How to Structure a Meeting
Basic Ground Rules
- Members who haven’t read the book. Come anyway. Not everyone can finish every book, but non-readers may still have valuable insights.
- Disagreements about the book. Be gracious! There is no one way to experience or interpret a book. In fact, differing opinions are good.
- Members who prefer to socialize. Be gentle but firm. Insist that discussion time be limited to the book. Some clubs hold book discussions first and invite "social members" to join afterward.
- Dominating personalities. Never easy. “Let’s hear from some others” is one approach. Some clubs pass an object around the room; you talk only when you hold the object. If the person continues to dominate, a friendly phone call (no e-mail) might work. If all fails, well...sometimes they've just got to go—for the good of the club.
1. Allow 2 to 2-1/2 hours per meeting
- 30-45 min. — social time
- 15-20 min. — club administrative matters
- 60-90 min. — book discussion
2. Establish a format. Find what works for everyone and stick with it.
Holding the Discussion
1. With a leader
- Appoint a club member—whoever selected the book or the person who is hosting. Some clubs have one member who enjoys leading all discussions.
- Invite an outside facilitator (English teacher or librarian), paid or unpaid.
2. Without a leader
- Take turns going around the room, allowing each member to talk about his or her experience reading the book.
- Hand out index cards. Ask everyone to write a question or observation; then select one or more to discuss.
How to Select Books
Some Do's & Don'ts
- Don't read favorites. Reading a book someone "just loves" can lead to hurt feelings—like inviting people into your living room to critique your decor. Ouch. Best to stay on neutral territory.
- Do mix genres. A steady diet of one thing can be dull, dull, dull. Try interspersing fiction—current and classic—with nonfiction: poetry, history, or biography.
- Do explore themes. Focus on a specific author, travel journals, childhood memoirs, books on food, or a literary issue (family, loss, working of fate). Don't do it for the whole year (see #2 above), maybe just 3 or 4 months.
- Don't choose for the whole year. It ties you into a rigid year-long schedule with no flexibility to add exciting new works you might learn about. And it's unfair for those who miss that one meeting.
- Do choose 2 or 3 at a time. This allows members to read at their own pace. It's especially helpful for those who travel or miss a meeting or two.
Ways to Select
- Vote -- All members make suggestions, followed by an open discussion, and vote.
- Rotate -- Members take turns, each choosing a book for a given month.