Possibly the only thing that I enjoy more than reading a good book is sharing good books — and the joy of reading in general — with others! There’s also an added social element that comes to a solitary activity, reading, when you’re able to do so with a group. As I have a number of bookish friends who do not live within driving distance of me, I set up and described Book Circles in this previous post. But, of course, I didn’t stop there. Like a dog with a bone and fresh off the high of the launched Book Circle project, I also launched a Book Club at my office. It’s super easy and enjoyable and you can do it too.
First thing’s first, ask permission from your administrative staff. If they say yes, you should be clear to book your conference room for a lunch hour once a month for the purposes of the book club. If they say no, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t do it. Instead, work it under the radar and schedule the meetings after work and off the premises.
I sent out a general email to the staff at my company asking if a Book Club was something they would be interested in. I would encourage anyone who is sending this out to indicate the frequency you intend. I found out that some people can be very intimidated by the thought of committing to reading a whole book once a month. (Shocking for those like myself, I know, but trust me they exist.) In this case, stress that the activity is very low pressure and would occur at the frequency you’ve decided. For mine, I decided once a month. There is a group of about 15 people who opt to participate at my office.
Choose the book
I take the “blame game” out of my hands by making the selection of the book each month a democratic exercise. For this, you’ll need Doodle polls. If you have not used this amazing — and free — tool, be prepared to make your life so much easier. You can use it both in selecting the book, by choosing the simple survey method, and scheduling the meeting (more on that next).
I provide 5 to 7 books for our readers to choose from. For at least the first one, you may have to do most of the legwork on the book selections. However, after a few months, I have found that the readers are suggestion books from their to-be-read lists and sending me emails with links to articles that have titles like “Best Book Club Reads.”
I send out the email with the Doodle poll about a week before our book club meeting. You can edit it after creating it, so any last-minute additions can easily be popped on to the list. Then, I send a reminder the day before the meeting to fill in the poll so that we may select the next month’s book. (This email is also good to serve as a reminder of the meeting in general.) Whichever book has the most votes is the selection for the next month!
I personally don’t vote with everyone else. I have found that there are times when two books have an even number of books. So, in that case, I’ll cast the tie-breaking vote, but in general, I usually want to read all the books (again, I know, shocking) so it’s usually not an issue.
Schedule the meeting
I’ll send out the Doodle poll to schedule the lunch date for the next month’s meeting almost immediately after the meeting. Reason being, we announce the next book at the meeting and it’s a good reinforcement of the book title to have it in an email. Also, anyone who wasn’t able to make the meeting, for whatever reason, is all caught up shortly thereafter. (As a practical aside, doing it while it’s top-of-mind ensures that I actually send out said email!)
Identify which dates work best for your group. For example, at my office, we have some people who split time between working from home and the office. As such, I’ve noted that Tuesdays and Thursdays are more practical days. So, I select all of the Tuesdays and Thursdays in that given month and send the poll out in that previous-meeting-recap email.
I leave this open for about a week, then see which date has the most votes. I confirm with our office manager that the conference room is available at that date and time and, if so, create a meeting and invite all of the Book Club participants.
Sometimes, it feels like I’m a first-grade teacher who has assigned a book report. Co-workers run scared when they see me in the break room or quickly say “I’m going to get the book soon, I swear!” While I do enjoy a good jibing for some people who would be motivated by such teasing to finish the book, I generally keep the whole ordeal very low pressure. My retort could be one of the following, depending on where we are in the month, “Well, it’s a great book, I’m enjoying it! You still have 2 weeks to read it!” or “You’ll enjoy it! And if you finish it in time for the meeting, great! If not, no sweat. You can skip the meeting this month.” Some people will opt to come anyway. Some will not want the spoilers. This depends on the person and the genre of the book we’ve chosen.
So, in short, my coworkers and I have read 6 books over the last 8 months. Here’s the list, if you’re interested!
- The Glass Castle, Jeanette Wells
- The Girls of Atomic City, Denise Kiernan
- Sing, Unburied, Sing, Jesmyn Ward
- Another Brooklyn, Jacquelin Woodson
- The Good Daughter, Karin Slaughter
- Uncommon Type, Tom Hanks
- Currently reading: Less, Andrew Sean Greer