How to start a book club: Everything you need to know

woman reading a book in a bookshop

Are you a book club beginner? Want to find out how to set up a book club, what to read, where to meet? We can help you with that

Setting up the book club

Love your library

“It's worth checking out facilities at your library. Mine has a list of local book groups as well as a list of all the books that the county has 15 or more copies of. They also do a reading group card which allows the group an extended loan period.”

Place an ad online

book club advert on a laptop at home

“I started a book club with an ad on Gumtree and my work notice board. We're a really diverse group who would never have met in real life otherwise.”

“I started a Facebook group called '[name of town] book group' – that's where we got most of our members. We're a really oddly diverse group that works very well.”

Mumsnet!

“I joined my book club when another MNer suggested setting one up in my area. Three of us are MNers – a couple more are friends of friends. It's been going well over a year now and it's great.”

If you've already got friends who read, gather them together

“Set up a book club with friends – people who already know & appreciate each other.”

Who to invite

Invite friends of friends

“I like the fact that our book club isn't (just) my 'normal' mates – they are a group who've grown together. Ask a few people to invite a friend to come along so you get that dynamic (rather than you being the lynchpin).”

A varied age range = varied conversation

“We are quite varied in age in our book club – I have the youngest child although I'm not the youngest member (she is 36 I think). The older members are in their 60s and I think they contribute something very different and interesting to the chats about the books. Certainly, it would be very different if we were all at similar stages and ages.”

Girls and boys allowed

“I'd recommend that you have a mixed group book group (i.e invite men as well as women) and do not allow discussion of babies etc. until after the book has been thoroughly discussed. Otherwise it just becomes a talking shop about gynae issues and children's sleeping problems!”

How many people?

Make allowances for a drop-out rate…

group of people sitting on wall reading books

“We have six members and, to be honest, I don't think it's enough. It's very rare that everyone is able to attend or has read all of the book. So sometimes it's just two or three of us joining in the discussion.”

“We have 10 members but almost always one or two can't make a meeting, so there are never too many of us.”

…but don't invite the whole neighbourhood!

“We had too many in the group which made it impossible for everyone to have their say and we never really had in-depth discussions.”

Where to meet

At home

“We are a group of nine women in total and we rotate round each other's houses – whoever is hosting provides the wine and nibbles.”

“We used to ask if anyone in the group had a specific night they couldn't get a babysitter and they then hosted for that night.”

Meet in the middle

“We're in London so we meet somewhere centrally that suits most people.”

“Meeting in a pub works well – no pressure to tidy the house.”

“We meet in the village hall on the last Wednesday of the month and we each pay £1 each for the rent of the room.”

How often to meet

Make sure everyone has enough time to read the book

“We meet every six weeks – it gives us enough time to read the books and pass them around if necessary.”

calendar with date circled

Keep it regular

“Timing is always the same – i.e the third Thursday of the month – so there's no faffing about with dates.”

Stay in touch!

“I use Doodle online to sort out meeting dates.”

“We have a Whatsapp group to arrange meeting up – saves on endless email trails.”

How to choose the book

Take it in turns

“We take it in turns to choose the book. As there are nine of us, it works out about once a year, when you factor in breaks. Our tastes are quite varied so you do get a good mix, but that does mean you do have to read books that really don't appeal.”

“Collective attempts to pick a book to read are time-consuming and often end in tears if the assertive members steamroller their choices through and the meeker feel they've been shouted down. What works best for us is that each member nominates a book in turn.”

“We put all our names in a hat and pulled them out and then we each chose the next book in that order.”

Break the mould

“We have a 'book swap' rather than a book club. Everyone brings their favourite books and borrows from one another. No one has to spend any money (apart from on wine, ahem) and you're not obliged to read every book. As the weeks go by the discussions get better as more people have read each book.”

“The book club I go to is brilliant because there are no set books. Instead it's a group of people who meet in a room in a pub once a month and everyone talks about whatever they happen to have read. We also have a book swap thing going on as well, so if you're interested in something someone reviews then you can borrow it too.”

Where to source the books

Love your library…again!

“Our local library will get us eight copies of the same book if you set yourself up as a book group with them. It's free and means that everyone reads the same book at the same time.”

Nominate a buyer

“Rather than everyone trying to go out and buy the book, you could nominate one person to be the buyer from Amazon for example and she/he orders the books and then everyone pays on collection.”

What to avoid

Forget the classics

oliver twist banned

“I think the classics are a bit boring at book groups – people choose them because they are scared to pick something that might not be deemed serious literature, but then the discussion is stilted because how much can you really discuss it? It's a classic – it's been praised for the last two centuries, the six of us and a bottle of wine aren't going to come up with any fresh insights!”

Don't let the snooty f*ckers have their way

“The only thing wrong with democracy (I never thought I'd hear myself say that) is that all book groups have one member who wants to prove how learned she is and insists on choosing obscure books that have just been translated from Ukrainian and are only available for £35.99 on Amazon. Having a rule about paperbacks/books available from the library is essential.”

It's ok to just read the one book

“We had a ghastly tradition where we would go round the group and people would share what else they had read that month and say whether they recommended it (we had a lot of retired ladies). I would just sit there, red faced, and admit that I had only managed the set book.”

Remember it's a book club

“Don't do anything more than 'posh' crisps and nuts as it ends up becoming a domestic goddess competition rather than a natter about books.”

How can Mumsnet help?

Mumsnet is a great place to recruit members for a book club in your area. Check out your Mumsnet Local site to see if there's already a book club set up in your area for MNers nearby or post on the What We're Reading talkboard to see if anyone is interested in meeting up.

Mumsnet Book Club

Mumsnet book of the month badge logo vase of flowers pile of books

If you're stuck for inspiration on what book to read, don't forget that Mumsnet has its very own book club! You can browse the books we've read, and what we're going to be reading over the next six months. Plus, every month you can apply to win a free copy of our Book of the Month, join in the discussion online, and chat to the author themselves.