There was a time in my life when the term “book club” had a negative connotation. I imagined old ladies sitting around, sipping coffee, and politely debating a dusty tome from the 1900s. In other words, it wasn’t my scene.

But that all changed when I was 28, living in a high rise in the city. I found myself in the elevator with a chatty fellow single woman. In my hand was a work of contemporary fiction, and she asked me if I liked it. I didn’t know it at the time that, but in the space of a short elevator ride, she was screening me for her new book club. By the time we got to the 27th floor, she had invited me to her inaugural “Booktails” meeting (you’ll see what we did there in a second). Soon I found myself with 7 new friends, all of whom shared my love of books and cocktails.

Fast forward to 2016, and Booktails had long since dissolved. All its members moved into suburban homes, miles apart from one another. But my need for connection to a group of women and books lingered.  So I reached out to one of the many friends I retained from “Booktails,” one who also happened to live 10 minutes from me (this is key). We were always recommending books to each other but barely had time to meet for a drink as often as we’d liked. Why not start another book club together? And so we did. Here’s how we did it, and why I think you should do.

  1. It’s all about the books: Even though my book club often turns into a discussion about jeans, skincare and the perfect joggers, we all agree on one thing— reading is a huge part of our lives. And that’s so important; your book club must be a gathering of readers. It isn’t just 5 of your best friends getting together to drink wine. That’s just girls’ night. This is book club. You need a book to discuss that everyone(ish) has read to make it different from a typical girls’ night. Though I love getting together with my non-book club friends, something feels special about setting aside that space for discussing books with those women.
  2. Go outside your comfort zone: I almost made this rule number one because this is such a super important rule. I think what I loved most about book club is that it has allowed me to make new friends, which if you’re over 30 you know isn’t always easy. Here’s how we did it. Member 1 (that was me) and Member 2 decide they want to create a book club. Member 1 invites Member 3, a person Member 2 doesn’t know. Member 2 invites Member 4, a person Members 1 and 2 don’t know. Then Members 3 and 4 invite people who are new to everyone else. And so on until you’ve reached the desired amount (more on that later).
  3. Stay inside your ‘hood (ideally/more or less): There was one geographical outlier in my book club; she was another OG Booktails member I’d stayed in contact with, so I offered for her to join us. She dropped out of book club within the first year. That’s because it’s just so much easier to do this if you’re all geographically close. Some of the members might end up being an acquaintance with this system (like when Member 3 invites Member 4 who happens to be someone you know from your spin class), but it’s still better than having to drive a long distance for your meetings.
  4. Make a date and keep it sacred: Every book club handles the frequency of their meetings in whatever way works best, so you’ll need to work that out with your new group of friends. Mine meets every 5-6 weeks, always on a weeknight, but that night may change based on who is hosting. No matter how often you meet, get the upcoming month’s meeting on the calendar during the current month’s meeting, and then don’t make any plans that interfere with it. My book club has 8 busy moms in it, and we’ve never had a last minute cancellation from a host. A member might need to skip a month, but even this is rare; most months we have nearly the entire club present. That’s no small feat for a group of busy adults, but it’s so worth it. It always feels like a party—an intimate little party in the middle of a busy week. Kind of amazing, right?
  5. Start small, grow as needed: I don’t think there’s a rule for how many people should be in your book club. I can’t see myself in a book club with fewer than 4 people, but you might feel differently. We started with 6 and grew from there.  Soon we will add a 9th member and see how that feels for a while.

And finally why. Why do you need book club?

Because reading is important.

Because talking about adult things with other adults makes adult life richer.

Because making new friends is hard, but good for you.

Needless to say, I no longer associate book club with old ladies and coffee. It was fun for me in my 20s, and it’s still fun for me in my 40s. And when I’m an old lady, I hope I’ll still have a book club meeting to look forward to every 5-6 weeks (but my guess is even then it won’t involve coffee, maybe tea).

T. Jewell
The Tea Blogger
(and book enthusiast)