Wintertime is a great time for a great read — and beginning or continuing your book club works best in the winter months. Everyone could use a little more reading time these days. A good book can whisk you away from the world for a spell, a much-needed trip away from the events of 2020. You can enjoy reading on your own, or you can organize or join a book club for even more fun.

Gathering a group of friends and starting a book club is as easy as turning a page. Together you can discuss the events of the books you’re reading and select new titles to dive into. My book club meets for lunch the first week of January with title suggestions. We choose the titles we like — and vote. If two books make the cut — we do two for that month because most of us try to read a book a week, anyway.

We keep our group small and plan to do that this year, as well, especially with COVID-19 (and its variants) still a problem. In our January meeting — anyone can suggest a new member, and we vote on those new members, along with book titles. This year we decided not to add anyone to the group, so we can still social distance. But, your small group can turn into a pivotal 2021 trend that will help make this year much easier than the last.

Rediscover your love for reading and help others to do the same. Grab a bookmark and your online calendar and let’s get started.

Create a Reading Schedule

First things first, you need to pick out a book title. As your book club evolves, you’ll cycle through several types of books — but pick a book and get started. Next, plan out a reading schedule to realistically complete the book with some time constraints. Most people can figure out their own routine for reading — but newbies sometimes need a few suggestions.

Your reading schedule might change from book to book — since each business book or novel will be of varying lengths and complexities. J. R. R. Tolkien’s groundbreaking bestseller, The Lord of the Rings, for example, has over 1000 pages of deep content to ingest. You would want to break this book into more manageable pieces than you would with Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which has less than 200 pages. And that’s if you even read those types of books.

One year we took on reading some of the books that are considered “classics of American literature.” Most of us had read these in high school or university — but the rereading made for an exciting year.

If you decide to be on a reading schedule — your club’s reading schedule should also be somewhat generous. Some busy individuals who want to participate may only have a few minutes each night to read. Some book clubs keep chapter and book deadlines strict but reasonable to accommodate every schedule and reading level. We allow each person to choose their own schedules.

Organize Your Meetings

A book club without meetings isn’t much of a club. You’ll want to organize regular gatherings in order to get the full experience. Nothing will make it easier to organize all of your meetings than an online calendar.

Do your best to make meetings a routine by deciding the evening, time, and frequency that meetings will follow. We meet on the first Thursday of the month at 7:00 PM. This timeframe makes it easier for everyone to remember and incorporate the book club into their schedules.

You can even create a Calendar, specifically for your book club, that you can share with all participants to help them plan around meetings. You’ll also get a better feel of when to host meetings, compared with everyone else’s schedules. We voted on the best times when we first started the book club — and we rarely vary from the dedicated day and time.

With lingering concerns over COVID-19, an online calendar can help you plan virtual meetings just as easily. I also attend a book club in another state once a month and have for several years. Add video conferencing links to your events for quick and easy access to a meeting room. Calendar provides automatic time zone recognition to accommodate those calling in from other regions.

Plan the Discussion

Part of forming a book club is allowing everyone to share some thoughts on the material. How you guide the discussion will set the tone for how people share, especially if some members are more hesitant at first. The best way to guide a book discussion is to have a dedicated host (with the host changing every month) and for the host and participants to come with ample preparation.

In your online Calendar, set a date and time to sit down and plan what you want to discuss in your next meeting. What questions do you want to ask? Do you want to go around the room or leave the conversation open?

The host for the month can change tactics at any time and in any way. We have one person that acts as the book club president for five years and then it rotates. The President is the only one, for those years, who can make changes. This practice helps to eliminate hurt feelings with too many suggestions. He or she also keeps a record of the book title, and who attended — and who brings the refreshments. (We have someone bring a treat — and that is also assigned out in January, so there are no surprises.)

A successful book club will run on for years with good presidents and great members. Over time, you’ll find you gravitate to certain kinds of books. We were reading all business books — and realized that we would read business books anyway — so we started to look at other material that is important to have a handle on.

Try to make sure that you don’t get in a rut. Your president can add all reads to the Calendar to keep a record of the books the club has finished.

Each time you finish a book, mark it down in your online calendar with the book club event. This will record the date and time your book club finished a read. Label the event with a name that will be easily found again so you can look back on past books for future reference.

It is fun to look back and remember which books we’ve covered; it shows just how much progress has been made in the club. Looking at the stacks of books you’ve gone through is both inspiring and motivational.

Put Together Other Events

The members of your book club don’t have to meet solely to discuss what they’re reading. More often than not, these people are your friends or work associates. To add some extra flavor to your book club meetings, put together some additional events for everyone to enjoy and add these to your Calendar. We usually go to lunch once a quarter — but there are many wonderful options.

We have never done this — but some book clubs that rotate through hosts, have the host also plan an activity during the month too. The activity could be a dinner or a game night — or maybe a summer BBQ. As you draw closer together, it will become easier to discuss book topics when you meet, and you’ll look forward to each time you get to reunite.

The additional events you may plan don’t have to be associated with reading either. Your host may plan for you to enjoy a play, concert, or a country fair together — just as friends and acquaintances (following COVID-19 safety guidelines, of course). These events will spice up your online calendar and help you create even more wonderful memories.

It’s time to crack open a new book and get started. Reading as friends and work associates will add so much value to your daily life, and a book club will make it all happen with a few extra perks along the way.

As an aside — years ago, when my book club started, we had only women as part of the group. Since then, we have had several men want to come to the group. Because names in our group are only put forward in January, it gave us time to think about it.

To even say this sounds sexist — but this group didn’t want men in the group — and that is okay. (Yo! Football, Rotary, etc…) But the group I attend in another state decided to immediately let men into the group. We don’t have many, but they have been a delightful part of the group with additional insights into the books and our reading that none of us would have thought of. But — know that you have a choice — it’s your book club after all — and your club can be a private one.

Image Credit: alexander suhorucov; pexels; thank you!