Starting A Book Club At Work? 7 Tips For Making It A Success

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A new year is just around the corner, and people everywhere are looking for ways to make next year better than this one. Starting a book club at work can be a great way to enrich your workplace experience, but it can be tricky to get past your first meeting. Never fear! I've got seven tips for making your at-work book club a success.

The average American reads four books per year, which means your coworkers probably aren't reading as much as they should be. Starting a book club at work might entice those who want to read more and socially, but what about the people who aren't already book nerds? How do you bring them into your book club?

There are plenty of benefits to reading more books. Just 10 minutes of reading is enough to reduce stress levels by two thirds. It increases your writing, reading comprehension, analytical thinking skills, and memory capacity. And, most importantly, reading increases longevity. Send out a memo to alert your co-workers of the benefits of reading, and see if it doesn't generate more interest in your book club.

No matter why people join your book club at work, they aren't going to stick around if you don't give them a reason to keep coming back. Follow the seven rules below to ensure that your book club meetings are an enjoyable experience for all involved.

1. Pick Good Books

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This might seem like a no-brainer, but you shouldn't pick highly controversial books. That means no political or religious nonfiction. Yes, I'm sure Bill O'Reilly's books will prompt a lively debate, but your book club members might not be speaking to one another afterward.

So how do you find good books for your book club? Start by checking out the longlists for major literary awards, such as the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Man Booker Prize. Each December, check out end-of-year book selectors from NPR and other organizations to find books you might have missed, and add them to your TBR for the coming year. And remember: when in doubt, you can always check out the Oprah's Book Club master list for great recommendations.

2. Find Discussion Questions Online

We can't all be English majors. If your book club members are not accustomed to discussing what they read, your meetings may arrive at a standstill. To combat this, come prepared with book club discussion questions, whether it's your turn to lead the meeting or not. Most mainstream publishers offer discussion guides for hit titles on their websites, and generic questions about the possibility of a sequel or the believability of the dialogue will fit almost any novel.

3. Always Serve Food and Drink

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This should be a no-brainer, but seriously: let your people eat.

Depending on your time and venue, you may decide to have a full dinner, beer and pizza, a potluck, wine and tapas, or simple finger foods. One person may be responsible for the food each meeting, or everyone may be expected to bring snacks for the group. The possibilities are endless, just find something that works for you.

Figure out how you plan to feed your book club early on. Your members will thank you for it.

4. Make Sure Everyone Has Input

There's nothing worse than going to a book club and being talked over the entire time. For a newcomer, it could sour the entire book club experience! Make sure everyone who attends your book club has a chance to give their input.

Now, this will require a little finesse. Some people are more comfortable listening to others' ideas, but contributing very little to the discussion. If you ask someone what they think, but receive a response that indicates they are reluctant to share, don't push them. Your book club should be a place where everyone is comfortable and feels understood.

5. Keep Things Varied

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"Oh, look, another book with 'Girl' in the title. Ugh."

That's not a slight against the woman-centered thrillers that have dominated bestseller lists over the last few years, but a warning: if you pick books that are too similar, month after month, your readers will get bored, and their attendance and participation will dwindle. This is how book clubs die.

The easiest way to make sure that you keep things varied is to allow each member to choose a book in turn. If you do this, no one can complain that the group is not reading the kind of books they like. You should also encourage each member to pick different books whenever their turn comes up, to further increase the diversity of your book club reading.

6. Use Technology to Your Advantage

When you start a book club at work, you're probably going to spend a lot of time on Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, Slack, or just your plain old email to plan meetings and rules. Take things one step further by using Google Calendar, Facebook, or other event-scheduling apps to remind members about when meetings will take place and what their responsibilities are.

Although you should use technology to make planning your meetings easier, don't allow your chats to devolve into a full-on, pre-meeting book discussion. Your gatherings should offer book club members something they can't get online. Make sure your readers understand that, if the conversation gets out of control, attendance might suffer.

7. If Things Aren't Working, Make Changes

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This is the most important rule of any book club. Every bunch of people has different needs, and there is no model that will fit every workplace. If something isn't working for your group, don't be afraid to change it up. Remember: keeping people reading books and coming to club meetings is more important than holding to the rules you set in the beginning.

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