I am lucky to take part in a small book group with a few friends. Over the years I've participated in quite a few book clubs, and they all have their own particular flavor, some more successful than others. Because I know many of you do the same, I thought I'd share a few things we've been doing with our book club in the hope that you will share things that are working particularly well in yours.
1. We read one book each month. (Sometimes we combine July and August if everyone's going to be off on vacation, or December and January to avoid the holiday rush). Every six months or so we pick the next few books we're going to read. We have one rule: You have to have read the book before you can recommend it. And we try and pick books that are easy to get a hold of (via Amazon, the library, local bookstore, etc.).
2. We meet the same day each month, and at the same house. (For example: we always meet the first Tuesday of each month, and we meet at my house.) We used to rotate around to everyone's houses but meeting at one house seems to be working better for us, it may be simply because we always know where we are meeting!
3. We discuss the book. We used to just sit around and talk, but we've been trying to make a concerted effort to actually discuss the book. We ask one person each month to take a few minutes to write up some questions (you can usually find some already written online somewhere) and we write them up on little 3x5 cards. When you arrive, you pick a card or two and when it seems appropriate, you pipe up with your question and everyone weighs in. Book club is about socializing as well, so we definitely get off on tangents, but the cards help us to guide the conversation back to the book from time to time.
4. We keep it all pretty low-key. I've been to book clubs where there was a full buffet offered, and lovely as it was, it sets the bar so high that people are nervous about hosting or bringing refreshments. We just do dessert. Sometimes we can use the book we've read as inspiration (we recently read The Madonnas of Leningrad and my friend brought a delicious honey cake she learned to make while she was in Russia). Other times we've just had berries and ice cream. Everyone takes a turn bringing the dessert.
This month was my turn. Since we had read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, I made my first every sweet potato pie. I looked over a few recipes but settled on one from Everyday Food. And it was delicious! Sweet potato pie is similar to pumpkin pie, but with a slightly different flavor and consistency. This recipe has a mixture of pecans and brown sugar that you spread on top, which makes it especially good. I might have to make another one for Thanksgiving instead of pumpkin pie this year. Top with a big dollop of whipped cream, and you'll see what I mean.
If you'd like to share what's working in your book club, I would love to hear it. The books shown above are ones I've read and enjoyed in various reading groups. If you have recommendations, I'd love to hear them..