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Book Clubs Heighten Your Sense of Reading Enjoyment

By Andrew Burgon / phoenix@projectfellowship.com
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June 16, 2014


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michaeljung / 123RF Stock Photo

Book Clubs Not Only Offer Intellectual Stimulation but Social Connection as Well

For some books hold an undeniable appeal. Pages stamped with the imagination, creativity and word craft of an author on pages mother nature itself helped provide.

There’s a certain visceral pleasure of hearing the pages of a book flutter from your thumb to the other side of the book.

The world that lies between the covers riveting their attention and drawing them in.

Book clubs are a great way to enjoy your love of reading with others.

Book club members usually meet up every two weeks or once a month to discuss books they’ve read especially the one or two books that may have been chosen by the group to read. Some groups actually meet online with the help of video conferencing software.

Many book clubs read and discuss books from many genres while others may focus on a particular one like romance or sci-fi. Some only read new books or books by up-and-coming authors. There are also book clubs that focus on ancient texts or books that are hundreds of years old.

You’re not limited though to only reading books and leaving it at that. One particular book club I read about pairs the book with food or a country. So, if they chose to read a story set in France they will go to a French restaurant that month. If the setting is in China they might venture into China town during the Chinese New Year to take part in the festivities there. Yet another exciting possibility is to arrange to have have an author visit the group to talk about his or her book.

Is starting a book club something you would like to do? Here are some suggestions on how to get started.

1. Online or Off
In this day and age you aren’t limited to meeting up with people in your area. Video conferencing technology exists so you can meet up and converse with friends online. This could be a great way to reconnect with people you’ve met throughout your life and who you would otherwise probably not hear from again.

2. Purpose of Meeting Up
Do you wish to focus on a certain genre like fantasy or romance? You might want to find people who are up for reading through a series of books like Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries or all the novels that Michael Crichton wrote. Be flexible and open-minded as to what your friends would like to do, too. Below is a short list of genres to get you started.

book genres

3. Create a Conducive Atmosphere
If you are hosting the book club in your home you may like to have a poster made of the author whose book your currently reading or other pictures that depict places or events in the book. Alternatively, you could have these pictures displayed on your HDTV. Also, you can go to the extra effort of making your library shine by getting some attractive book shelves or simply buying some more books so you have an awesome collection that serves as a backdrop or a kind of hub for the group.

4. Discussions
How will discussions be handled? Doing things the same way all the time is probably not the best way to maintain interest and encourage long-term membership. Perhaps have different members from time to time leading the discussion. Sometimes you’ll focus the discussion on character, setting, plot and style. Other times you might want to discuss reviews written by critics of the book or try to get into the author’s head to gain insight into why he crafted the story the way he did. Yet another option is to get members to talk about the different aspects of the book.

5. Meeting-Up at Different Places
I think it’s good to have a place your book club can call home especially one that is well set-up for such an event. However, occasionally having the club hosted by other members who may live in a more convenient centrally located place is also a good idea. This is a great way to get to know other members better.

Another option includes choosing a completely different setting. If you are reading The Old Man and the Sea then an afternoon spent at an outdoor coffee shop next to the beach may help lend some atmosphere to the reading. Take it a notch higher and have a beach barbecue and beach volleyball event to follow up the book club discussion. If you’re reading Shogun by James Clavell arrange to have the book club held at a Japanese restaurant that has a lot of atmosphere. If the book has a Victorian or English setting then an appropriate event to go hand-in-hand with the book reading is a garden tea party or a picnic by a lake.

6. Field Trips
Will you be having field trips? If you are reading a novel that has the American Civil War as it’s setting you might be able to find a museum you can visit that has uniforms, weapons and information on well-known figures of that period. Alternatively, you could visit Lincoln’s memorial.

If the novel is set in Greece then you could opt for going to a Greek restaurant, a Greek cultural event like a festival or you may find that Greek wine and food is being presented at the local annual food fair. Go check it out.

Some books may have a theatrical tie-in or a movie was based on it that you can watch. So for The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757 you could watch the movie Last of the Mohicans starring Daniel Day Lewis.

You could go and visit the city where the author grew up. His or her home might have been made into a museum or tourist attraction like Earnest Hemingway’s home in Cuba.

You might like to choose a novel that has a setting not too far away from where you hold a book club. That way you can go and visit the places that were mentioned in it.

7. Book-inspired Activities & Curiosities
With some imagination you can make your book club more interesting and compelling for people to attend. It might include watching a National Geographic video together on the country mentioned in the book. Eating snacks or meals that are common is that particular country or mentioned in the book.

Curiosities could be anything from replica Ancient Roman coins, a samurai sword or a Chinese tea set which is used to serve tea afterwards.

8. Meeting Up with the Author
Look into whether any authors are going to be in your area for a book signing. This is a good opportunity for members to meet him or her, ask a few questions and purchase the author’s new book and have it signed. Then over the next few weeks you read the book and discuss it.

There is also the possibility of having an author visit your group. For this it’s probably better to choose an author you like who lives close by to the area you live and check to see whether he or she is willing to visit your group. Alternatively, it could be any author from around the world who is willing to appear via Skype. Make sure beforehand that your group is willing to contribute money towards making this happen.

9. Start a Blog
Consider whether or not you wish to start a blog and who will contribute to it. How many posts will there be a week? Will everybody be getting access to the inner workings of the blog or will they send their articles to one person who posts it on the blog? Will comments be enabled? If you wish to encourage a community to grow then it’s a given.

Someone could write about the author of a book. Another on why the author crafted the novel the way he did. If it’s based on history a member may write about the history the book is based on. If there are references to a festival or specific places these also could be written about. A blog can help to not only generate interest but to build a sense of community as well especially if everybody is contributing to it.

Yet another consideration is advertising. The use of Google adsense or affiliate links could generate a little money. If the group is contributing then you may want to consider using any money generated to at least partly go towards tea, coffee and snacks when you meet up or go towards subsidizing the cost of books.

10. Add Spice
Do some of the following things to add a little spice to the proceedings.

* Have a theme night the very night the book is finished. Organize suitable food, drinks, music and decor that are ideally relevant to the book you’ve read. Take this up a whole level by actually having a party. Come dressed up as the characters in the novel, have an Hawaiian Luau or a toga party if it’s a good match with the novel.

* If there are some very memorable characters in the book you may want to have some fun by getting members to act and talk like one while everyone else has to guess who it is.

* Have members choose a notable passage of the book and read it out in a dramatic fashion. Have two members take a passage, converting it to a script and then acting it out together.

* Members come up with a different ending for the book and share it with the group.

For those of you considering on starting a book club I hope you’ve found some valuable ideas here to add to those you already have. For those of you who are currently members of a book club or who use to be do you have any good ideas to add?
 
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