This week we had our monthly Nightlighter book club meeting to discuss the YA book, If I Was Your Girl, which lead to an enlightening literary and cultural discussion. (I plan to blog about that book later in the week.) Obviously as a writer/author (The Travelers, YA paranormal/fantasy, Saguaro Books), I think books are very important. It’s not a stretch to say that I think book clubs are important. So let’s talk about why I love my book club and why every person should be in one!

7 Reasons I Love My Book Club

(And here we are)

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My book club is

  1. Honest – The people in my book club are not afraid to speak their minds, even if their viewpoint may run counter to the others or seem unorthodox.
  2. Open minded – My book club welcomes all thoughts and feelings. It’s a space to explore ideas and emotions. (Yes, it sounds therapeutic because it is!)
  3. Fun – We laugh, sometimes we cry, sometimes we disagree. And even that’s fun!
  4. Understanding – My book club never gets upset if someone doesn’t like a book or perhaps doesn’t finish it. It’s all about ideas and learning about others through a shared experience of reading (or not reading if the case may be!)
  5. Intelligent – It’s full of seriously smart ladies who all bring a specific viewpoint and knowledge to the discussion that makes it unique and interesting every month.
  6. Educational – I come away from every book club learning something new about my friends, myself, life or the world. It’s amazing.
  7. Just hands down the best book club ever in the history of all book clubs (Sorry other book clubs)

6 Ways to Make Your Book Club Great (if it’s not already)

1. Make sure you have access to a diverse group of people and opinions.

Let’s take my book club for example. We live in Virginia, technically the South, although it’s Northern Virginia, just outside Washington, DC. And we live in suburbia. When you see shows on TV about families, they often teeter on the edge of liberal and conservative. I’m talking about the main stream shows that walk the very thin line that tries to keep everyone happy and watching. Our suburb is that line.

We represent the plate tectonics of America. The converging of ideas that create a teetering mountain of conflict. We live on that tip between liberal and conservative where it’s easy to fall into either one – whether you want to be there or not. So, while our book club leans toward the progressive, we are also uniquely positioned in that we can peer over the tip of the mount to that other side rather easily.

Even if you live somewhere that is less diverse, you can still surround yourself with people who have different ideas and backgrounds. The point is to not all be the same. What’s the fun in all agreeing?

2. Let everyone have a voice

In my book club, we start off by going around in a circle and asking everyone to provide their thoughts on the book. While it can be hard to be the last person, especially if most of your thoughts have already been well discussed by the time the metaphorical talking stick gets to you, it’s still a great approach. The point of a book club is to make everyone feel included.

3. Celebrate and explore what makes each person’s ideas different and great

In my book club, we’re not the stereotypical suburban moms drinking wine and talking about books. We’re thinkers and searchers. We’re extroverts, introverts, teachers, writers, linguists. We’ve got medical, mathematical and technical backgrounds. We were raised in different types of families. We’ve come from all different kinds of places and our collective heritage spans well beyond the US. I could go on and on. Honestly, it’s less book club and more think tank.

Because we have all these varying backgrounds and our book club encourages discussion, every person brings a unique vantage point.

4. What happens in book club stays in book club (unless you have a blog)

I’m just kidding about the blog thing. I do write about our book club. But I never name anyone and I would certainly never tell something personal. But, it’s important that book club is a safe space to share ideas and not be judged. That’s really the crux of this. If people feel like you go home and talk about some awful thing someone said with your husband, they’re not likely to share ideas in the future. And sharing of ideas, is how we grow.

5. Always have snacks (no really, it’s important)

Every book club is better with snacks. You don’t have to go crazy. But, full stomachs equals good conversation. A good book club meeting cannot be conducted when people are hungry.

6. Never leave book club without a plan

To keep your book club going, you need to make sure you plan your next book club meeting while you’re at the current meeting. Get out those phones and pin down a date, a person hosting, and, if possible, a book. A book club without a plan cannot survive.

The One, Simple Reason Why Everyone Needs a Book Club

Which leads me to why everyone should have a book club.

It’ll make you a better person.

Book club is a place where you can learn from others and share ideas. A place where you can be exposed to things you’ve never thought about or have people challenge your way of thinking. It’s a place to grow and learn and laugh and cry.

If you’re not in a book club – join one. Now. Immediately. Even if it’s with a bunch of strangers (just make sure they’re not murderers or part of a secret cult. Otherwise, go for it.) You’d be surprised how much you’ll learn.

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