If you've always wanted to run a book club at your workplace but didn't know where to start, this article will give you the tips you need.
Reading more books is one of those New Year’s resolutions that rarely sees due closure. After a strong January and a couple of good reads behind, there usually comes a big slump when it’s tempting to get back to binge-watching Netflix shows every evening. If this sounds all too familiar, then starting a book club with your coworkers can be a great way to cultivate motivation and achieve your personal goals.
Now, the big question you may be asking yourself is, “How can I get my coworkers interested in my book club?”
Since every workplace is a different environment composed of different people, there is no foolproof way to spark interest in extracurricular activities. That said, given some planning and inside marketing on your part, you might be able to pull it off.
1. Get Crisp on Your Book Club’s Purpose
Book clubs at work can play a number of different roles. Sometimes, the focus is professional development in a particular area. Other times, the focus might be something more general like leadership practices.
Of course, some book clubs are purely recreational. They might opt for specific genres (e.g., literary fiction, biographies, non-fiction) or be open to any and all. The goal could be simply to read more by doing it with others (kind of like a workout buddy), or it could be to grow intellectually by challenging each other.
To attract people to your book club, make it clear what it’s for. When people sign up for something, they want to know what’s entailed, and what they can expect to get out of it.
2. Choose the ‘Right’ Book(s) for Your Club
It sounds like a no-brainer, right?
As the self-proclaimed president of the book club, you can feel at liberty to choose the books that appeal to your personal tastes. Other members, however, may have a completely different idea about what tickles their muse. If you don’t want to end up marooned as the solitary participant of the club, try a more cooperative approach.
Ask each member to email you a list of ten books they think would make a good reading material for the group. Next, put the lists together and create an online survey (try Google Forms or SurveyMonkey) so everybody can vote. Once you have your results, simply choose the most popular title from the list, and voilà, here’s your first pick.
There are several benefits to this approach. If your club is not limited to books from a particular category, you will get a nice intersection of different genres and authors to cover. And with such a hefty pool of titles, it’s unlikely your group will run out of reading material anytime soon!
3. Set a Specific Time and Stick to It
Consistency is key when it comes to keeping the group active and members engaged.
I recommend you set up meetings twice a week and stick to the schedule. Ideally, each session should last around 30-45 minutes, but sometimes even a 15-minute chitchat is OK if that’s all you can muster.
Typically, the afternoons around 3 p.m. should work great for most workplaces since there is less traffic to handle and some brainpower left for a discussion. Alternatively, you could roll a quick meeting first thing in the morning when everybody’s still sipping their 8:30 coffee.
“What if someone cannot make that time?”
Run the meeting anyway. There is NEVER A PERFECT TIME for everyone to attend, so just run it with whoever can show up. To keep the momentum going, try not to reschedule or people will eventually lose interest and start falling out.
4. Set up a Manageable Reading Schedule
Each week, send a meeting invitation and specify the days and hours the meetings will occur. The schedule should also include the chapters and pages people are expected to read so nobody complains that they “didn’t know!”
If there’s a shared leisure space at the office, pin the printed schedule to a simple corkboard so nobody misses it. The kitchen area is another great place to keep everybody up to date and maybe even bring new members to the club.
To make the meetings more dynamic, assign about two chapters per week, depending on the book; anything less, and you might not have enough to talk about. On the other hand, if you overdo it, some people will become bored with the material. Don’t forget it’s meant to be fun!
5. Spark a Lively Conversation
Reading interesting books is only part of the story. The book club should be an opportunity to spark stimulating discussions and ramp up social engagement at the company. Here are some strategies you can practice.
If you don’t feel especially adventurous, just run the same set of questions every week. For example, you may ask each member, “What did you find the most surprising or interesting about the chapter?” or “What did you learn from this chapter?”
If you’re currently discussing a non-fiction book, ask your members to apply a lesson they learned from the week’s chapter and share their experience next time the club meets. Putting knowledge into practice is the best way to retain information.
Another idea for a conversation starter is to ask each person to choose a passage from the week’s chapter(s) and read it aloud. Each member can then offer their thoughts and highlight the merits/drawbacks of the excerpt.
Check out this list of sample book club questions from Book Riot you can print and distribute amongst fellow bookworms.
6. Make Sure to Keep the Discussion Light and Cordial
Now that you’ve set the agenda and everybody knows what to expect, make sure to act as a moderator and maintain a friendly atmosphere during the meetings.
One way to do that is to have everyone sit in a circle and simply ask, “Who wants to go first?” Then proceed around the circle clockwise or anticlockwise until everyone has had their chance to speak.
Sometimes a casual chitchat can turn into a heated debate, so stay on your toes and arbitrate when needed. It’s also your job to prevent people from talking over each other. Your non-club colleagues will definitely appreciate it!
Running a book club at your workplace can be an incredibly fulfilling and refreshing experience. Not only does it encourage social interactions amongst your colleagues but also brings educational value to the table.
With proper incentive and a small dose of planning, it can become a great opportunity to awaken your inner bookworm and catch up on all those books stuffing your bookshelves.
If you have any questions or ideas on running a book club at your workplace, let us know!
This post was updated in March 2019.