Do you have a tip for hosting a successful book club? Let me know in the comments below!
Thanks to my sponsor St Martin’s Press. All thoughts and opinions are my own.