Introducing: Book Circles

Work in progress (1)So, I did this thing, as those of you who have had the pleasure of partaking in a Book Circle now know, to share books with friends, family, acquaintances and strangers. Here’s the set up:

Premise: How to collaborate in reading books, similar to a book club, with friends who live near and far.

Solution: A book circle! Intrigued? Read on!

Book Circle

A book circle is a group of friends or acquaintances each of whom agrees to share one of her precious tomes with the group. Her book circulates throughout the, say 12 people, and gets back to her in a designated amount of time, while she gets to experience the books of 11 others for the low, low price of media mail shipping costs.

Let’s move from the abstract, and into my case study!

Case Study

12 book lovers started
1 was excommunicated
11 finished
12 books
7 states
11 months

First thing’s first: Create the circle. It’s a circle because each person passes a book to the next person, her book buddy, every month, with everyone receiving a book, a continuous circle. (Think hot potato, with more than one potato.) When putting ours together, I considered location. I didn’t want to place the undue burden (which only turns out to be like a $1, more on that later) on any one participant to send a book across the country. Therefore, I grouped together, the folks from New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. For participants in Colorado, Arizona and Ohio, I grouped them together as well and attempted to limit the mileage a book would have to travel with each stop.

Second, I created a Google doc and shared it with the participants. In sheet 1, it listed the names of the participants, their addresses and the books they had each chosen. (These are listed below for those eager to add to their To Be Read lists.) In sheet 2, it contained a list of instructions, see below. Sheet 3 was a matrix of due dates and participants to use as everyone saw fit. I coordinated it all via email and everyone had all the participants email, should she run into an issue.

*For month one only, use your book!
Take the book you received* and mail it to the next person on the list.
For example, Lindsey will send the book to her book buddy, Danielle. Danielle will send a book to Cait, and so on down the list. The last person will send to the first person on the list, closing the circle.
By the due date, the fifth of each month, place your book into a large envelope (I’m bulking up on a few). DO NOT USE FLAT RATE, IT WILL COST YOU MUCH MORE. Fill in the to and from and indicate to the postage person that it is a book and you would like the media rate.
As an example, for the average hardcover book, at 1 lb 15 oz, to go from Memphis to Flagstaff postage would be $3.12
Receive your package from the person before you, your book angel, if you will. In Lindsey’s case, this would be Kristin.
You should have about a month to read your new-to-you book.
4 Start the process over again: Take the book you received and mail it to your book buddy!


At this point in time, I’ve completed one successful book circle and am starting up the next! There was one book casualty, unfortunately, thanks to the Chicago-area postal service. (A new book was purchased for the individual.) But, all in all, this was a success! I gauge that from the fact that I was able to read a number of GREAT novels that I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen for myself, and that I didn’t buy them all! Also, a number of the participants in the Case Study book circle have signed on for the second book circle.

A few lessons learned from experience:

  1. Use sheet 3 to pop in the tracking number after you have sent it to your buddy. Those receipts can easily get lost.
  2. If you need more time with the book or are going to be late, whatever is the case, just email your book buddy! Communication is key. (And lying about when you send it is impossible. The postal service time stamps…)
  3. SKIPPING books, when you ask the person sending you books to send it to the next person, either because you have read it or don’t have time or what have you, can cause the books to come out of order. Advise everyone to be mindful of sheet 1. If the books come out of order, then the book owner doesn’t get the book nicely at the end and someone, or multiple someones, ends up not receiving a book.
  4. I, personally, saved money by purchasing bulk mailers from Amazon/Staples, instead of buying the envelopes at the post office.

Feel free to drop me a line if you’re curious about setting up something like this for your friend group! I’m happy to help and offer pointers, though this step-by-step guide is pretty comprehensive.

Happy Reading!

Book list:
“White Oleander” by Janet Fitch
“Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult
“Big Little Lies” by Lane Moriarty
“The Night Circus”
“11/22/63” by Stephen King
“The Dinner” by Herman Koch
“Small Great Things” by Jodi Picoult
“Swimming Lessons” by Claire Fuller
“All the Ugly and Wonderful Things” by Bryn Greenwood
“The Storyteller” by Jodi Picoult
“The Kind Worth Killing” by Peter Swanson
“Exit West” by Moshin Hamid


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