How to Select Book Club Books

Follow these smart tips to help guide your book club selections.

Basic Dos and Don'ts

1. Don't read favorites
Reading a book someone "just loves" can lead to hurt feelings—like inviting people into your living room to critique your decor. Ouch... Best to stay on neutral territory.

2. Do choose for good discussions
Some books don't offer a lot to chew on in the way of discussion. They may be great reads (romances, spy thrillers) but don't have much to talk about.

  • Look for "literary fiction," works rich in characterization and ideas.
  • Don't neglect nonfiction—works of historical or sociological significance provide fertile grounds for discussion.

3. Don't choose for the whole year
It ties you into a 12-month-long rigid schedule with no flexibility to add exciting new works you might learn about. And it's unfair for those who miss the one meeting when selections are made.

4. Do choose 2 or 3 at a time
This allows members to read at their own pace. It's especially helpful for those who travel or miss a meeting or two.

5. Don't get stuck in a rut  
A steady diet of one thing can be dull, dull, dull—so mix styles and genres. Intersperse heavier reads and lighter ones; fiction (current and classic) with nonfiction, graphic novels, short stories, and drama.

6. Do establish limits
Set some basic ground rules up front, so you don't get into misunderstandings as you go along.

  • Some clubs limit selections to paperbacks—easier on the pocketbook; others read both soft and hard-cover.
  • Some clubs limit page number—400 pages a month is a healthy read. Other clubs enjoy longer reads at 500-700 pages—or shorter at 300 or less. You can also split up longer books into 2 sessions. Nothing wrong with that.
7. Don't let the same people choose
Make sure everyone gets a say in what books to select. One person shouldn't be in charge of the process, nor should one or two dominate. Make sure to see the three methods for choosing books below.

Selecting Books

Vote—All members make suggestions, followed by an open discussion, and vote.

Rotate—Members take turns, each choosing a book for a given month. In many clubs, the one who hosts the meeting picks the book.

Mixed—Members rotate each month, with the member whose turn it is proposing 3 different titles; members then vote to select 1 book out of the 3 choices.

Finding Book Ideas

Use LitLovers of course! Libraries & bookstores
Check out your public library, local bookstores, and national book chains. Most of them carry their own recommendations or lists of what clubs are reading.

Newspapers & magazines
  • Sunday's New York Times Book Review is the biggie;
  • Newspapers, such as USA Today and most local papers, especially the big city dailies;
  • General interest magazines, such as Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker, Oprah, People, Vanity Fair, and Elle, to name a few;
  • Two of my favorite magazines are Bookmarks and BookPage. Your library probably carries one or, maybe, both.

Literary prizes
Keep your eye on annual literary awards, considering both finalists and winners. Here are the most prestigious prizes (for the English language):

(Book club tips by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks!)

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