8 Ways To Make A Book Club Work Better

Now that my friends and I are six months into our adult lives and compulsory college assignments are finally over, we’ve organized the book club we always talked about having during school. Our first choice: Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You . Things aren't smooth sailing, though; it's been hard to find a way to make book club a consistent thing with everyone living in different places and on random schedules now that we've graduated. Still, as I'm putting together our book club, I'm learning book club ideas that work — and those that don't — for starting something new.

Yes, the fact that we're all now far apart and don't have the kind of time for reading that we did in school makes me miss the days at university when we all lived within a 10-minute radius, and reading is all we did. But it's exciting now that we're at a point in our lives when we can actually read for pleasure — something that we NEVER did in school. (Yep, The Lowland sat on my desk for a couple of months before I got past the first chapter, even though I had preordered it months earlier.)

So, since my book-nerd friends and I are finally getting our book club going, I want to share what I've learned about making a post-graduation book club work. Through my trial and error, hopefully you can get your book club off the ground the way that you always wanted to, too — and keep some of your college besties in your life along the way. Here are some book club ideas for making your first gathering great.

Make Time to Actually Read the Book

Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images News/Getty Images

This might seem glaringly obvious, but it happens (you know who you are). FYI, if you haven’t read the book yet, you are not excluded from participating in our conversation, but you are not allowed to complain about spoilers. But just make everyone’s life easier and stick to the plan, OK?

Set a Specific Deadline and Stick to It


When you’re among friends, it’s easy to be lax. “We’ll finish it soon” — yes, but when? How many afternoons should I carve out of my schedule to sit down and read the book? If there’s one thing we learned in college, it’s that self-motivation is hard after a busy day of doing things. Book club should absolutely not feel like a chore, but structure is never a bad thing, right? People perform better when they know what is expected of them. At least that’s what we’ll tell ourselves instead of admitting that we need some motivation.

Make Sure Your Book Club Feels Like An Event, and Build In Other Traditions Around It

You come to me and I’ll come to you. Let’s be real — it’s just another excuse to visit each other, right? And you know that we need plenty of those since we’re not living within the same 10-mile radius anymore. Also, you’ll be much more likely to stick to book club rules if you know that some sort of reward awaits. Who doesn’t love brunch? No? Boozy brunch? We got this.

You Can Use Skype, Too — But It's Not Ideal


If your friends are more than an easy drive away, you might have to meet with Skype. So much business is conducted via Skype these days that book club should be no problem. (For Google loyalists: Google Hangout is fine, too.) Let me be clear, though: I’m only advocating for Skype at times when you have to keep to the deadline but can’t stick to your usual plan. If you’re just being lazy, get your butt off the couch and come talk books with us — over food.

Take Turns Being In Charge


You’ll get your turn to choose the book club book. And when you do, you’ll be in charge of coordinating that month’s meeting! (It's a thankless job, but someone has to do it.) You can use this opportunity to tackle your own never-ending list of books you’ve been meaning to read.

Keep Thigns Interesting


I know when we think of book club picks, we typically imagine bestsellers, or those novels shortlisted for the Pulitzer, Man Booker, or another prestigious literary prize. But this is your book club — feel free to read whatever you want! A collection of short stories, some nonfiction, maybe even an audiobook narrated by the author him or herself for those friends who never seem to be able to complete their reading in time (now they have no excuse!)

Pick Manageable Books


Sure, books like The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton or The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee might seem like great book club picks (they are wonderful novels, I highly recommend!), but at 832 pages and 528 pages respectively, they aren’t exactly breezy reads you’d be able to get through in a weekend. It’s important to be realistic about your goals if you’re serious about sticking to a schedule.

Make a Wish List For What You Want to Read

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images News/Getty Images

We all did it in college. Daniel Deronda just had too many pages! Or even think back to high school. Remember all those books you should’ve read, but just so happened to conveniently have SparkNotes versions that you could skim the night before a paper was due? Yeah, read those. This time, the real version.

Image: Fe Ilya, Amit Gupta/Flickr; Getty Images