If nothing else, we can thank Oprah for popularizing the modern book club. Whether you meet regularly with a group of people in someone's house or just interact online with a circle of dedicated readers, book clubs are a great way to stay current on popular reading trends or dig into overlooked classics that are usually relegated to graduate studies. Yet for some, it's tough to find a club to join or start one up because they aren't aware of the resources available for starting a discussion group. The tools below — some news sites, some blogs, and some that are just simple checklists — will help you get a better idea of what it takes to start a book club and how to take it from conception to execution. Building and Shaping the Club Starting a book club means finding devoted readers and like-minded souls, as well as making other plans.
- Meetup: Meetup is a great site for groups of all types to recruit members and spread the word about upcoming gatherings. Not the only social networking site you need, but definitely one of the best.
- Facebook: Facebook can't be overlooked. It's the most popular social network in existence, which makes it a vital tool for disseminating info to book club members as well as communicating with new ones. You can also create a virtual home for your book club to organize your group's info.
- Craigslist: Simple, unchanging, and impossible to ignore, Craigslist offers handy group pages to advertise your growing club.
- Random House Tips for Meetings: These helpful rules will let you discover what kind of book club you want to run. Ask youself what you want to get out the club, and what you want to read.
- Oprah's Book Club Ideas: This checklist will help you shape your club and take it from a vague idea to a well-executed organization.
- Reading Group Choices, Major Questions: The info page at RGC has some of the most informative FAQs around if you're looking to form a book club or just fine-tune an existing one. Topics range from how to select a title to how to handle awkward discussion moments. Very handy.
- Book Club Queen: The Queen's book club blog is nothing if not thorough: she's got articles on how to add members, what to serve at meetings, and how to dig into different genres of books. Lots of great resources compiled in one far-reaching site.
- TeenReads.com: Book clubs aren't just for adults. This site offers great advice to teens looking to start their own book clubs, as well as great YA titles designed to appeal to adolescents.
- Book Group How-Tos: The Seattle Public Library put together this smart guide for new book clubbers, complete with suggestions about what types of books to try and how to get the most out of the reading experience and ensuing group discussion.
- Tips for Running a Successful Book Club: This informative article is one of several available at this site, all of which have great advice for readers looking to get their clubs off the ground.
- Shelfari: A social network for book lovers, Shelfari is a great way to compare reading lists, discover new titles, and engage in conversation with people you've never met. Ideal for those looking to advance their book club with digital members.
- LibraryThing: The second of three book-centric social networks (you can never have too many), LibraryThing boasts more than 1 million members and the ability to catalog your titles and share them with widgets. Free accounts are limited to 200 books, but you can pay $10 a year or $25 one time for life and get all the books you can handle.
- Goodreads: Goodreads makes it easy to organize your friend groups and book clubs, as well as post reviews of books you've read and mark those you'd like to read soon. It's also a great place to learn what books are popular right now.
- Book Club Tips: Assembled by the Pierce County Library System, this great starter kit includes tips for reading critically, suggestions for participants, and ideas on how to lead a good discussion. Another great primer for fledgling book clubbers.
Finding Books These assorted sites will help you stay abreast of club trends and great titles.
- Random House Readers Circle: Another RH site with loads of book suggestions and reading guides, as well as reviews of new titles and contests for book club participants.
- 5 Classic Book Club Picks for Under $10 Each: Keeping your book club stocked can be costly, so use these suggestions to keep prices down without sacrificing quality.
- The New Yorker: The New Yorker is always a great source for literature and the arts, and their book club is no exception. If you don't have your own club, you can read along with them and check back for reviews and interviews; if you do, their titles make great suggestions for your own group.
- Reading Group Choices: A wonderfully detailed site, Reading Group Choices has loads of book club picks and discussion questions guaranteed to enhance your book club's profile.
- Simon & Schuster: There are currently more than 1,000 titles listed in the discussion guide section of Simon & Schuster's site, and every discussion guide is free to use.
- Reading Group Guides: With more than 3,000 (!) guides available, this site is one of the best resources available for book clubs. Easy to navigate and loaded with relevant info, you can register your book club with them and also sign up to receive newsletters. They've even got a helpful blog.
Generating Discussion These sites will help you get the ball rolling when it's time to dig into the finer points of your chosen book.
- HarperCollins: The website for HarperCollins is packed with great reading guides for a variety of books, searchable by title and genre.
- Penguin Book Clubs: In addition to providing interesting interviews with authors and thoughtful discussion questions, you can get a discount on certain books when you buy multiple copies for your club. Definitely something to consider, and easier than trekking to the library.
- Hachette Book Group Guides: HBG has a variety of imprints — including Little, Brown — and offers readers access to wonderful books and fantastic discussion guides.
- Oprah's Book Club Collection: Arguably the most popular book club of all, and the one that brought new life to the trend, Oprah's Book Club features information on past selections as well as solid supporting material like discussion questions and even quizzes.
- Book Club Discussion Questions and Topics: These all-purpose questions can be applied to any title your book club reads, whether fiction or nonfiction. Obviously, they're not the only ones you can or should ask, but they make for great starting points before asking specific questions about the text.
- Index of Book Club Discussion Guides: There's a ridiculous number of books listed in this index — seriously, go look — and they all feature free discussion questions you can use for your next book club meeting. Again, it's important to remember that guides like these are just that: guides. These questions are just the basics designed to get your group talking and asking its own questions.
Literary Podcasts Give these a listen to learn more about the reading world and book clubs nationwide.
- Slate's Audio Book Club: The audio book club gang at Slate posts a new episode about once a month, in which they tackle everything from new releases like Imperial Bedrooms to classic lit like To Kill a Mockingbird or White Noise. Always worth a listen.
- World Book Club: This BBC podcast invites major authors into the studio to discuss their biggest, most well-known work. A fascinating look at the writing process, and full of great title suggestions for book clubbers.
- Guardian Book Club: Another broadcast from across the pond, the book club podcasts for this British newspaper make for wonderful listening assignments for club members. They're bound to help generate discussions and take you in new directions.
- Borders Book Club: In addition to podcasts, this section of the Borders site offers great video interviews with current authors that will give you a feel for their work and let you know if it would fit with your own book club.