A Reader on Book Clubs

August 23, 2023

Everybody loves book clubs! What could be better than a group of good friends, a couple bottles of wine, and a fabulous book that everyone’s been talking about? But book clubs come in many forms, from casual to formal, online to in-person, celebrity to non-celebrity, and ones where everybody reads the book to ones where nobody reads the book. Here’s how to find – or start – the right one for you.  


Getting Started 

If you’ve ever thought you’d like to belong to a book club, but don’t know of any in your community, try starting your own. Begin with your close circle of friends and then branch out to coworkers (if you want to spend more time with them outside the office), gym mates, sisters-in-law, whoever you think might enjoy getting together once a month (more or less), to discuss that month’s chosen book. You can also put the word out on your social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram or even TikTok. Or try posting a notice on the bulletin board of your local library or bookstore. Your book club can be small, large, or in between—leave it up to the group to decide! 


Setting Guidelines 

To make sure your new group is on the same page, take time to discuss what you want to get out of your regular club gatherings before your first official club meeting. Will the focus of your time together be solely on discussing the novel, or will most of the time be spent chatting, sipping wine, and having some laughs together? The best book clubs are those that can straddle that fine line and thoroughly discuss the book as well as some camaraderie and frivolity.  


Picking the Book 

Perhaps the most important thing is choosing the book that the club will be reading each month. Many people believe you can never go wrong with candid memoirs to get the ball rolling, or the latest hot books roundups, the New York Times best-seller list, all will include novels that will appeal to an array of people. You can also choose a theme to help you narrow the choices down. Focus on a genre like thrillers, romance, mystery/suspense, memoir, or fantasy. Picking a specific author can work, too. When it comes down to who picks the books, the best solution might be to let members rotate who gets to choose the new story each month (or however often you decide to meet). 


Discussion Questions 

Book clubs sometimes stall when it comes to actually discussing the novel. Having a few thought-out topics planned beforehand can help alleviate that. Here are a few general questions to start with: 


  • Would you recommend this book to someone? Why or why not?  
  • Did you find the author’s writing style easy to read or hard to read? Why? How long did it take you to get into the book? 
  • Who was your favorite character? Were there any characters that you disliked? 
  • What were some of your favorite scenes from the book? Why did they stand out to you? 
  • What was the most challenging or difficult part of the book for you to read or understand? How did you handle it? 
  • How, if at all, did this book relate to your own life? Did it evoke any memories or create any connections for you?

Online Book Club 

If you’re unable to meet each other in person to talk about your latest picks, the show can go on digitally! Creating a private (or public) Facebook group is a simple and accessible way for members to communicate with one another about upcoming novels, discussion topics, meetings, or whatever comes up. Goodreads is another great source because after creating an account, you’re able to make your own online group that allows you to moderate conversations, notify others of events, and digitally keep track of all your reads. Video chat services such as Skype, Google Meet,  and Zoom all allow multi-user calls, making them ideal for a virtual book club happy hour! 


Celebrity Book Clubs 

When it comes to celebrity book clubs, Oprah Winfrey is the OG of this genre, founding Oprah’s Book Club in 1996! Now there’s an array of celebrity book clubs that have helped fledgling authors and their works gain exposure and popularity. Here are just a few of the most popular clubs and some of their current book picks: 

Oprah’s Book Club

Winfrey has personally chosen more than 100 books for members of the club to read, according to Oprah Daily. She shares her own review of the book, interviews the author, and asks members of the book club to share their thoughts. Her recent book recommendations are: The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese, Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano, and Bittersweet by Susan Cain. 

Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club 

Each month, Witherspoon “chooses a book with a woman at the center of the story,” according to Reese’s Book Club. Her selections are typically written by women. Her recent book recommendations are: Did You Hear About Kitty Carr by Crystal Smith Paul, Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld, and The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. 

Read with Jenna Book Club 

“Today” show host Jenna Bush Hager started her book club in 2019. Each month, Bush Hager selects books that will “delight, entertain and challenge” members of her book club, according to “Today.” Her recent book recommendations are: The Celebrants by Steven Rowley, Chain Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, and Camp Zero by Michelle Min Sterling. 

Reading is one of life’s most enjoyable pastimes! Joining a book club, either in person or virtually, allows you to share that great joy with friends and family, or maybe even with strangers. However you choose to set up or join your book club, happy reading!