People have gathered to discuss literature for centuries - so you're in esteemed company when you join a Book Club.
We are currently creating Book Club questions for each of the books we've published - we will upload them here as they become available.
Tips on Setting up your own Book Club
Pam Kershaw, corporate writer and long-term member and convenor of book clubs, gives her tips on how to go about establishing your own club. Pam was on the Book Club panel of the Clunes Booktown Festival session - The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.
1. Make sure you have a common interest in books.
My interest has always been in quality literary fiction and nonfiction. There were some women in the CAE group who were keen readers of romantic fiction, so it was never a long-term proposition.
2. Ideal number of book club members
My book groups have ranged from 6 to more than 20 members. The latter is far too large – you’ll find the same people tend to comment at every meeting, and you never hear from many members. I think the ideal size is 6 or 8, maximum of 10.
3. Gender and age of members
I’ve been in book groups with an age span of around 10 years. The first two were all female, the last two have been a mix of men and women. I far prefer the latter, as you get different styles of nomination (I find the men tend to nominate non-fiction, whereas the women nominate both), and the viewpoints in discussion are often quite different.
4. How do you select the books?
There are a number of methods: one person nominates a book each month. Or everyone nominates a set number of books, eg three or six, and then everyone votes on those books to come up with a list for three months, six months or a year. In some groups, one person buys a copy of their books for each member (expensive). In our group, I buy a copy (I collect books the way some women collect shoes…) and share it with some members. Other members get library copies.
5. Where to meet?
Meeting in homes on a rotating basis or meeting at a local pub, café or bookshop seem to be the most popular.
We met at a local pub until lockdown. We’re an older bunch of readers, and some people didn’t want to catch up via Zoom, so the group hibernated during lockdown. We’re back meeting now, but at a private home until everyone feels happy about going back to the pub.
6. How to conduct the discussion?
Some book groups degenerate into ‘chat’ sessions where few people have actually read the book. We start at 6.30pm for a ‘chat’, then the book discussion starts at 7pm.
Some groups are very formal, eg there is a ‘chair’ and the nominator of the book is responsible for preparing some notes (which can often be found online). I’m coordinating my current group, and simply start by asking who enjoyed the book/did not enjoy it. Everyone is then asked to comment. Some discussions are over quite quickly, other books have a lot more issues attached to them.
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly at Clunes Booktown Festival 2021
We live in an age of cancellations in this tentative Covid world. But when Clunes Booktown Festival moved their events online, our publisher Jen Hutchison hosted the panel Book Club - The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of Book Clubs in a podcast in front of a digital audience of 100+ listeners - a very satisfying outcome in an uncertain week.
Jen quizzed Tough Guy Bookclub founder Shay Leighton and long-time media writer and book club founder, coordinator and member Pam Kershaw. A lively, interesting and engaging hour, well worth a look and listen. With a glass of wine!
Interesting facts about Book Clubs
Relevance of Book Clubs During Tough Times
During tough economic times (like post 9/11 and the GFC), book groups had an uplift in numbers as the clubs became an affordable form of entertainment and an easy way to connect with people.
A BookNet Canada survey on the impact of reading during COVID-19 has found:
58% are reading more
39% are reading the same amount as before
4% are reading less
17% are participating in fewer virtual book clubs or reading groups than before.
Lack of Australian Research
Australian research highlights that book clubs are one area of community participation largely ignored by researchers despite the local and national proliferation of such clubs.
Why Join a Club?
Book Clubs are one of the few places where people can amicably disagree.
‘People are crying out for a space…in which to share and discuss ideas about things that matter – history, identity, politics, justice. Book club discussions extend their lives and themselves’
Survey respondents were driven to belong to a book club mainly to talk about books.
About two-thirds (64%) of respondents chose that as one of the reasons they joined.
The second most popular reason was to be exposed to new books (56%).
The social reasons ranked a bit lower: meeting new friends (50%), connecting with existing friends (39%), and talking about life (31%).
The reasons for joining were the same for both men and women.
Indication of potential numbers of book clubs
Pre-Covid, just one second-hand bookstore in Adelaide ran 60 clubs out of there every month.
BookNet in Canada found that between 2018 and the first three quarters of 2019, the percentage of Canadian book buyers who belong to a book club or reading group jumped from 7% to 14%.
The Council for Adult Education has nearly 7000 book club members across Australia and dispatches a daily 500 books to readers. (They pay for the CAE service). CAE started book clubs in 1947 to combat social isolation on soldier settlement blocks post WW2.
The tiny country town of Foster (population about 1200) in Victoria has eight book clubs.
BCH has heard of several clubs that have gone for more than 40 years with mostly the same members.
One Melbourne Club (Ivanhoe) is celebrating its centenary this year.