When to Choose Your Books

Reading Groups tend to be an organized bunch, or there’s at least one of us in the group that is organized and handles the logistics. When to choose books might be a little less confusing than how to choose books, but it’s just as important.

In our annual survey we always ask our groups when they choose books, and we’ve received the same answers each year in the same order: Most groups (by a large majority) choose one book at a time to discuss, and a majority of those groups choose the book at the previous meeting or two meetings in advance. Second place is groups that choose books for the year at one time; however when that time is varies greatly. Third place is groups that choose books 3 or 4 times a year. There are of course pros and cons to each of these options.

Choosing books one at a time: You can wait to see what new books you hear about that you might like to read and propose for group instead of getting set on a list a year in advance. But you do have to take time – either at your monthly group meeting or via email – to vote each month instead of in one sitting. You also limit the time available to get a copy of the book and prepare any additional events and plans.

Choosing books all at once: You limit yourself to books you know are out at the time you choose your books instead of waiting to see if new books come out your group would be excited about. You also have eager readers who read months in advance even if they shouldn’t and then have trouble remembering the book at the meeting. Even if you make it a rule not to do that, it can still happen. But you get your list done for the year, and you can order books ahead of time from the library or bookstore. You can also set up special speakers and plan ahead for other special events.

Choosing books 3 or 4 times a year: This works well if you meet every month, but it’s harder to coordinate if you take the summer off. It does work as a kind of happy medium to the options above because you have time to order your books in advance and plan special events, but it’s not too much time that even if people read ahead they should still remember the book.

Another idea altogether: Each member reads a different book each month and comes to the meeting and describes the book to everyone. People can then borrow books from each other, and comment on one of the same books at the next meeting. It’s a round robin of sorts. Many groups who take one of the more traditional approaches above might still do this type of round-robin discussion for one month.

When to choose books is a good discussion to have with your group as you’re getting started, and it’s also a good discussion to revisit with your long-standing group. Just because you’ve chosen books the same way for the past 20 years, doesn’t mean it’s still the best option for everyone. And it’s good to remember – you can always change! If you try option 1 above, and it doesn’t work well for your group, try something else! That’s usually when we hear about the most creative ideas!

If you didn’t already read our post on How to Choose the Next Books To Discuss, you can find it HERE.