Earlier this year I joined a Book Club with a few of my girlfriends. I figured it would be a great way to give myself some accountability to read new and different books, and actually finish them in a timely manner. I’ve always thought that reading more is a great way to improve my own writing, depending on the books we read, and at worst, it would be a great excuse to see my galpals on a regular basis. By now, I’d been to a few meetings, read a few books, so when it was my turn to host, I knew the drill. It just takes a few simple steps to ensure your book club meeting is a successful one, and here they are!
Chapter 1: The Club
Who you have in your book club is just as important as the books you read, if not more so. Don’t just get a group of people together that you already see constantly, mix things up. Try cross pollinating groups of friends, opening the invitation to coworkers you get along with, really just be creative with who you ask to join. This way you can meet new people and spend time with people you’d like to get to know better while also seeing good friends more often. Once you’ve selected your squad, set some ground rules. Seriously. Stating that members must actually finish the books, attend the meetings, and be respectful of everyone’s opinions at said meetings may seem unnecessary, but apparently it’s not. Everyone ‘s got a former book club drama story to share around one of more of these areas. Don’t be a book club cautionary tale; pick your posse and make sure everyone’s in for the right reasons, and you’ll be good to go.
Chapter 2: The Book
This may seem like a no brainer: pick a good book for a good book club, but it’s actually harder than you think. When you’ve got a group of very different people, it’s a challenge to anticipate everyone’s taste in books. And while you can’t guarantee a crowdpleaser every time, there are a few things you can try to help improve your chances. Perhaps start by choosing a genre (fiction vs. non, biographies, comedies, classics, etc) to help ensure that you’re in the realm of what your book club will enjoy. We started by asking members to nominate books to read, and we chose one title out of them randomly (I believe a hat was involved). We’ve also had the next hosting member pick the book that will be discussed at their meeting, which is how I got my book club to read this beauty:
Just Kids by Patti Smith is my current favorite book, which leads to another way to pick your book: have every member nominate their favorite book (unless most/all of the members have already read it). Lists are a great selection help tool as well. From the New York Times Best Seller list, Oprah’s Book Club, Heather’s Pics, to the Giller Prize Short List, there are tons of book related lists to choose from out there that have sifted through new and old reads and rated or awarded them for all sorts of qualities. However you pick your books, ensure the process is democratic, and that each member has a chance to have something of their choosing read to keep things fair and fun.
Chapter 3: The Setting
When it comes to your turn to host your book club meeting, you’ve got to pick the best spot for your guests to hang. Essentially, any spot where all your guests can easily access food and their wine glass while staying comfortable is the key -so get that coffee table cleared and have your snacks within reaching distance, and ensure there are safe spaces for multiple glasses of wine – nothing busts a book club more than broken glass and lost wine.
Chapter 4: The Soundtrack
If you really want to get our guests in the chatting mood, have some tunes on that relate back to your book choice. Thanks to sites like Spotify you can select music for any mood, or book, and you can even make your own book club related playlist. For my book, I simply searched Patti Smith on Spotify and let her stunning voice be the soundtrack to our meeting. Pretty soon, everyone had heard a song they recognized, whether it was by Patti or an artist mentioned in the book, bringing the subject matter to life and closer to home for every reader at the same time.
Chapter 5: The FireYes, the rumors are true, book clubs and wine really are a match made in heaven. And just like with any of the previous tips, it’s important to consider your audience when it comes to your evening wine selection. In my case, I went with a tried and tested method: variety and quantity. I had four bottles of wine on hand, 2 whites and 2 reds, to ensure that every member had something they’d enjoy on hand. For white wine, I served Chardonnay from Fleur du Cap and Two Oceans‘ Pinot Grigio, both from South Africa. The Chardonnay was citrusy on the nose with tropical fruit aromas and a spicy oak finish, and lovely to sip while chatting about Patti’s song with Bruce Springsteen. The Pinot Grigio was just as delicious, with hints of peach and apricot and a refreshing finish.
For the reds, I had a a Shiraz from Two Oceans and a Cabernet Sauvignon from Fleur du Cap. The Cab Sauv was full bodied with hints of fruit and dark chocolate, perfect to help us flip through the book of Robert Maplethorpe‘s sometimes risque, always stunning photgraphy. The Shiraz, my personal favorite of the night, was fruity with a hint of spice, flavorful yet light on the palate.
Chapter 6: A sweet ending
While not every book has a happy ending, you can ensure your book club ends on a sweet note by having a great dessert on hand. I went to Delysees, a beautiful french patisserie in the heart of Toronto’s King West. They specialize in their high end french pastries and their delicious macaron. I picked up three kinds of cakes for my guests: the seasonal pumpkin cheese cake (that looks just like a delicious baby pumpkin), the lime matcha pistachio mini slab and the newest creation, the milk chocolate coconut vanilla cake. All were just as tasty as they were pretty, the flavors bold and decadent in perfect personal sized packages. And since you can’t go to a french bakery without getting some macarons, I did just that. A box of twenty beautiful and airy bites, in variety of flavors and eye popping colors made these Delysee staples just instagramable as they were delectable.
Got some of your own book club tips to share? Tweet them at us @weraddicted!