Advice for Beginning a Book Club

The following is a question that was asked on an Iowa library listserv.

I am a newer Director and am looking for ideas on how to start a book
>club/discussion. As far as I know this library has never done anything like
>this before. Any suggestions on the do’s and don’t would be great. I am a
>size “b” library. And suggestions on how to go about picking out a book for
>this and where to get the multiple copies would be great also. I have been
>working on our kids programming and have that pretty much under control now
>but need to do something for teens and adults in community also and thought
>maybe trying book club. If you can send me suggestions off list that would be

This is my answer to the inquiry.

When I was involved with starting my book club, I put a story in the library
>column inviting those interested to attend a an informational meeting.  We
>had 6 people show up who were interested.  This gave us a core group and a
>demographic (senior women).
> We meet 2 times a month, which was good for building group cohesion and we
>have kept to that schedule for 16 years.  We usually split books in half and
>discuss half each meeting during the month.  When we do dense nonfiction, we
>only do a third of the book.  Short books, less than 300 pages we discuss in
>one meeting.  (I have wished, and sought to change the meeting schedule to
>once a month, but the group likes to meet more often).
> Group size:  8-12 is optimal.  When the group grows too large, a few members
>will begin to see the group as optional.  (I attend when we discuss a book
>that I like).  We had 16 in our meeting last time.  Normally, when the group
>gets that large, I would seek to start a new group, but my ladies wanted to
>attend both groups.  Group size will usually regulate itself at the 8 to 12
>age range.
> I prefer an open group to a closed one, because it will allow the group to
>evolve over time.
> Choosing books:  To begin with, I use the ALA Notable Book Lists
>  Reading Group Guides
> and the Nebraska Library Commission Book
>Club wiki this lists
>libraries that have multiple copies of books.  We also do our one book one
>state, and one book one community reads.  I also take suggestions from our
>members.  I simply look at the availability of the book, otherwise I embrace
>their choices.  This gives your participants more of a sense of ownership of
>the group.
>Finding multiple copies:  The Nebraska Library Commission wiki is one place
>that I find multiple copies, otherwise we interlibrary loan multiple copies.
> Check with your Iowa libraries website for possible locations of multiple
>copies and area administrators, they can help.


Mini Review: “Let’s Take the Long Way Home: a Memoir of Friendship” by Gail Caldwell

Gail Caldwell and Caroline Knapp were long time friends.  Both were writers, Caroline the leading literary celebrity with her book Drinking:  a Love Story propelling her to popularity.  They also shared a love of drinking, which both had to overcome.  They also had a great love of dogs.  The book celebrates their levels of friendship, Caroline’s battle with cancer and Gail’s great grief at the loss of her friends.  This is a great read for lovers of books, lovers of dogs, and everyone who has had a deep friendship and lost that friend.

Mini Review: “Dry” by Augusten Burroughs

Augusten Burroughs writes a  memoir about his life with alcohol and drugs, his experience with rehab and his subsequent experiences post-rehab.  The author writes humorously, yet poignantly about the advertising industry, the life of a single man in New York City, love, HIV, as well as drug and alcohol addiction.  His writing is both salty and compelling.

Mini Review: Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander

I don’t usually go for books about near death experiences.  They tend to come out reading like an episode from Touched by an Angel or The Ghost Whisperer, but a book written by a neurosurgeon about his own experience sounded fascinating, and it was.  In this book, Alexander describes his near-death experience, while in a six-day coma  after contracting  Bacterial Meningitis.  He then goes on to find research that could help to explain this and put it into a scientific context.  This is a good read for the believer in the afterlife and the skeptic alike.  One caveat the book will be disconcerting to those who take a biblical/ Christian view of the afterlife.  in this case, read with your eyes wide open.