book club 08.24.20
August 2020 Book Club Meeting to commemorate the ratification of the 19th Amendment – Women Celebrating Women.

why join a book club?

  1. Meet New People. When I joined my local book club over twenty years ago, I was a young mom searching for ways to connect with other women in my town. While some like me are core members from Day One, others have come and gone. Over the years, we’ve supported each other through life milestones. We’ve become close friends, developed through a shared love of reading. More recently, I’ve joined online book clubs and even participate via Zoom with a group of lovely ladies out in Kerman CA from my reading nook in New England.
  2. Broaden Your Interests and Perspectives. I love to read historical fiction. Yet, through our process of the monthly host picking our titles, I’ve expanded my depth and breadth by reading YA, non-fiction, LGBQT, biographies, cultural fiction, and more. At each meeting, we bring our experiences and opinions to shape and share thoughtful discussions. And, while most of us are in the same general age bracket, I enjoy the perspectives which emerge from our group which has a twenty-year age span of generations.
  3. Eat and Drink.Book club without cheese is just English class” – source unknown. While a book discussion steers our evening meetings, great food and drink, alcoholic and non, enhances our gatherings. We try new appetizers and desserts and swap recipes afterwards. Nibbling on a vegan olive tapenade while sipping on an Peruvian wine choice breaks the ice to launch lively discussions.
  4. Administer Self-Care. Joining a book club became my single, monthly effort in self-care. I carved out time from working full-time with two active boys in school and sports to read at least one book a month and attend one meeting. No hockey rinks, no baseball/lacrosse/baseball/soccer/football fields. Just me, a good book, and a cherished group of friends for three hours a month.
  5. Up the Ante with a Slice of Fun. From costumed meetings in October to movie-adaption nights to themed food, there are many great ideas to bring a book to life on Pinterest and recipes in The Book Club Cookbook. For a Zoom meeting, everyone pick a different themed recipe for the book, then eat it during the call and share a picture of your dish.
Meeting Fun with Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts, Monster – The Story of a Young Mary Shelley by Mark Arnold and Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

Top Choices for Best Book Club discussions

Top Books for a Great Book Club Discussion – developed from a poll I fielded of book clubs across the U.S. Please add your top picks by taking my five minute survey.

The History of Book Clubs

Does this description fit your book club? “A way for women to pursue truth, knowledge and an understanding of themselves and the world around them.” The observation is attributed to Margaret Fuller, the first American female war correspondent, a magazine editor and an all-around feminist renegade, who formed a literary circle of women in 1839. Read more about the evolution and power of book clubs in this March 2021 Washington Post article, “How women invented book clubs, revolutionizing reading and their own lives.”

Even the cat had a good discussion point!

Other Tips & IDeas

ZOOM, Facebook, LogMeIn, Skype Meetings

(APRIL 2020) In the middle of a world-wide pandemic and stay-at-home orders, I’m missing my book club friends as we enter the second month of being unable to meet. However, lucky for all of us, virtual meeting options boomed. I’ve participated in a Zoom meeting with a book club based in the UK and am looking forward to another one with my college’s alumnae group next month.

Recently I solicited tips from a few Facebook groups for active readers on how to host a virtual meeting. Overwhelmingly, the free service offered by Zoom was the preferred method. Others used a more simple approach of an email or text string of discussions.

The Mechanics

  1. Check the Zoom website first and read through info put in place to tighten security measures since the explosion of usage has also increased questions around privacy, etc.
  2. Test ahead of time to make sure connections are working.
  3. Have each person make a list of their top opinions before the meeting and send them to the moderator. Circulate via email ahead of time to think about what you want to discuss
  4. Limit the time or make sure you’re set up for longer 40 minutes. The free Zoom version gives you 40 minutes. To extend your time, have everyone log off and then log back in with the same link; it generally works. Or, book two back-to-back sessions.
  5. Choose one person to serve as moderator is key to maintain order and make sure everyone gets a chance to speak.  A round-robin approach works to make sure everyone who wants to speak gets the opportunity. Have the host pull up the discussion questions on her screen so everyone can see those at the same time.
  6. Log in a few minutes early.
  7. Have all attendees mute themselves except for the moderator and raise their hand to comment or pose a question…they have to be recognized by the moderator before un-muting themselves.
  8. Computers work better than phones.
  9. Activate the grid view so you can see everyone at once.
  10.  The best audio is if no one in the group uses earbuds and instead uses the computer’s mic.

Making It Fun

  • Have each member read a favorite passage. Dress it up – does the character have a signature item? Wear it.
  • Drop off or send a book themed goodie to each member ahead of your call, even if it’s a bookmark.
  • Try a phrase or word scavenger hunt – where does it say… First one to answer correctly wins a small prize.
  • For a brief moment of levity, encourage all participants to have a spatula handy. When they want to comment, raise the spatula instead of their hand for attention.

THEMED Meetings

As you can see from my photos, my book club has a lot of fun pairing food choices with book selections and dressing up in costumes (our October hostess loves Halloween and always chooses great books for us and gets creative).

From twisting tornados and rainbow fruit salad, to tea sandwiches for a 100th anniversary party to celebrate the 19th Amendment, to grilled salmon and “nine men in a boat”, there’s plenty of ways to get creative with your meetings.

Authors also post ideas on their websites along with discussion guides for their books. With the release of Sunflower Sisters, Martha Hall Kelley put out some recipes for food items mentioned in the Civil War era book along with a cheat sheet of the numerous characters and discussion questions in a handy book club kit PDF. Very helpful!

Tons of ideas can be found in the compilation, The Book Club Cookbook, by Judy Gelman. I should have known when I worked with Judy in launching a local children’s museum she would have wonderfully creative ideas like:

  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Annie Barrows’s Potato Peel Pie and Non-Occupied Potato Peel Pie)
  • Lisa See, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (Lisa See’s Deep-Fried Sugared Taro)

Author Talks

Connecting with readers is important for authors, especially when book stores and libraries are closed. You can still order Kindle editions, access digital versions through Libby / Overdrive library apps, or check with your local book stores for online ordering and curbside pick ups. In-Person, Zoom and Skype are great ways to connect with authors for any meeting. My group has been fortunate to Skype with Lisa See to discuss Island of Sea Women and to meet her in-person (pre-Covid) at an all-town read author appearance. She was amazing and so gracious with her time at each one.

Book Club June 2019
Island of Sea Women Summer 2019
lisa see book
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, Spring 2018

Author Talk – Janis Robinson Daly. One of my goals when my novel is published is to meet with as many book clubs as possible during a cross-country road trip. If your club is interested in reading my upcoming historical fiction about women doctors in the 1900s, please fill out my form which will also provide me with information on your local book store so I can coordinate with them. Thank you.

Author Talk – Ashley Sweeney. For historical fiction fans, I’m happy to recommend Ashley Sweeney and her books, Eliza Waite and/or Answer Creek. Ashley loves to chat with book clubs via Zoom or Skype or in-person, if possible, in the Seattle or Tucson areas. Contact Ashley directly through her website. 

Author Talk – Jane Healey. Jane’s books also focus on strong women stories in the historical fiction genre. She is an engaging presenter and is eager to share information on her research and writing with book club discussions. I’ve enjoyed her The Beantown Girls and look forward to her most recent launch, The Secret Stealers (March 2021). Contact Jane directly through her website. She’s also running a monthly Historical Happy Hour chatting with another HF author. Those sound fun! I’ll be joining one soon.

Sharing and Caring

  • With roots in a local women’s civic group, at my group’s December meeting we collect items identified as in high-demand for our local food pantry. Giving back to our community which brought us together is a simple gesture of thanks.
  • From a Facebook post in a reading group, I love this idea: When a member of their group passed away, they all purchased a copy of one of her favorite books and donated them to their library in her name so that other book clubs could read her favorite book with enough copies on hand for an entire group to borrow.
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HAPPY READING!

I invite you to follow my blog for book reviews and to follow my journey toward writing my first historical fiction.  More information in my Novel Synopsis. You can sign up from this page with the pop-up, or send me a note through the CONTACT page and I can email you an invitation to follow. I’m on social media, too.

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