is a series of posts focused on all things book club related: discussions, listicles, how to’s and more!
Picking a type of book group to join can be intimidating. There are many options, but some can feel very exclusive. On behalf of the bookish community, I apologize if you feel left out! Below is a list of the types of book clubs I see most often, tips for how to join them, and a ranking for commitment level and ease of joining. Check these out and see if any of these groups speak to you. If so, explore your community and see what is available! All of these types of book clubs have different levels of commitment which can vary by group, but removes some of the stress related to book clubs.
When most people think of book clubs, this is what they consider: A select group of friends/family/coworkers/etc. getting together to discuss a book they have chosen. This is the most common type of in-person book club in my experience. These tend to pop-up organically when a group of friends want to read the same book. Sometimes, these groups are really just an excuse to get together and socialize while there is a book in your hand. But other times, discussing books in these settings can be the best way to deepen the relationships you have. This sort of group definitely covers the gamut from focused bookishness to “let’s just have an excuse to hang out”. If you are interested in joining on, always as a member of the group what they think. Often, this will need to get vetted with the other members. When in doubt, start one of your own!
Commitment Level: 3/5 – You know these people. They will probably judge you for not reading the book, but they will forgive you just as easily.
Ease of Joining: 1/5 – It’s a private book club for a reason! Prepare to be vetted by the existing club.
Example – Hanging out with your friends for brunch on Saturday, occasionally chatting about the book, but mostly catching up.
Chatting with just your friends can be great. But sometimes the best discussion happens when you are AWAY from like-minded people. When a group of only loosely connected people get together you’ll get a wide variety of thoughts and opinions. Often, community centers, schools, and public libraries will host these sorts of book groups. That said, the internet is making it easier with each passing month to make other opportunities for these groups to appear. Conveniently, these groups are available to anyone who shows up! The challenge with these groups often spins around the social anxieties of sharing with strangers. While discussions in these sorts of book clubs are always fascinating, they might not be as deep as conversations with those you have personal connections with. I strongly encourage anyone who wants to attend a public book group to bring a friend the first time. It helps. 🙂
Commitment Level: 1/5 – If you show up and don’t enjoy yourself, you never have to come back. Or, you don’t even have to read the book. Sometimes you just want to sit and listen.
Ease of Joining: 5/5 – You walk in, you walk out. These groups have the lowest stress about them for sure.
Example – Library-hosted book group. There are 25 of you. About 15 speak up. No one cares, it’s all cool.
This book group is focused on reading and discussing materials which are more business and self-help oriented. Frequently found in the workplace, community centers, or through a religious organization, these groups focus on how to apply what has been read to your life. The focus is how you as an individual, or within a group, can grow and improve. While often times reading a “development” book for work might seem like a chore, talking about it with your peers can be surprisingly beneficial. These groups could be public or private, and I’ve seen them hosted often in private homes. Lastly, these groups don’t always have to read business or self-help books. Instead, you might be asked to reflect on how this book has affected you personally and how you can grow from these experiences. There are always personal conversations had in these groups. Pretty heady stuff. Often times, these sorts of groups exist already in your community. If you know of one, I encourage you to just stop by. Often these groups are open and excited to new members. If you don’t know of one, I encourage you to ask those you consider to be thought leaders in the areas you want to develop. They will point you in the right direction.
Commitment Level: 4/5 – Most people are here to learn, grow, and take action on what they read. Be prepared to share your reflections and how you will apply your new knowledge!
Ease of Joining: 3/5 – The tricky part is finding them. Once you do, it’s easy. New voices are always welcome here!
Example – Bible study. I’m serious!
Themed book groups might seem really simple, but they are some of the more complicated book groups to manage. While these can be similar to public and private book groups, the trick is that all books are read on a certain theme. You might only read a single author or genre, or perhaps even have another theme (such as Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf group focusing on equality of the sexes through reading). This lends itself well to intense discussion on the theme, but it can be challenging to pick the next book as most attendees are often passionate and well-read in these areas. Passions run high in these sorts of groups. Be prepared for debate. Treat joining this group just the same as the public and private groups above.
Commitment Level: 4/5 – These discussions can get intense. If you want to participate for real, you best have read the book!
Ease of Joining – Private Groups: 1/5 – Just like the private groups above, you will need to be vetted first!
Ease of Joining – Public Groups: 4/5 – Sometimes, even a public group like this can come across as clique-ish. Give them a chance, and I know you’ll enjoy it.
Example – The Jane Austen Reading Group. Science Fiction/Fantasy Club. Our Shared Shelf (focusing on equality of the sexes)
Exactly what it sounds like. This is the most low-key type of book group. For many people, it can be a challenge to find time for reading. There are book clubs popping up all over the world where everyone gets together and just reads. Perhaps there is an introduction where everyone meets each other, food is shared, or conversation happens after a duration of reading. But the goal is always the same: Sit in silence and read. Often, these book groups will set a duration for reading. Once the timer is set, no one speaks until the reading period is over. Particularly if you are someone who struggles to focus when reading or with setting aside the time to read, this might be the type of book club for you! Most of these sorts of groups meet in very public places and you just sign up. [We’ll explore this sort of book group more in future posts!]
Commitment Level: 3/5 – Hey! It can be hard to only read when you’re surrounded by bookish people with amazing books in their hands.
Ease of Joining: 4/5 – Like the Growth and Development groups, once you find them, it’s easy to stick around.
Example – Silent Book Club. Reader’s Night Out.
It might (or might not) shock you to know that I have participated in all of these different types of book groups! I feel like there are pros and cons to both. Just make certain when you select a book club to join that you have chosen the right variety for you. If you feel left out, or are unable to locate a pre-existing book club which fits your tastes, I encourage you to start you own. Future posts will cover tips and tricks for starting and hosting a book club. But, in our next Building Better Book Clubs post, I’ll be exploring the pros and cons of in-person vs. online book groups. Believe it or not, all of these types of groups can be facilitated both ways successfully! I can’t wait to explore more about book clubs with you.
What do you think?
- What other types of book clubs do you know of?
- Do you participate in any of these types of book clubs? Are any of them new to you?
- What is your favorite type of book club to participate in?
- What are your tips for joining a new-to-you book club?