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December 29, 2010

The 3 Winning Rules for Book Clubs

Posted by Dana

Rah, rah, sis boom bah - go Book Clubs!  In today's guest post we have a visit from The Book Club Cheerleader (BCC), Marsha Toy Engstrom.  She shares her winning rules for book clubs with us as we gear up for another great year of reading!


 If you’re at all familiar with, you probably recognize my motto:

 “They come for The Book, They stay for The Fun, and they leave if you screw up The People part.”—BCC
This quote reflects my book club philosophy—but what does it really mean?


After working with numerous reading and other groups over the years, I believe the winning playbook for book clubs involves looking at your club from three perspectives:

1)    The Book—which stimulates the mind of your reading group,
2)    The People—which warms the heart of your book club, and
3)    The Fun—the creative and celebratory aspects—that touch the soul—or spirit!—of your readers group, while speaking to the party-girl in us all!
As you deal with all aspects of your book club life, you address one (or more) of these three perspectives. And you will find that life is good, indeed, if follow the basic rules of each:

Rule #1—Focus on The Book. This is the unifying factor for reading groups. Everything we do is in service to ‘The Book.’ It’s your raison d’être. Otherwise, you might as well be a bridge club or Monday Night Football group! By making certain book-related decisions early in your book club’s life, it will help your group run more smoothly—so you can have more time to discuss the book and visit with your friends.
If you don’t follow rule #1, you lose your purpose.
Rule #2—Involve The Group. While ‘The Book’ serves as the group’s primary focus, ‘The People’ actually are the club. The best way to gain—and keep—your club members committed to your group is to involve them in everything. Also, ensuring a safe environment—where everyone feels heard, included, and important—will go a long way toward moving your book club up a steep group development curve.
If you don’t follow rule #2, you lose your group.
Rule #3—Have Fun and Celebrate! If ‘The Book’ is the reason for being, and ‘The People’ are the club, the ‘Fun Stuff’ helps celebrate both! I’ve learned that the concept of the F-word is crucial and have many ideas for putting The Fun into your book club. There is so much to celebrate: book themes, authors, your individual group members, and your group as a whole. I follow the credo, “If it ain’t fun, it ain't worth doing!
So, if you don’t follow rule #3, why bother?
Building a winning book club entails creating an environment where people feel intellectually stimulated, personally involved and spritually energized!
Many of you may already be incorporating the 3 rules into your book club life, intuitively. I’d love to hear examples of how you’ve done this!
-- Marsha Toy Engstrom, BCC