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How to Start a Book Club in 12 Steps

Starting a book club can be a rewarding experience that brings people together to share their love for literature. Whether you're an avid reader or someone looking to cultivate a reading habit, a book club can provide a supportive and engaging environment. In this comprehensive guide, we'll walk you through How to Start a Book Club in 12 Steps, from planning and organizing to maintaining a successful reading community.

How to Start a Book Club in 12 Steps

Table of Contents

  1. Choosing a Theme and Purpose

  2. Selecting Members

  3. Setting Guidelines and Expectations

  4. Selecting Books

  5. Determining Meeting Frequency and Format

  6. Creating a Comfortable Meeting Space

  7. Food

  8. Discussion Strategies

  9. Utilizing Online Platforms

  10. Managing Logistics

  11. Handling Conflicts

  12. Evaluating and Evolving

  • FAQs

1. Choosing a Theme and Purpose

Finding Your Club's Identity

Before diving into the logistics, consider the theme and purpose of your book club. Are you interested in exploring a specific genre, author, or time period? Define your club's identity to attract like-minded individuals.

Examples of Themes

  • Contemporary Fiction

  • Classic Literature

  • Mystery and Thriller

  • Non-Fiction Exploration

  • Cultural Diversity

2. Selecting Members

Building a Diverse Community

A successful book club thrives on diverse perspectives. Consider inviting friends, colleagues, and acquaintances with different backgrounds, ages, and interests. A mix of viewpoints can enrich discussions and broaden reading selections.

Membership Criteria

  • Open Invitation

  • Invite-Only

  • Demographic Considerations

3. Setting Guidelines and Expectations

Establishing Ground Rules

To ensure a harmonious environment, establish guidelines and expectations. This can include rules for respectful communication, attendance policies, and how book selections are made.

Sample Guidelines

  • Respectful Discourse

  • Attendance Policies

  • Rotation of Discussion Leaders

  • Consensus on Book Selections


1. Respectful Discourse:

  • Listen Actively: Encourage members to listen attentively when others are speaking, allowing everyone to express their thoughts without interruption.

  • Open-mindedness: Emphasize the importance of considering different perspectives. Members should be open to diverse interpretations and opinions about the book.

  • Constructive Criticism: Foster an environment where members can offer critiques or disagreements in a constructive and respectful manner. Avoid personal attacks and focus on the ideas presented.

  • Use "I" Statements: Encourage members to express their opinions using "I" statements to avoid sounding accusatory. For example, "I feel that..." instead of "You always..."

  • Respect Personal Boundaries: Remind members to be mindful of personal boundaries and avoid sensitive topics that may make others uncomfortable.

2. Attendance Policies:

  • Regular Attendance: Encourage members to attend meetings regularly to maintain a cohesive and engaging discussion. Consistent participation contributes to the overall experience.

  • Communication: Establish a communication method for members to notify the group if they cannot attend a meeting. This can include a group chat, email, or a dedicated platform.

  • Participation Expectations: Clearly outline expectations regarding participation, emphasizing that active involvement enriches the collective experience.

  • Flexible Attendance: Acknowledge that life happens, and there may be occasional absences. However, stress the importance of commitment to the club.

3. Rotation of Discussion Leaders:

  • Volunteer System: Implement a rotating system where members take turns leading discussions. This ensures that everyone gets a chance to contribute in a leadership role.

  • Preparation: Establish expectations for discussion leaders to come prepared with discussion questions, insights, or any relevant background information about the book.

  • Support and Feedback: Encourage positive feedback after each discussion leader's session. This can be done through a structured feedback system or open discussion.

  • Encourage Diverse Leadership Styles: Emphasize that discussion leaders can bring their unique style to the meetings, allowing for diverse approaches to leading discussions.

4. Consensus on Book Selections:

  • Nomination Process: Implement a democratic process for selecting books. Members can nominate titles, and the group can vote on the next book to read.

  • Diverse Genres and Authors: Encourage a variety of book genres and authors to cater to different tastes within the group. Rotate between fiction, non-fiction, classics, and contemporary works.

  • Book Selection Calendar: Establish a calendar for book selections to allow members to plan ahead. This can be done quarterly, bi-monthly, or annually.

  • Discussion and Veto Process: Discuss potential books before finalizing the selection. Provide an opportunity for members to express concerns or suggest alternatives. Include a process for resolving disagreements.

4. Selecting Books

Curating a Diverse Reading List

Diversify your reading list to keep members engaged. Rotate genres, authors, and formats to cater to various tastes. Encourage members to suggest books and create a schedule for future selections.

Reading List Example


Book Title



"The Silent Patient"

Alex Michaelides



Tara Westover


"The Great Gatsby"

F. Scott Fitzgerald

5. Determining Meeting Frequency and Format

Planning Regular Gatherings

Decide on the frequency of your meetings, whether it's monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly. Additionally, establish the meeting format—virtual or in-person—and the duration of each session.

Meeting Format Options

  • In-Person Gatherings

  • Virtual Meetings (Zoom, Google Meet)

  • Hybrid Model


  • Flexible Meeting Structure: Allow for some flexibility in the meeting structure. While maintaining a basic agenda, be open to organic discussions and member-led initiatives.

  • Accommodate Personal Preferences: Be open to accommodating members' preferences, such as meeting times

6. Creating a Comfortable Meeting Space

Fostering a Welcoming Atmosphere

Select a conducive meeting space where members can comfortably discuss books. Consider factors like seating arrangements, lighting, and refreshments to create an inviting environment.

Meeting Space Essentials

  1. Comfortable Seating: Ensure there are enough comfortable chairs or cushions for everyone. Consider arranging seating in a circle to facilitate open communication.

  2. Good Lighting: Opt for warm and soft lighting to create a cozy ambiance. Natural light can also be pleasant if your meetings occur during the day.

  3. Neutral Decor: Keep the decor neutral and unobtrusive to avoid distractions. A clean and organized space can contribute to a relaxed atmosphere.

  4. Cozy Setting: Use throws, cushions, or rugs to add a touch of coziness to the space. This can make members feel more at ease.

7. Food

Incorporating food into your book club meetings can enhance the overall experience and create a more social and enjoyable atmosphere. Here are some ideas related to food and how your book club can manage it:

1. Potluck Style:

  • Rotation: Assign a different member to bring snacks or refreshments for each meeting.

  • Diverse Options: Encourage a variety of dishes, from sweet to savory, to cater to different tastes.

  • Theme Nights: Align the potluck with the theme or setting of the book being discussed.

2. Catered Events:

  • Occasional Treats: Consider arranging for occasional catered events, especially for special occasions or when discussing particularly significant books.

  • Local Cuisine: Explore local caterers or restaurants that offer unique and thematic options.

3. Book-Inspired Menus:

  • Theme-Based Snacks: Create snacks or meals inspired by the setting or cuisine mentioned in the book.

  • Signature Drinks: Craft signature drinks based on the book's themes or characters.

4. Dessert Nights:

  • Sweet Treats: Focus on desserts for a change, allowing members to indulge in cookies, cakes, or other treats.

  • Bake-Off: Host a book club bake-off, where members bring homemade desserts to share.

5. Food and Discussion Pairing:

  • Relevant Pairings: Match food choices with the book's themes or settings to enhance the overall experience.

  • Discussion Breaks: Plan breaks for members to enjoy snacks, fostering a relaxed and social atmosphere.

6. DIY Food Stations:

  • Interactive Food: Set up DIY stations for activities like make-your-own sandwiches, tacos, or sundaes.

  • Culinary Exploration: Experiment with different cuisines or ingredients that tie into the book's context.

7. Virtual Options:

  • Shared Recipes: Share recipes with members in advance for those who prefer to prepare the suggested snacks at home.

  • Virtual Potluck: Encourage members to show off their culinary creations during virtual meetings.

8. Allergy-Friendly Choices:

  • Considerate Planning: Ask members about dietary restrictions or allergies to ensure inclusivity.

  • Provide Options: Have a mix of options, including allergy-friendly snacks or alternatives.

9. Food and Discussion Games:

  • Trivia Challenges: Incorporate food-related trivia challenges related to the book or literary themes.

  • Guess the Ingredients: Challenge members to guess the ingredients of a dish inspired by the book.

10. Budget Considerations:

  • Affordable Options: Keep in mind the budget constraints of members when planning food-related activities.

  • Rotating Responsibilities: Rotate responsibilities to ensure that the cost burden is distributed among members.

11. Surprise Treats:

  • Occasional Surprises: Plan occasional surprise treats, such as a small chocolate or themed snacks, to add an element of excitement.

8. Discussion Strategies

Facilitating Engaging Conversations

Encourage active participation by employing various discussion strategies. This can include assigning discussion roles, using discussion prompts, and allowing open-ended conversations.

Discussion Strategies

  • Ice Breaker Questions

  • Discussion Roles (Facilitator, Time Keeper, Note Taker)

  • Open-Ended Questions


  • Inclusive Seating Arrangement: Arrange seating in a way that promotes inclusivity. Ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute to the discussion.

  • Icebreaker Activities: Begin each meeting with a short icebreaker activity to help members get to know each other better and feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts.

  • Respectful Language: Encourage the use of inclusive and respectful language. Create an environment where everyone feels heard and valued.


  • Active Listening: Emphasize the importance of active listening. This fosters a culture of respect and understanding among members.

  • Encourage Sharing: Create a space where members feel comfortable sharing their opinions and thoughts without judgment. This can be facilitated through open-ended discussion questions.

  • Establish Ground Rules: Collaboratively establish ground rules for communication, ensuring that everyone feels safe expressing their ideas.

9. Utilizing Online Platforms

Embracing Digital Connectivity

Incorporate online platforms to enhance connectivity, especially if your members are geographically dispersed. Create a virtual space for discussions, polls, and sharing additional resources.

Online Platform Options

  • Dedicated Facebook Group

  • Discord Server

  • Goodreads Community

10. Managing Logistics

Streamlining Administrative Tasks

Efficiently manage logistical aspects such as scheduling, reminders, and communication. Utilize digital tools to simplify these tasks and keep everyone informed.

Logistical Considerations

  • Meeting Invitations and Reminders

  • Calendar Synchronization

  • Communication Channels

11. Handling Conflicts

Navigating Disagreements Gracefully

Conflicts may arise, and it's essential to address them promptly and diplomatically. Establish a conflict resolution process and encourage open communication among members.

Conflict Resolution Steps

Private Communication: Private communication involves addressing the conflict directly with the involved parties in a one-on-one setting. This step is often the initial and more informal approach to resolving issues.

  • When to Use: Private communication is often the first step in conflict resolution, particularly when the conflict is relatively minor or when parties may feel uncomfortable discussing the issue in a group setting.

Mediation: Mediation involves bringing in a neutral third party to facilitate communication and guide the conflicting parties toward finding a resolution. The mediator is not directly involved in the conflict but helps the parties work together to reach a mutually acceptable solution.

  • When to Use: Mediation is appropriate when direct communication has not led to a resolution or when there is a need for an unbiased third party to help navigate the discussion.

Group Discussion: Group discussion involves addressing the conflict within the larger group setting. This step brings the issue to the attention of the entire group and allows for collective input and problem-solving.

  • When to Use: Group discussion is suitable when the conflict has a broader impact on the book club or when multiple members are involved or affected by the issue. It allows for transparency and collaborative problem-solving.

12. Evaluating and Evolving

Reflecting on Club Dynamics

Regularly assess your book club's dynamics and adapt accordingly. Solicit feedback from members, evaluate meeting formats, and make adjustments to enhance the overall experience.

Evaluation Criteria

  • Member Satisfaction

  • Meeting Dynamics

  • Book Selection Process


How often should the book club meet?

  • Consider the preferences of your members and aim for a frequency that suits the majority.

Can I join a book club if I haven't read the book?

  • Yes, participation is encouraged, even if you haven't finished the book. Share your thoughts and listen to others' perspectives.

How do I suggest a book for the club?

  • Most clubs welcome book suggestions. Discuss your recommendation during a meeting or use online platforms for polls.

Conclusion - How to Start a Book Club in 12 Steps

Starting a book club involves thoughtful planning and ongoing dedication, but the rewards of a thriving reading community are well worth the effort. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can create a dynamic and inclusive space for literary exploration and meaningful discussions. Happy reading!


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