This month marks three years with my book club babes. Three years! What a fun + full three years it's been, too. I get asked pretty frequently how my book club came to be and how we work, so I wanted to share all that today.
February of 2014, I was newly-ish married and living in my first apartment. Matt was working a lot and often overnight, I was working from home and to be honest, feeling pretty lonely and isolated. I'd made great friends throughout high school and college but discovered, as lots of women do, that cultivating true friendships once you've hit adulthood and gotten out on your own gets a bit harder. I started hanging out with a friend who was living with her parents nearby, and we quickly realized we both loved books and hatched the plan to start a book club!
Our original plan was pretty simple - each invite a few friends and see what happened - and to be honest, I wasn't sure how long it would last. First of all, this was 2014. Does anyone even read books anymore?! Second of all, I'm an introvert and a homebody and as much as I craved female relationships, I was afraid of them, too. Afraid of putting myself out there with girls I'd never met. My expectations were low, to say the least.
Book club has exceeded every expectation I could have imagined. Over the past three years, these girls have become some of my dearest friends. We have rejoiced and mourned together, celebrated engagements and marriages and talked each other through break-ups and heartache. There are 10 of us now, and we're all very different. We don't all share the same religious or political views, taste in books or sense of humor. But what we do have in common is a love of books and a desire to broaden our horizons, expand our worldview and show up for one another. We have heated discussions and hilarious discussions. We've talked about all the hot-button topics you can imagine, yet we do it with sensitivity and an openness to one another's opinions which I think is the secret sauce that has kept us all together.
I think we might be lucky in the fact that we've been the same core group for three years running, and have so far avoided any major rifts, disagreements or hurt feelings. I don't really have an explanation for this, except to say that I lucked into world's best book club (it's true.) However, I do have some tips and nuts-and-bolts type answers to questions I often receive, if you're wanting to start a book club of your own!
Here's how our book club operates.
We started out by each inviting a few friends. When Rachel and I decided to start our club, we each asked 2 or 3 girls if they wanted to join. For the most part, each of those girls has since invited a friend or two and now we're up to 10. If you're trying to start a club, this would be my best advice. Find a gal pal to be your co-conspirator, and each of you invite 2 or 3. Boom - you already have 6 or 8 girls in a club! I personally think 10-12 is the sweet spot for total members. More than that, and it just gets a lot harder to coordinate everyone's schedules and have everyone feel heard during the discussion. Think outside the box, as a mix of personalities makes a richer experience, in my opinion! Because it's a group setting, it's a great opportunity to invite a girl you might not know very well - way less pressure than a one-on-one coffee date, for instance!
We meet the same day each month. Or, we do our best. We aim for the third Wednesday of the month, every month. We often shift things around to accommodate someone's schedule if need be, but we're not constantly trying to choose a date each month. It helps to have a standing date on my calendar that I can plan around, and it cements it in my head. I can plan on it weeks in advance and it's become a routine part of my life.
We trade off hosting. Each month, a different girl hosts. There's no formal system for this. Every few months, we plan out who's going to host for the next few months. Our resident secretary (Haley) keeps an Excel spreadsheet of who is hosting on what date, what book that host picked (see next point) and posts that info in our Facebook group. Haley, if you're reading this, I think you're the glue that holds us together. Basically, every book club needs a Haley.
The host picks the book. In the beginning, we would try and choose the next month's book by popular vote at the end of our discussion, but inevitably we would disagree and would get nowhere. At some point, we switched to using this system of the host choosing the book, and it's worked great! There are no rules. If you're hosting, you can choose whatever you want! Non-fiction, fiction, celebrity memoir, young adult, chick lit, kid's book. I love doing it this way because it feels really fair - everyone gets their turn to pick - and we end up reading such a wide variety of books! Since there are 10 of us, we each to get to pick once a year, and tend to fill in the remaining two months with unanimous picks or a themed book (like a Christmas book at Christmas time.)
We pitch in for snacks + drinks. The host usually provides a few snacks and a bottle of wine, and everyone also brings a snack or drink (or both.) Rachel always bakes us a delicious treat (thanks, Rachel!) Maria always brings delicious vegan food. Haley can be counted on for wine (I told you - every book club needs a Haley.) We meet at 7 or 7:30 usually, so it's a nice post-dinner snacks + drinks affair.
Discussions are open to whoever wants to talk. We don't have any formal structure for the book discussion. Typically we all arrive, fill our plates and pour drinks, chit chat and settle into the couch. Rachel usually starts the discussion. A few people typically bring copies of the book, and if there were book discussion questions in the back, we'll loosely go through those. Or not. It really just flows and whoever wants to talk, talks! Inevitably, the book discussion leads us to discussing other things - shallow or deep, depending on the book and the day - and we gab and gab for a couple hours until we all realize it's a work night (them) or have babies waking up in a few hours (Diana and me).
And that's the jist of it!
It's fun, it's fulfilling, it's something to look forward to each month and it's held me accountable to keep reading a consistent part of my life. I asked my book club babes for their thoughts on why they joined or what they love about our club, and here's what they had to say...
"Not only do I love the books, the wine and snacks, the promise to hang out with my friends each month, and the variety of backgrounds/tastes/beliefs/humor, but I love love love having a solid group of girlfriends! I feel very Taylor Swift cliche to say this, but girlfriends are THE best. You keep me sane, you keep me laughing, you keep me learning." Emily
"I've made new friends and you all challenge my worldview, and I love that the books give us the material to start deeper discussions and talk about things we wouldn't talk about in day to day life." Haley
"It's so rewarding to see successful women from all different walks of life be able to sit down and nerd out about books! I love hearing the insights different people pull from reading the exact same text that I did!" Britny
"I have read stuff I wouldn't have otherwise chosen. Everyone is so smart and offers such different perspectives. Also it's so awesome celebrating everyone's milestones and lifting each other up. It's also good to get some girl talk in once a month!" Diana
"My love for reading made me want to be a part of a group of "normal" women that I had common interests with but it grew to be so much more than just a book club. I now have the biggest support system, the best group of friends and daily laughter." Naomi
"I love this book club because we all care deeply for one another, our differences make book club special and amazing, and we get to branch out and read things we otherwise might not pick." Rachel
"I love book club because it pushes me out of my comfort zone. I read the books in full every month, even when I don't really want to, because I know I will grow from them and from our discussion of them." Maria
And my personal favorite sentiment from Stephanie and Amanda..."When I graduated college, I had no friends. Now I have friends, thanks to book club," said Stephanie. Amanda chimed in with, "ditto." Love these girls :)
I'll end with this very insightful picture one of the girls sent in our book club group text. It basically sums up how I feel about book club in a nutshell. If you're wanting to start a club, my only advice is go for it! Text some gal pals, offer to host, pick a book you've been seeing everyone reading on instagram, tell everyone to bring a snack, and see what happens. My experience is that everyone I talk to is always like, "oh my gosh, a book club, that's so cool. I'd love to be in a book club!" So you might get more interest than you think :) XO!