Pour Your Own (Club)


Are you interested in starting your own book club? Let me give you some advice and helpful hints we've learned during the course of our 100+ book clubs.


Number - The best number of participants for a book club is 4-6 members. Fewer than 4 members and the conversation can become stilted and dominated by one person. More than 6 and a committee mentality develops. One person will lead the group, sidebar conversations will occur and not everyone will get a chance to talk. Remember, too, that it's unlikely everyone will be able to attend every book club.


Selection - Determine how you want to choose your books. Are you partial to a particular theme or genre? Our selections are very eclectic, including fiction, biography, history, science fiction, even poetry and the Bible. Our rule is simple: we rotate the selection of the title among the members, and there are no limits on the selection, but that person is responsible for the discussion of the book.  Similarly, we rotate the hosting duties. The host is responsible for the selection of the single malt and refreshments. Lately we've been using a blind taste test to try and minimize any bias in the tasting. Two of our members are fanatical in their devotion to the art of scotch whiskey, and we've all learned a great deal about the subject.


Facilitation - This is probably the single greatest factor to the success of your club. Try to keep the discussion on point, but allow plenty of opportunity for digressions. Over the course of the evening, we will discuss everything from baseball to the Second Coming of Christ, but remember that the ostensible reason for your meeting is the book. In our group, the person who chose the book usually has a few questions for the rest of us. Generally, these questions will cover a wide range of issues, from the literary quality of the book to its relevance to our world.  The evening will be successful if the host asks a question and everyone is given an opportunity to address the question. The discussion leader should allow some latitude for digression, but try to keep the discussion centered on the topic at hand until the issue has been fully explored. If the discussion lags, just bring up politics.


Have fun! - Of our six members, only one has been with the group less than 10 years. Over time, we have all become very good friends. We talk about our significant others and families, attend each other's parties and console one another when things are bad. We've done weekend trips together and even traveled as a group to Scotland for a glorious week tasting single malts under the tutelage of some very knowledgeable people. But most of all, we have fun. We tell jokes, razz each other when things get too serious and make sure to find time to sing the book club song. Each member takes their hosting responsibilities seriously so we always eat and drink well.


Most of us have been programmed to see books as work. In school we were given a short deadline to read an important book and then write a paper describing its importance. Don't get me wrong. I think there are important books, but I think many books can bring up ideas that can initiate a stimulating discussion about important questions: life, love, happiness, success. Finally, when the weight of the important questions becomes too ponderous, there's nothing like a wee dram to lighten the load.