How to Be a Good Book Club Member

How to Be a Good Book Club Member

By Audrey Quinn

So, you’ve decided to join a book club, but you aren’t sure what the social etiquette of book club entails. 

Not to worry! 

We’ve all found ourselves in the anxiety-inducing situation of not knowing what the appropriate “script” for a particular social interaction is. But, thanks to the internet, you no longer have to guess at what the appropriate decorum is. Below, you’ll learn how to be a good book club member. Read on!

First off, the DON’TS of book club etiquette!

Don’t: Stroll in late! 

We’ve all had the experience of running late to a meeting or social gathering, and had to deal with varying levels of consequences–be that disappointed friends and family members, or an incensed boss and coworkers. 

Do your best to show up on time so you don’t inconvenience your peers, and oblige them to catch you up on everything that has already been shared. 

While your book club friends would definitely rather you come late than not at all, don’t stroll in an hour late with a Starbucks latte and interrupt whatever discussions are taking place: that’s rude!  If you are a few minutes late due to traffic or another unavoidable issue, then that’s different, and a smile and a sorry is sufficient, before getting your bearings by listening to the flow of conversation, and then joining in.

Don’t: Interrupt people! 

If another person is saying something, even if you’re excited, do your best to avoid jumping in and speaking over them. 

Of course, sometimes it’s hard to tell when there is a break in conversation, or when it is “your turn” to speak, so interruptions of this nature will happen, and that’s ok! Just apologize to the other person, and allow them to finish their thought before continuing with your own. 

As long as it isn’t deliberate (and you don’t try to continue talking), people usually understand if you accidentally interrupt them. 

The most important thing is to make an honest effort to avoid doing so.

Don’t: Get off the track! 

Remember that the point of a book club is to talk about BOOKS! 

Try to stay on topic as much as possible. A few comments and sidetracks are understandable and part of casual conversation, but if you find the entire group is now talking about HBO’s The Last of Us instead of Octavia Butler’s Dawn, then somebody went rogue and everybody followed them into the jungle.

If that happens, feel free to steer the conversation back to the book! Your fellow readers will likely appreciate the nudge. That’s why they’re here, too!

Now: the DOs of book club!

Do: Read the book! 

As much as your schedule allows, try to read the book before the book club meeting. This ensures everyone can talk about all their favorite parts of the book together, without worrying about spoiling anything for people who haven’t read as far as them yet. 

Of course, there are times where you might not be able to finish the book on time. 

Maybe you had to work, or take care of family, or had other obligations that interfered with your ability to finish. 

Or maybe you got thirty pages into this month’s book and thought Wow, I hate this and can’t believe all of these trees gave their lives to be made into literal printed garbage. 

Whatever the reason: it happens! Just be prepared for spoilers at the book club meeting, and don’t try to keep people from talking about the book if they have read it and want to talk about it. 

And definitely don’t lie about reading it if you didn’t!

Do: Contribute to book discussions, if you want to! 

This is the place for you to share your feelings and thoughts on the book with your fellow book club members, and for them to do so as well. 

Don’t be embarrassed about sharing what you really think, but also don’t feel pressured to contribute if you don’t have anything to add about a particular book or topic, or if you feel too anxious to contribute to this meeting. 

If you have trouble sharing, or feel like you aren’t being listened to, then it’s OK to tell your fellow book club members that. It is very likely that at least one other person feels similarly to you, and will understand. 

If, on the other hand, you notice someone who looks like they want to add something to the discussion but hasn’t, then consider asking them what they are thinking about, or if they have something they would like to share with the group. 

Part of being a good book club member is sharing, part of it is listening, and part of it is being present enough to make sure everyone gets the opportunity to share as well!

Do: Help create a meeting agenda and topics to discuss for the book! 

It’s helpful to have a list of questions and topics to discuss each time your book club meets. 

You can make a personal list of questions and topics you would like to discuss, or propose that the group decide on certain questions and topics for the entire group before reading the book together. Either way, a meeting agenda will help keep everyone on track and ensure that there’s always something to talk about, in case you or other book club members find themselves unsure of what to discuss.

Joining a book club is a great way to meet new people and expose yourself to new books you might not have otherwise read.  

Now that you’ve read this handy book club etiquette guide, you can stroll into your first book club meeting with confidence, knowing that you have the right script to be a good book club member!



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