How to Start a Book Club (that brings you joy)


Jan 30 2018

Gold Tape

How to Start a Book Club (that brings you joy)

I started yet another book club.

I was flipping through Psychologies magazine, and noticed they do a “Happiness Book Club” at the end of every issue. I adored this idea at first sight, and decided to start my own. I tried to stop myself from taking on yet another project (I’m trying to take a step back, remember?), but I was so excited about this that I felt it was worth it. 

Okay self, said I, You can do this, BUT you have to think it through first.

You see, I’m a serial club founder. I started my first club in kindergarten.

It was a Kittycat Club, 100% stolen from Baby-Sitters Little Sister #4: Karen’s Kittycat Club. We had membership cards and newsletters and everything. Well, I say ‘everything’, but actually all I remember about it was the membership cards and newsletters. 

Since then, I have started too many clubs to count. I love starting clubs like normal people love going clubbing. From my experience as a serial club founder, I’ve gained some clarity on what I get out of the experience.

Often founding a club means a monthly chore of begging my friends to please show up and do the required reading so I can indulge in my book club needs. I didn’t want this club to be that.

What do you ACTUALLY want to get out of your book club? 

The fact that all I remember about my Kittycat club is membership cards and newsletters speaks to a larger theme: most of all, I like the idea of being in a club. I like the unity of a group with a theme.

As an introvert, I enjoy distantly and quietly participating in a common activity. For a book club, I am mainly psyched about reading the same book at the same time.

When I finished my master’s degree and my friends from the course dispersed across the globe, we started a book club. It was a fun way to stay connected despite the distance, similar to how my sister and I are a sort of two-person Survivor and Disney Movies Discussion via Facebook Messenger Club. 

  • Is your book club a way to keep in touch with friends?
  • Or meet new friends?
  • Is it about accountability? 

What do you want to read?

A book club is about two things: what you read and what you do about it.

Let me state the obvious: You don’t need a club to read books for fun. So what is special about the Book Club Books?

  • Do you want to read more books of a certain genre?
  • Find books you wouldn’t have otherwise known about?
  • Connect with the other members by getting a taste of what they like to read? 

For my new book club, I’ve selected 12 books about happiness. I posted about the idea on Facebook, and asked for suggestions. I made the final selection, comprised of books I’ve been meaning to read, books on topics within happiness I want to explore, and recommendations my friends swear by.

What do you want to do with your book club?

  • Do you want to have a structured literary discussion?
  • Or let the themes of the book more naturally guide the conversation?
  • You can pair each book with a tea or a cocktail, a location, or an activity. The question is, what do you want the club to do together?

In the Happiness Book Club, all you have to do is read the book for each month, act on one thing from the book, and post about that thing. 

With most self help, we know what we’re supposed to do, but putting it into action is the hard part. I thought it would be fun – and transformative – to choose one takeaway from each book and try it yourself.

How do you want to meet with your book club?

Consider the details:

  • What’s your ideal ‘club house’?
  • Do you want to hop around to different venues?
  • Signature snack and drink, or pair it to the theme of the book you’ve selected?
  • Do you even want to meet up at all? 

Right now, I have other commitments for gathering groups of people, so I decided to make the Happiness Book Club less about a fixed monthly meetup and more about an ongoing conversation throughout the year in our Facebook group.

Some cool examples of book clubs I’ve been in and/or heard about:

📚The club my master’s group formed together was called the Rich People Travel Book Club. My friend AC and I dreamt up our ideal, if-we-had-all-the-money-in-the-world book club, and came up with this: we would take turns picking a place in the world we wanted to visit, choosing a book from that country, and then meeting in said country to discuss. We did all of these things except the last.

📚Another friend led a dinner party book club, cooking cuisine relevant to the book with no structure but the menu.

📚In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin founded a children’s literature reading group for adults.

📚I also started the Barantine Book Club, for just two of my friends and me who have similar taste in lifestyle lit. We meet at La Barantine Victoria for coffee and croissants and swap books. It’s the opposite of having to buy the same book in a month and discuss it; instead it’s a lending library between likeminded friends. 

📚I love that Emma Watson has a feminist book club, Her Shared Shelf. She’s also known for secretly planting books on the Subway

📚I’ve discovered some of my favourite books, and most thought-provoking books, from library and bookstore clubs. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that librarians and booksellers are really good at picking out books. Golden Hare Books in Edinburgh has the best monthly picks, as well as a Readers’ Salon and a Short Story Club! 

📚Have you heard of the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge? It’s a list of all the books Rory reads or has read on Gilmore girls. It’s a HUGE list, and I’m taking the pick-and-choose approach with this one. On a separate note, I would be totally into a Lane Kim Listening Club. Has someone made that playlist yet?

📚One of my favourite book clubs to attend was not a recurring book club, but Jessie Cave’s Fringe show Bookworm. I highly recommend her entire Bookworm YouTube series for inspiration. I relate to all of them, especially the one with Evanna Lynch.

What the Happiness Book Club is reading this year:

How to Start a Book Club (that brings you joy)

If the Happiness Book Club sounds like your thing, you’re welcome to join! Here’s what we’re reading this year:

1. The Little Book of Lykke by Meik Wiking

2. Sane New World by Ruby Wax

3. Fully Connected by Julia Hobsbawm

4. Daring to Rest by Karen Brody

5. What Would Audrey Do? by Pamela Keogh

6. The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight

7. Gut by Giulia Ender

8. Ikigai by Héctor García & Francesc Miralles

9. The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

10. The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

11. The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte

12. Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig


P.S. Are you in a book club? You know I’d love to hear the details. 

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