How I Created My First Book Club

A few months ago, I decided to start a book club in Sanford. Surprisingly, I’d never really been part of a book club before. At the onset of the pandemic, a few friends and I tried to organize a virtual one, but it fizzled out in the chaos of 2020. Everyone’s schedules were unpredictable, and I think we all got tired of a strictly online-based discussion.

Now that things are hopefully settling down in North Carolina, I’ve decided to given an in-person book club a go.

Why did I decide to start a book club? I had several reasons:

  • Boredom. I wanted more social interaction. I live in a small town where it’s difficult to make new friends because everyone already has established friend groups. I figured that a book club would help me meet like-minded people who are actively seeking new groups.
  • Accountability. My TBR list is beyond help at this point. If I’m organizing a book club, I’d better stay on top of the reading. Otherwise, it’s just awkward!
  • Diversity. A book club can help me get more book suggestions from others. That way, I don’t get stuck in a genre-rut or run out of book ideas.

When it came to the logistics of organizing an in-person book club, I wasn’t exactly sure what I even wanted that to look like. I’d heard a lot of book clubs center around wine and gossip, but I already knew that wasn’t quite my thing. First, I don’t drink alcohol so I’d be a terrible wine buddy, and second, I don’t know nearly enough people to have a deluge of scandalous stories on hand at any given time.

But I do know that I love to read and talk about books. So I figured why not just start there?

Where I Found Members for My Book Club

I used Meetup to organize the Sanford Book Club. I’ve adored this platform for over a decade now and have used it for finding fun groups in multiple cities. My husband already has his own organizer account on there. This account lets you organize up to three groups, so I just created the book club through there. Our organizer fee is about $14.99/month (total for those three groups) but members join the group for free.

Several people in and outside Sanford have joined, including a few people I already knew. At the moment, we’re up to about 30+ members, although many of them haven’t participated in an event yet. Recently, I’ve been considering creating some flyers to post around town since my small town doesn’t usually have a lot of Meetup events in general (meaning fewer people know about/use Meetup here). I’ve also posted on Nextdoor and Facebook, which are popular social media apps in these parts.

What My Book Club Does (Besides Read!)

When I first started the club, I knew that I wasn’t going to only want to discuss the books we read, but of course, that would be a big component of it. We meet on the fourth Saturday of each month to talk about that month’s book. Meeting later in the month gives us more time to finish reading.

Other activities we’ve already done or plan to do in the near future include:

  • Reading in the park. Now that fall is just around the corner, I want to curl up with a good book in the park. Cozy scarves, blankets, and steaming cups of cider are just some of the accessories in the works.
  • Book swaps. Most of our bookshelves are overflowing. Lending books to a friend is a great way to spread the word about our favorite authors and to get into a genre or subject matter you may not have initially considered.
  • Virtual social hours. Sometimes it can feel a bit awkward to suddenly meet up with a bunch of strangers, even if you’re pretty sure you’ve got similar interests. I’ve got a virtual social hour planned this month as a lowkey way to get to know each other.
  • Movie nights. One of the book club members and I went to see Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (incredibly cute story with beautiful dresses). I’m keeping my eye out for other movies based on books. Movie nights are a good way to hype yourself up for finishing a book, too.
  • Writing events. Many of the members of the book club not only like to read books but are writing them as well. I’ve organized a couple of virtual writing events so that we can dedicate time to our works in progress (WIPs) with plenty of support. These have been great for keeping me in check with my cozy mystery progress.

Where My Book Club Meets

Of course, the event location for each meeting depends on the type of event. Our monthly book discussions take place at an adorable local coffeeshop, The Eyelight Café & Comics. The staff is super nice, the coffee and tea are both amazing, and there are lots of comic books and beautiful plants for sale.

I’m also trying to create more events that take place around the community. That’s why I’m on the lookout for parks we can read in, restaurants we could meet at (maybe when they match the theme of the book), bookstores to visit, and so on.

I’m also trying to incorporate more virtual opportunities for those times when people just don’t want to go out. Besides planning Zoom/Google Meet sessions, I’ve recently discovered the Fable platform. Fable is a fairly new app devoted to book clubs. It’s a bit “clunky” to use in its current iteration, but I think it’s got a lot of potential and am excited to see how it evolves over time.

With Fable, you can join an established book club or create your own for free (although there are some premium clubs available). Members discuss the book via text, chapter by chapter. The chapter breakdown for discussions is really helpful for avoiding spoilers.

Do you have tips for starting a book club? What challenges have you experienced? Leave your questions and comments below!

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