September 5, 2017

Book clubs for all kinds of lives

NoveList staff love book clubs. We’re all book people (of course!) and many of us are librarians who used to work in public libraries and run our own book clubs. As we were talking about Book Club Central, we started talking about book clubs we’ve either run or heard about that offer something extra to readers.

Genre book clubs

No matter what they read, genre readers are a devout and opinionated bunch. They’re also often underserved by book clubs. Mystery book clubs abound, but science fiction readers, fantasy readers, romance readers -- they all want to talk about the books they read. I’ve run the Romance Lovers Book Club for seven years and am occasionally asked if there’s enough in the book to have a whole meeting about. Yes! Not only do we have the entire book to talk about, but genre books come with genre expectations. My romance book club often talks about both the book and where it fits within our expectations of what a romance should look like, what kind of heroes/heroines we enjoy reading about, where the book fit within the scope of a feminist understanding of romances…the list of what we can talk about around the book and how it fits within the genre as a whole is almost unending -- and one of the most lively parts of our monthly discussions.

Of course, for a complete different take on genre book clubs, check out my former coworker Patrick Holt’s book club, Sub-Genre-O-Rama, where they read books that blend the genre lines. You know, the ones catalogers hate, like Plain Fear: Forsaken by Leanna Ellis (an Amish romance with vampires). Want to know more about Patrick’s book club? In NoveList, search for Patrick Holt, then click on Lists & Articles. You’ll see Patrick’s article, “Success Story! Sub-Genre-O-Rama Book Club.” Or just enter UI 445501 into the search bar to find his article and how-to. Want to know more about searching for genres in NoveList? Download our Guide to Genres and Book Discovery. We also have search strategies to help you use all our fabulous genre headings. 

(If you’d like to start a romance book club, check out this podcast for information and to learn more about my experience.)

Book clubs, plus bonus activity

A friend of mine participated in a running book club organized by her library. The idea behind the book club was simple: one month, the club would discuss a book related to exercise (for example: Born to Run or Boys in the Boat) and the next month, they would participate in a group run/walk. She lived and worked in a particularly outdoorsy area of the country and, if your community can support a book club like that, it sounds like a ton of fun.

Exercise (especially group exercise) isn’t for everyone. Camus Public Library in Washington has a bimonthly Book to Art Club. Read the book, discuss the book, then show off the art you created in reaction to the book. What a fun idea and once that could easily be adapted to your community’s needs. Maybe have alternate months with a book discussion one month and a craft the next or have a discussion then craft?

You and your library could expand this idea into a million directions. How about a book club that reads biographies of musicians and histories of music? After reading a biography of Michael Jackson, as a group, you could listen to several of his songs over the course of his amazing career and discuss his music, especially as related to his life. Like with genre book clubs, the possibilities of tying a book club to an activity are vast (and exciting!).

Book clubs for everyone

People love books. Full stop. So, offer a book club that’s welcoming to everyone! Next Chapter Book Club is a national organization helping libraries run book clubs for adolescents and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Being able to read is not required.

Want to know more about running a Next Chapter Book Club? Their website offers a bunch of information for starting a book club in your library, including videos and facilitator training. Looking for books with characters who have intellectual and developmental disabilities? NoveList has an appeal term for you. Search for AP Ability diverse to find picture books, chapter books, and YA books with characters with physical, mental, or emotional conditions.

Libraries around the country are offering book clubs in support of their LGBTQIA communities, for all ages. The book clubs are designed for both people who identify as LGBTQIA and people who support them. These book clubs are a great way to offer a safe space as people discuss and examine their feelings about these issues. Find book suggestions in our recommended reads lists or search AP LGBTQIA diverse for teen, older kid, and younger kid books with characters who identify as LGBTQIA. Want to know more about how making your library a safe and welcoming place for LGBTQIA youth? Check out our blog post for ideas.

Download our Secret Language of Books to learn more about appeal factors and how to use them in NoveList.

These are only a few of the great ideas out there for book clubs that serve all kinds of needs and interests. If your library running a book club that you want to share with the NoveList community? Leave a note about it in the comments and we’ll share it on social media. Keep an eye out for an announcement about our upcoming webinar about book clubs as we celebrate National Reading Group Month in October.

Jennifer Lohmann is a NoveList Consultant. 


Comment from Teralee ElBasri on September 19, 2017

How about intergenerational book clubs? I currently run a tween/parent book club. We all read the book, then discuss and eat - usually something book related. It gives parents the opportunity to share a book with their children, and also will help segue the tweens into a teen book club, knowing that teens are a tough group to get into the library! It’s been a lot of fun!

Comment from Jennifer Lohmann on September 20, 2017

Teralee—that’s a great idea! Thank you for mentioning it, and it’s good to hear you’ve had success with it. Let me know if you’re interested in writing a post on tween/parent book clubs to share your success (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)). We love sharing library success stories.

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