The most important thing that any book club can do is pick books that will keep their members engaged. So many book clubs die because the book selections aren’t compelling enough (or affordable enough or of sufficient variety) to keep everyone coming back. Of course, that sounds obvious, but there are a lot of different ways to go about selecting book club books and you’ll want to find a way that works for your members.
So, if you are wondering how to choose books for book club, or how to source books ideas for your club, we are here to help. Keep reading because we’ve got 10 tips that will help you find great book ideas and a workable way to select books that your reading group friends will buy into.
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This guide is divided into two parts with 5 tips in each. The first is advice on how to establish rules or guidelines that will narrow down your book choices, and also some methods for choosing on a given book for club. And finally, we have some ideas to how to find chewy reads that will give your club a lot to talk about.
Tips for How to Choose Books for Book Club
You’d be surprised at the variety of ways that book clubs go about agreeing upon their book choices. Your book club has probably established its own practices for that. But, if the current method isn’t working for you, consider experimenting with some alternatives.
1. Set Some Guardrails
There are millions of books published every year and I’m sure that your book club members have more than enough books in their TBR lists to last more than a lifetime. So you may want to narrow the choices by creating some rules for how you choose books for book club. Here are a few ideas:
- Limit yourself to (or eliminate) certain genres. If you can agree that you aren’t into romance, but you are into speculative fiction and memoirs, that will help narrow down your choices.
- Agree upon a max page limit. Set a reasonable expectation for how long a book can be before it becomes too much of a chore to finish.
- Consider affordability. Some clubs prefer to read backlist or books that are available in paperback. This will help save members money, and older books are more likely to be available from the library without a long hold period.
2. Go For Diversity and Variety
Yes, create some guardrails– but if your guardrails are too narrow, your group will end up in a reading rut. Even if your book club is devoted to one genre such as sci-fi or lit fic, you can still find variety by seeking out different settings or plot themes. Finding works in translation or from authors who have a different lived experience than you do can also ensure that you are experiencing a wide range of creative works.
3. Agree Upon Who Gets to Choose the Book
There are basically three ways for determining who chooses the book club books. Some clubs (usually library clubs and public groups), have a leader who takes input but chooses for the group. For private groups, it’s usually more democratic that that. Either that month’s host will choose the book. Or people will bring book ideas and then the group votes on what to read for the next month.
4. Agree Upon How Far in Advance to Choose Books
Some book clubs plan one or two months in advance and other book clubs plan a year in advance. Either method is perfectly acceptable as a strategy, but each has its pros and cons when it comes to the books you end up selecting.
If you are a book club who likes to read what’s hot right how, then planning one month ahead would be better. The disadvantage of this strategy is that availability may be difficult and if the book is long (or a taxing read), your members may be less likely to finish.
But if your club likes to read backlist or paperbacks, then, it may be fine to plan way in advance. This is less flexible, but also gives your members extra time for each book.
5. Consider Doing at Least One Wild Card Month
Consider taking a break by having a wild card month. This could mean setting a theme (such as a particular genre, setting or plot point) or simply have everyone pull a book from their TBR. The members then read whatever they want. Then during book club, they spend a few minutes describing and pitching the book to the others.
In fact, some book clubs use this method as their primary vehicle for choosing their book club books. And others may do this once in a while as a palette cleanser.
Tips for How to Source Unputdownable Books for Book Club
6. Use our Books Lists and Guides
Start with our huge list of the best book club books. It includes at least one book per month for the past few years. We use magic to divine what we think will be hot with book clubs this year. What’s nice about the list is that if your book club loves “what’s hot right now”, you can choose books from the top of the article.
But if your book club prefers to read in paperback or have shorter library holds, then scroll down to selections from the previous year(s) and you’ll find suggestions that are more likely to be available.
And bonus, most of these suggestions have an accompanying book club guide. Bookmark the page so that you can use the guide when you meet.
7. Look at Book Club Challenges
One thing that is really great about a book club challenge is that it forces to read more diversely. This can mean getting outside of your normal genre, reading about other races and cultures, or finding books on topics that you wouldn’t normally consider.
Even if your book club members don’t want to commit to a huge year-long book challenge, you can get some really fun ideas by simply trolling the prompts from the challenges and picking one. Check out our Travel Reading List challenge for ideas.
8. Use your Library’s Resources
You local library can be a great resource for figuring out how to choose books for book club. You can simply ask your Librarian what’s hot with clubs right now. Many libraries also have “book club kits” which include reader guides and enough books for each member to read. And some libraries have curated displays of trade paperbacks. The displays usually include multiple copies of books that have been popular in the last year or two.
9. Ask on Social Media
Get advice from other book clubbers about what their members have been enjoying. Facebook is a particularly good place for this because there are many active book club groups. You can join us in the Travel Reading List group or look into joining the Pop Sugar, Book Club Favorites or Read Any Good Books Lately groups.
Our best advice here is to be very specific about your question. For instance “My book club likes books that are about x length and we like this genre but not that one. Our faves last year were x and y. What can you suggest?”
Instagram and TikTok are somewhat less interactive, but you can still get ideas by following relevant accounts and hashtags like #bookclub, #bookclubofinstagram, #bookclubfavorites, #booktok, #bookclubtiktok, #bookclubideas, etc.
10. Check Out the Celebrity Book Clubs
If you like getting curated ideas, then you may want to check out some celebrity book clubs. We are fans of the Jenna Bush Hagar book club. She does a great job of tapping into the zeitgeist. We keep an eye on what she’s recommending and here’s a list of all of her recent picks.
More Book Club Resources
Start with our list of 101 generic book club questions. While we do produce reading guides for specific books, we’ve also created a comprehensive list of book club questions that will work for for any type of book. You may want to create consistency and choose a few to ask at every book club.
Recruit new members by sharing these compelling reasons why it’s so worth joining a book club.
Expand your horizons by committing to a reading challenge.
Here are our latest book club guides:
- Babel Book Club Questions and Discussion Guide
- Cloud Cuckoo Land Book Club Questions and Discussion Guide
- Carrie Soto is Back Book Club Questions and Discussion Guide
- The Lost Apothecary Book Club Questions and Discussion Guide
- The Measure Book Club Questions and Discussion Guide
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