Skip to main content


November 10, 2008

Camilla Morton: How to Start a Book Club

Posted by carol
British fashion journalist and author Camilla Morton's latest book is A Year in High Heels: The Girl's Guide to Everything from Jane Austen to the A-list, which is on sale tomorrow. Below is an excerpt from A Year in High Heels in which Camilla shares her advice and ideas on how to start a book club, including when to be strict and the most important membership card you can have in your wallet.

Tomorrow we'll share Camilla's tips for preparing for the first get-together and what to expect at the first meet-up. In A Year in High Heels, you'll also find out how to perfect your holiday thank you notes, how to rock red shoes in the summer, and how to blog your way to fame --- all things book club girls might need to know.


You should never need an excuse to sit down and read a good book. Make this one of your resolutions and make the time. Unfortunately weekly gossip magazines don't count. They are additional or trailers to the main feature. The best way to ensure you read regularly is to join a book club. If you don't fancy a book club full of strangers, even though there might be a brooding bookish type who will gaze at you over the cookies, why not form your own? Email some like-minded friends and get a gang together.

People's tastes in books are as varied, and as quirky, as their tastes in partners. Try and find between six and eight friends who have reasonably similar (literary) tastes. Remember this is not an enforced school project, but something that will lead to lively conversations and possibly lively arguments. Far better than wasting mindless hours in front of the television or on the telephone, and a fraction of the cost...

Once you have established your group, decide what dates to meet on and rotate at each other's houses or meet in a restaurant or a (not too rowdy) pub. You have to be strict that the book is the main topic of discussion. It should be a relief to have a night off from discussing why your roommate is single/trying a new diet/hates her job. Far more juicy to work out just what Marianne and Elinor Dashwood will do to make ends meet, or why Caroline Bingley is being so spiteful and determined to ruin Jane's happiness...and then there is the problem of Lizzie Bennet --- just what on earth should she do about Mr. Wickham, or should she go for the uptight Mr. Darcy? Yes, it can be rewarding to sink into a really good read.

Take it in turns to choose a book, but make sure you go with something that gets the majority vote --- you don't want to lose your members at the starting line. Try and alternate classics with contemporary, heavy with light. Deciding on the book can be as important as the actual reading and dissection...sorry, I mean discussion.

In America there is really only one book club to be in and that is Oprah's --- Alternatively most newspapers have book clubs, such as the Washington Post or the San Francisco Chronicle. See if any of the National Book Award contenders catch your eye or if there is a book being made into a film, read the original first.

Be logical --- choose a book list or title ideas from a magazine you read regularly. If you are an avid antique collector, you might enjoy novels from the era you are passionate about, while armchair travelers can see the world through the pages and tales of others. If you love biographies you might also like diaries. Above all don't get stuck in a groove or genre. It is often worth reading at least the back covers of the books featured in bestseller lists or in-store highlights. Go to your local library as often as you go to Starbucks, and if you are not a member, join immediately --- the library, that is. This is the most essential membership card you can have in your wallet. (It could also save you a fortune with this latest venture.) That said, if you are going to be making notes on a book you'll need to have a well-thumbed, well-loved copy of your own.

If you want to know more about the author before committing to his or her work go to, where many contemporary authors explain their books in their own words (sadly it wasn't around at the time of Austen or Dickens). Or indeed log onto or one of the other online bookstores. All the books available are summarized, reviewed, and open to reader reviews, and there are suggestions for what you might like to read next, based on the books you've already enjoyed

---Camilla Morton, A Year in High Heels