Building Better Book Clubs: Types of Book Clubs to Join

March 11, 2017






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?


  • Shouni March 11, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Great post, Jackie! I’ve only ever heard of private book clubs so the other ones were new to me. I’m actually kind of ashamed I didn’t know Emma Watson had a Goodreads book club even though I’m a huge Emma fan, I just joined so thank you for that. I’ve been in unofficial, private book clubs which is basically gathering with my friends and fangirling over books. I can be very reserved when it comes to publicly discussing books so that’s why I haven’t been in any public book clubs. I don’t know how you managed to be in so many book clubs/ Which of these are your favorites?

    • Jackie B March 13, 2017 at 12:36 pm

      I’m glad I could spread the good word and help connect you to Our Shared Shelf! I have really enjoyed everything which has come from that book club– plus the discussion threads are all very active. It’s easy to get lost in discussing feminism with the members for hours. 🙂 I hope you enjoy it and find great things there! The current book is not typical of what is read, though. This is a bit more academic than the usual books– so don’t let it intimidate you.

      There’s nothing wrong with “unofficial” book clubs! Those can be a ton of fun. I occasionally read a book or two with a girlfriend and discuss over a snack or meal. It can be a ton of fun, particularly when you are fan-girling. 🙂

      As far as types of book clubs are concerned, I think my favorite depends on my mood. It can be really nice to have a silent book club when I haven’t been taking time for myself lately. But, I’m not actively participating in one of those right now. Public book clubs are awesome when I want to get different opinions than my own. I find those are the most likely to open my eyes to the world in a different way. But, at the end of the day, I think hanging out with my girlfriends might be my favorite. I feel comfortable telling them my life stories and opening up to them. It makes for more intense conversation and often deepens my relationships with them. I know I for certain prefer in-person book clubs to online book clubs, but well, that’s a different post. 😀

  • Laila@BigReadingLife March 11, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    I think the silent reading group is a really cool idea. I don’t know if I could do it, because I get anxious/fidgety when things are too quiet, but I think anything that gets people reading is cool! Can’t wait to read more about it in a future post.

    • Jackie B March 13, 2017 at 12:38 pm

      Thanks, Laila! I know what you mean about the silence being a bit uncomfortable. Often, these groups meet in public places, so the rest of the world is still active around them. There might be music playing (some even have a musician come in to play acoustic guitar or something during their reading time) or other patrons doing their own thing. Do you ever read in a coffee shop or restaurant? I feel it’s a similar vibe, honestly. I’d love to see more of these pop-up. I agree– anything to get people reading!

  • LizScanlon March 12, 2017 at 7:01 am

    I love this post… I’ve never been to a book club nor have I found one locally.. yet, hence I was considering to see if there was people out there close to me who would be willing for it. I have started to make plans for advertising, finding the right place for meetings, etc… Your book club post (s) have given me some great guidance and ideas! Thank you

    • Jackie B March 13, 2017 at 12:40 pm

      Yay! I’m glad that I can help, Liis! It can be a challenge to start a book club, but don’t give up! Man. This makes me feel like I should start my posts about creating/running a book club before I get too much further. I have a whole list of posts prepped– I didn’t realize how far down the list those posts were! O_o Would that help? so many ideas, so little time.

      • LizScanlon March 13, 2017 at 2:47 pm

        Oh, of course share all them drafts! 🙂 But yes, I’d love to read some around creating/running a book club. I think you’ll have some seriously good advice to share! 🙂

        • Jackie B March 15, 2017 at 12:33 pm

          D’aw. You make me blush, Liis! I’ll make those more of a priority then. 🙂

  • Books, Vertigo and Tea March 12, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    Thank you for reminding me that there are definitely more than one type of book club/group in existence. I am certainly not a fan of them for obvious reasons we have touched on before, but think either a public or silent would be an easier approach for me 😉 I love the idea of Reader’s Night Out! I have seen a few of these listed. If I drove, I would totally go haha. I love this feature now as much as I did when you first mentioned it <3

    • Jackie B March 13, 2017 at 12:49 pm

      Yup, I totally understand. Are there any public spaces nearby you could walk to? Perhaps they could be convinced to host a silent book club! Or, as a future post will elaborate on, you might be interested in joining an online book group. Again, no pressure. You do what works for you. 🙂 For example, blogging is really working well! You get so much attention– everyone loves your blog. <3 That's a great avenue for discussion.

      • Books, Vertigo and Tea March 13, 2017 at 5:46 pm

        There are some places nearby. Maybe not walking distance, but I am learning to Uber 😉 We have great public transportation, but I am not supposed to go at it alone haha. I am very intrigued by this future posy and online club now 😉

        I do really enjoy blogging. It has been such a healthy and rewarding outlet. Not sure that my blog is getting as much attention as you say, but I certainly love this community!

        • Jackie B March 16, 2017 at 3:42 pm

          Pft. You blog gets all the *right* kinds of attention, and that is what matters. I don’t know how you keep up with it all! Black magic, I assume. 😉

  • Amanda @Cover2CoverMom March 12, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    Ahhhh! I had no idea there was such a thing as a Silent Book Club!!! I didn’t even know this was an option, but now that I do I may just start my own…. and not ask anyone to join THEN I can tell my husband that I am going to the local café for “Book Club” I technically would be telling the truth. In all seriousness, I would love to try a silent book club, but I would think these would last longer than a typical book club meeting since you are spending time reading and then discussing? Maybe not the best for those of us that are short on time…

    I participate in a private book club right now and I love it! It was actually my sister-in-law’s book club, then she brought be along and the rest was history. It works out well because we are all so very different minded, and I don’t know these women outside of book club, so I get the best of a private AND public(ish) book clubs. I used to participate in a few Goodreads book clubs, but once I started blogging and accepting ARCs, I decided something had to give. I find that I enjoy my in-person book club more then I ever did my online book club. There is just something about getting together in person with people who share similar interests that you just can’t beat!

    • Jackie B March 13, 2017 at 12:55 pm

      Hahaha. I love your sneaky idea! I promise not to tell. 😉 You don’t have to discuss after the silent book club. I just know that some do, so it can be more of a time crunch. That said, my book clubs tend to have a wide variety of different timeframes. The chapter of Our Shared Shelf I host typically talks for upwards of 3 hours when we meet! It is a lot of time, but it goes by so quickly. We tell a lot of stories and hear a lot of different opinions. So, you just need to ensure the book club you’re participating in is appropriate for your needs!

      I love it when people organically join book clubs. As time passes, lots of private book clubs tend to change organically. New people in particular really shake things up. It’s nice to have a group of women like that to talk to! I also totally understand how Goodreads groups have gotten put on the back burner. That happened to me too. I love in-person book clubs. I completely agree– talking in person builds such strong connections! It’s hard to beat. 😀

  • YAandWine March 12, 2017 at 9:17 pm

    I’m still astounded by the number of book clubs you’re in! This is a great post with incredibly valid points. I LOVE my book club, but it definitely took a few failed attempts to finally be able to create the book club I really wanted.

    • Jackie B March 13, 2017 at 11:11 am

      Haha- thanks, Krysti. I’m not actively in all these types of book clubs right now, but they all have their own appeal! It’s great to hear that you had some failed attempts, actually. I personally think that we learn the most from failure. Perhaps you’d be interested in writing a guest post later this year around your lessons learned? It would be great to hear from others about their personal book club experiences!

  • YAandWine March 13, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    I’d love to. I feel like I’ve mastered the art of the YA book club at least at this point.:)

  • theorangutanlibrarian March 13, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    Great post! I certainly didn’t know about silent book clubs! I like the sound of the themed ones!

    • Jackie B March 15, 2017 at 12:35 pm

      Do you participate in any book clubs? Or have you in the past?

      • theorangutanlibrarian March 16, 2017 at 8:35 pm

        I haven’t actually- I suppose I didn’t feel like I needed it at school or uni- I think now would be a good time to join one though!

  • Diana March 15, 2017 at 5:51 am

    Great post! I didn’t know about all these types of book-clubs. I think that there is a public book-club in my town but I have never attended it. My book-club is private though the level of commitment is slowly going down so I may look for another one. The Emma Watson bookclub sounds interesting 🙂

    • Jackie B March 15, 2017 at 12:36 pm

      That’s the tricky part about private book clubs! They can dissipate easily. I have a few book clubs which have gone that direction, but I’ve just built more to pop-up in their stead. Any idea why commitment might be dropping?

      • Diana March 16, 2017 at 12:00 am

        I think life happened. 3 of our members are currently pregnant, two just had babies, one member is in Canada now and in medical school, another one in Britain. The rest of us are just caught up doing other stuff like school, work, family.So, just life I guess.

        • Jackie B March 16, 2017 at 3:43 pm

          Ain’t that the truth? One of my book clubs fizzled apart because everyone involved got married, moved away, had babies– life events seem to muck everything up for a quality book club. Hopefully things will mend, or perhaps you’ll find a new one which meets your needs!

  • Essers March 15, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    Another great Jackie post! For people that are wanting to start a book club, I may have a suggestion. I moved to a new neighborhood last year, so I joined to keep up on what was going on in my immediate area. Someone posted that they were going to start a book club for folks who were close by, and they got a ton of responses. Now that it’s been going for about eight months, we’re down to about 10 people who show up regularly. I love it because we were all just totally random people, but we’ve got this common thing to talk about. It’s more social than literary, as you would expect, but that’s what I was looking for.

    • Jackie B March 15, 2017 at 3:02 pm

      D’aw. Thanks, Annie! That means a lot to me.

      That’s a great tip– that you for sharing! I know my neighborhood has a book club which started through, as well. I really should look into it, but the world knows I don’t need another book club. 😀 I love how the internet can bring people of differing background together in person like this.

  • Grab the Lapels March 19, 2017 at 11:33 am

    I think the two easiest ways to join book clubs are definitely check out your library and also, which is a website for all SORTS of groups. You type in your zip code and it tells you everything near you. Be kind, though: if you don’t like the group, unfollow it on them! We have probably a hundred people who are “in” our meetup book club, and only 3-4 constantly active members.

    • Grab the Lapels March 19, 2017 at 11:35 am

      Oh! And what about online book clubs? There are so many, especially on Goodreads, but they come with challenges, life SO many people involved (though people can close the group so others don’t get involved).

      • Jackie B March 20, 2017 at 5:23 pm

        Meetup is a great additional option; I never thought about that! What a great way to find a book club. I’ll have to look into that, if only to see what the experience is like. 🙂 Thanks for the pro tip!

        I don’t really think of online book clubs as a different “type”, so much as a different format. I have an upcoming post discussing the differences between meeting in person vs. meeting online. I’ve seen all of theses types of book clubs appear online too, even the sitting in silence reading kind! Mostly, that’s a Twitter-related-readthon-style thing, but, well, it still happens. I’ll look forward to your input on that comparison in the future.

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