The Story of Book Clubs

Are you keen to meet new people, either by joining or organising a social group? If so, a book club might be just the ticket. So let’s address some common questions about these events before you take the plunge.

book clubsAre you keen to meet new people, either by joining or organising a social group?

If so, a book club might be just the ticket.

By sharing your passion with fellow bookworms you not only get to socialise over a common interest, but also enjoy a stimulating forum for friendly debate.

So if you’re a retiree seeking an event in your local area, let’s address some common questions about reading groups before you take the plunge.

What are book clubs?

Book clubs are simply forums for literature lovers to discuss preselected stories or nonfiction. During meetups, books are analysed and discussed, gathering attendees opinions on elements such as narrative, characters, themes and motifs. At the end of the conversation the book may also be reviewed and rated.

Why join such a social group?

Reading is a solitary endeavour, readers constructing entire worlds within their imaginations, with stories assuming their own unique significance. However, after such immersion, it’s enjoyable to communicate our thoughts and feelings about the experience, including our key learnings, takeaways, overall enjoyment and future reading suggestions. Social clubs provide the perfect platform.

Benefits of literature groups

Aside from the social element of a book club and meeting with people who share the same passion, it’s possible to gain exposure to areas of literature and authors we tend to avoid. This can help to stretch our imagination and uncover hidden gems, opening up new avenues for exploration. 

Where are the events held?

Book groups convene anywhere, from members’ houses, public libraries, coffee shops, pubs or as is often the case with Mirthy events, communal living spaces in retirement homes. When selecting a venue, it’s important to ensure that attendees are comfortable and that background noise is kept to a minimum so as to facilitate conversation.

What facilities are available?

No special facilities are needed. Apart from seating, a warm, comfortable environment will help foster the discussion. Tea and coffee facilities or other refreshments can be arranged by the group organiser or if the event is held in a public space, there may be options available to buy on-site. Prior communication with the venue can help, especially when arranging group discounts for regular events.

Is any equipment required?

If you’re the group organiser, then really just a table and chairs. For attendees, it’s sensible to bring a pen and paper to make notes during the discussion. You’ll be surprised at how many good ideas emerge from a lively debate. And who knows, you might just become inspired to write your own bestseller!

How much does it cost to attend?

Some book clubs are free, while others charge a small fee to each attendee to cover costs. In addition, you might have to buy the book if you’re unable to secure a copy from your local library.

What types of groups are available?

There are different groups available for individual preferences and tastes. So whether you’re into crime thrillers, romantic liaisons or dystopian adventures, there’s bound to be a niche for you to join or create a book club. Some may place an emphasis on fiction, while other groups cater specifically for business, history or biographies. Alternatively, there may be groups with completely undefined genres.

How many people will attend?

There’s usually no minimum attendance for book clubs. Even if attendance is low, it can permit even greater discussion of the topics uncovered. In a bigger group, more delegation may be required to allow everyone to share their thoughts. Generally, the sweet spot is between 5-10 participants, which gives everyone a chance to contribute, while still maintaining a cosy, informal atmosphere.

Who are the other attendees?

Anyone with an interest in books and would like a friendly forum to discuss their hobby. Although age ranges vary and we support intergenerational learning and collaboration, most Mirthy events are delivered in retirement developments for residents and members of the local community in later life.

How are books selected?

Although the organiser might have a list of suggestions, books may be put to the floor for popular vote. Alternatively, it can be nice to rotate book selections between members so that everyone gets a chance to choose something they want to read. However, if many members have already read the book, it might not be a popular choice. Old classics are always a popular, as are titles that have won awards, like the Pulitzer or Booker Prize. Many online resources exist to source selections, from Amazon best sellers and Goodreads reviews to Richard and Judy recommendations!

How much time is available to read the book?

This very much depends on your group and organiser, as everyone reads at different speeds. We find that in our retiree communities, people generally finish books quite quickly, so in some cases, two weeks is sufficient between meetups. However, on average, a book club is arranged every month to give everyone enough time to read and digest the title.

Do I need to prepare?

As long as you’ve read the book, you really just need to bring your thoughts and opinions. While reading the book, it may be helpful to make a few notes or memory joggers to provide talking points for the event. In this way, you might find yourself reading differently, adopting a more critical eye, which can add to the overall experience.

book stacks

What if I’ve already read the book?

If you’ve already read the book and don’t fancy a re-read, perhaps you can look for a summary that might jog your memory and allow you to join the discussion. If not, you can always sit it out and participate in the next event.

And if the book is boring?

Sometimes the selection for the next club doesn’t resonate. If that’s the case, your feedback will always help for upcoming book selections. If you were unable to finish the read, fellow members likely experienced similar struggles, which in itself would make a good topic for discussion.

Will the reading material be provided?

Usually not. Although it might be possible to borrow the book from the local library, other members might have a similar idea, meaning you need to shop online or in-store. Unless you particularly like the feel of real books, it’s often possible to get the book quickly if you use a device like a Kindle e-reader to purchase a digital version of the title.

Will I have to speak?

Generally, it’s expected that every attendee contributes to the discussion. Some participants may be more vocal than others, so it’s important that the group organiser facilitates the debate to give everyone a chance to provide their input.

What are the discussions about?

The talk will vary from book to book, but should ideally cover a few key areas. The first revolves around the overall narrative and whether the story was believable, engaging and enjoyable. Going deeper, analysis might focus on the story arc, dramatic events, tension points and pace of the novel. The characters are vehicles for the dialogue and unfolding events, so assessing whether their actions and behaviour are believable in the context of the wider story is important. The prose itself might be a subject for debate, including the technical capability of the writing to deliver its message. Finally, discussion of any underlying themes, motifs or metaphors within the text might prove fruitful. If you’re a group organiser or enthusiastic attendee, it may be helpful to make a list of talking points that can be covered to keep the meeting on track.

The art of listening

It’s important to remember that if there’s a big book group of ten people or more, it can be tempting to splinter off into subgroups or simply pass the time chatting to your neighbour. Many book clubs discourage this, as it can lead to a noisy and unruly event. By paying attention to one person at a time, a more cohesive and engaged debate can emerge.

Are there ever arguments?

Most book clubs are extremely relaxed and Mirthy encourages every group to allow members share their impressions in a non-judgmental, friendly environment. After all, it’s what attracts new attendees and encourages returning members. It can also depend on the book selected. If strong socio-political themes are discussed, more engaged debate may result and indeed, some members of the group may be more opinionated than others regardless of the topic. Careful moderation is therefore needed by the group facilitator and enjoyment is often contingent on balancing the contributions of the more active attendees with their quieter counterparts. 

What about reviews?

We encourage groups to not only keep track of the books they’ve read but also write mini-reviews if they wish. If a designated member moderates the discussion, notes can be collated between meetings and included in a brief synopsis. Books can also be rated, with scores compiled at the end of the year to award your best reads.

How can I find a local book club?

The best way is to perform a simple Google search and see if there are any upcoming events in your area. You might then review the previous books chosen and see if the selections are appealing. Next, contact the organiser and arrange a taster session to see if the group is for you.

Organising my own club

Occasionally, there’s either nothing nearby, or you simply want to create a group aligned with the books you enjoy and people you want to spend time with. At Mirthy, we find that retirees often gravitate towards a more mature group of individuals and therefore, you might form your own event to appeal to like minds. If so, please reach out to us here. In addition to book clubs, we’re keen to organise other social groups for those in later life, so if you have any ideas, we’d love to hear them!

Getting people to attend

If you’ve created your own group and want to get more people to attend, start with friends and family. If you have similar reading tastes, a simple chat over coffee can be the start of a club. When you want to attract more members, it helps to ask around. Perhaps your local library or news outlet would be willing to promote your meeting. Certainly, sharing your book club with Mirthy can be a good way to appeal to a new and diverse audience.

reading a book

Attending a book club

As you can see, joining a book club is easy, interactive and enjoyable.

Perhaps one of the best cases for these groups is that they encourage you to read more, which can help maintain our brains well into later life.

When you have the accountability of an upcoming event, you’ll want to finish the book ready for the discussion. 

Conversation with fellow literature lovers is a rewarding, productive activity that allows you to join community events, find new books and meet new people.

So why not arrange a taster session today!

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