Starting Your Own Book Group
I was talking to my friend Aida recently. Fed up with reading alone, and feeling a bit left out when she heard about other peoples’ book groups, she looked around for one.
She tried one that sounded promising – it met in a local wine bar and might be friendly and relaxed.
Too relaxed sadly; lacking any cohesion and with no strong organising character to push it along, people dipped in and out, attendance flagged and so did Aida.
She tried her local U3A but, no, their book group was already full.
The local library? They host a drop-in book group and she went along but had mixed feelings. It was great to drop in as a break from shopping and errands, but she’d had a relaxed, convivial evening in mind with a glass of wine to hand.
But it seemed difficult and she feared no-one would come: it would be a sad failure!
But she likes a challenge and invited a couple of friends: three of them made a small group but it was enough to start with. She wanted the support of her local U3A, as a member, and advertised with them.
Help and advice came flooding in. The lady with the full and popular group gave some tips. Her local library made it really easy for her; they have a busy book group service and knew exactly what to do: lots of advice, and book sets available for her to pick up.
I was at her house the other week and it was really starting to take off. The calls were coming as other U3A members found it was what they wanted too. She was starting to get excited.
The first meeting of her new book group took place the other evening and she was nervously expectant – the wine was chilled and the crisps set out. Would it go well?
She phoned me the next day to tell. She needn’t have worried. She hadn’t needed to do or say much – they’d sipped their wine and talked and talked. Success! And they liked the look of her second choice.
So she rang off, far too busy to keep talking: she had a great long list of suggested books and she need to phone the library and order the book sets for the next few months.
I think this group is going to run.
Aida’s tips for setting up a reading group:
1. Talk to as many people as you can who have experience of doing it.
2. Ask to sit in on a group to see how the host runs it.
3. Find a way of advertising for new members if word of mouth isn’t enough. The U3A did it for me and my group is run as a U3A group (no upper or lower age restrictions). Or you can run it as a local library group.
4. Get the help of your local library – they will be invaluable. They practically do it for you and before you know it you have a set of books and a little group.
5. Decide where you want it to take place. At home if you know the others and feel comfortable. Otherwise there are plenty of alternatives – groups meet in all sorts of places: cafes, pubs, restaurants, church halls or community centres.
6. Not sure what to start with? My librarian suggested a book of short stories and that was a good idea as I had no idea what people would like or whether they’d get much time to read before we met.
7. The second book I chose myself – organiser’s prerogative! I needed a book ready for people to take away from the first session.
8. Decide together how you’ll choose subsequent books. Its important people feel happy with how democratic this is. At our first session we compiled a book of suggested books. I’ll send a selection to the library – what we get depends on which book sets are available. There are a lot of other book groups using the service too.
9. Some libraries charge for their book group service. Mine is going to start charging £12 per year per group. Not much really!
Their second book is:
Reading Groups in public libraries: Your council website will have details
Here’s Bristol Libraries link:
And their application form for membership:
Libraries will have excellent advice on starting a reading group. Here’s Bristol again:
And a huge list of what book sets they have for book groups:
And if, by chance, you’re reading this in Bristol Tennessee Virginia, your library looks very supportive too:
The U3A stands for the University of the Third Age: