is a series of posts focused on all things book club related: discussions, listicles, how to’s and more!
One the most controversial topics when participating in a book club is deciding what book you will all read next. Depending on the group, this could lead to hours of debate, broken friendships, or even strange political dancing. Trust me, I’ve seen it all. For each group, the right book selection option is critical to maintaining the peace. Uncertain which would be best for your book club? Check out some popular options below!
This is a Dictatorship, Not a Democracy
The Dictatorship form of book selection is a popular one, no matter how unappealing it sounds with this silly title. In this form of book selection, one person gets to select the book for everyone.
This could show itself in many forms. For example, in celebrity book clubs, a single person heads the book group and picks for everyone. All the time. Who picks the books for Oprah’s Book Club? It’s sure not Ellen… This format works out well since a larger group of people come together to support these leaders and participate.
My personal favorite variation of this book selection form is a rotating leader. I find this works best when you rotate who hosts the discussion, as well. The host selects the book. Now, this could be that the CURRENT host selects the book for the NEXT meeting. Or the NEXT host will select the book for the NEXT meeting. Either way, this allows everyone to ensure a book they want to read is selected and discussed in a fair rotation.
This is a Democracy, Not a Dictatorship
Often the messiest way to select books, I find this is the most common way book clubs select their books. No matter how the book list is created, everyone gets to vote.
I’ve seen this done where one person selects 3-4 books everyone else can vote on, or where the whole group proposes reading materials to be voted upon. The results could just be for the next meeting, or it could help define all the books you will read throughout the year. For those of you in for the long haul, my favorite option here is to list the books in order of votes for your next few book club meetings. Foresight in reading options can be really useful for active participation– but that’s for a future post!
Yes, this option can be a bit tedious. You have to collect all the votes and tally them up. It can be quite a process! But, no matter the outcome, this is easily the fairest way to select a book and maintain the peace.
This is a Jackie-tatorship.
Yup. I went there. One of the book clubs I support is super indecisive. We have tried, many times, to collect book options and then vote. However, we don’t see each other often enough, and no one is great at email… and, well, we have ended up with many cycles where there has only been 1 week to read the book. O_o As you can imagine, this leads to an ineffective book club.
Our solution? Everyone who is interested proposes a book they are interested in reading (in this case, on a theme). Instead of voting, the Jackie-tator selects which book will be read from the proposed options. This means books are selected promptly without all the drama of waiting for votes, pestering people, feeling like those who were unable to attend can’t have a voice, etc. And obviously, as someone with a strange amount of power in this process: I love it.
Replace your book group leader’s name with “Jackie” and you’ve got a book selection process which is surprisingly effective.
Does the Library Have Enough Copies?
This could be a variation of any of the above book selection processes. For many groups, they don’t want to provide a financial burden on their members. These groups rely on the library. No matter what book is chosen, the laws of supply and demand are the super-villain in our selection process.
Often, I’ve seen groups select a book and have to go back to select a different one once they realize the library only holds two copies. If you are lucky, the group will be small enough that this doesn’t matter. Or, perhaps a member or two owns copies of the book they can lend out? Either way– always consider the available resources before selecting your book!
No matter what book club you are participating in, it’s essential all members come to an agreement on how books will be selected. I’ve seen groups change the selection process from meeting to meeting and I’ve seen groups stick with the same process for years. Remember to be flexible, patient, and open to new ideas. After all, the whole point is to discuss books– not get lost in the bureaucracy of book club politics!!
Check out other Building Better Book Clubs posts.
What do you think?
- What variation does your book club use to select books?
- Are there any book selection options missing?
- What are the other barriers in selecting your next book club book?
- If you were leading a book club, which of the options above would you prefer to use for book selection?