Choosing books is one of the most important tasks for a book group, and a great opportunity to involve all members in the process.
There are lots of great lists and guides for which titles to choose (including right here on Bookmark, our blog!). But we want to focus on how books get chosen. Who does the choosing, and how are decisions made?
There’s no right or wrong way to do it. With book clubs run by a library or organization, it often makes sense for a librarian or other leader to choose the titles on their own. These groups may be open to the public, with members that change from month to month, and the organizers may have access to special resources.
But if your group is looking for ways to involve all members in the book selection process, read on! Reading Group Choices offers three models below, along with pros and cons, to help give everyone a voice.
But First: How Often?
Some groups set aside a special meeting to choose their books for the whole year. Others prefer to select a few months at a time. The whole year approach offers stability, with plenty of time for readers to plan ahead. All of the administrative work occurs up front, so that your group can instead focus on the reading and discussions.
Yet the same approach comes with less flexibility, in the case of schedule interruptions, changes in membership, or titles that appear later in the year. One compromise is to adopt a six-month approach, to balance stability and flexibility.
Talk to your group about what works best!
Model #1: Members Advocate
In this model, members choose a title and then advocate for it to the group during a special selection meeting. They may present a brief background, critical praise or reviews, and why they are enthusiastic to read it. All members take turns advocating for their book, and then the group votes for 3, 6, 12 — however many titles the group is planning in advance.
Pros: Each member has the chance to personally advocate for a title they’re excited to read. Members can indulge their personal tastes and genres, and the vote gives everyone a say in the process.
Possible Cons: After voting, some members may take a result personally if their title isn’t selected.
Model #2: Members Anonymous
This approach works the same way as #1 above, but suggestions are submitted in advance to a group leader. Members can still include background, praise, and other reasons for selecting a title. But the leader compiles and delivers a list, which is then put to a vote.
Pros: Since no one knows who suggested which title, votes won’t be taken personally if a member’s idea isn’t chosen.
Possible Cons: Individuals don’t have the opportunity to advocate for the books they love, and to express themselves directly.
Model #3: Members Guaranteed
With this approach, each member is guaranteed a choice. At a special selection meeting, each member comes prepared to present and advocate for 2-3 titles. The rest of the group then votes for one of the titles and assigns it to a particular month or session. The process is repeated with other members until all the months are filled.
Pros: Every member is guaranteed to have a book included for discussion, which encourages investment. Plus, the group still has a choice between 2-3 titles, so they retain their say.
Possible Cons: The group is limited to choosing titles that particular members want to read, even if a majority of the group isn’t interested.
The Bottom Line
Whatever your group’s strategy, the most important result is for all members to feel like a true part of the group when it comes to selecting books. That means feeling involved, empowered to make decisions, and respected for their personal contributions.
The best model is the one that works best for your group, so use the suggestions above to start a discussion!
Need help with ideas for titles? We’ve got plenty on our site, including our list of readers’ favorites. And don’t forget the Reading Group Choices annual print guide, with over 60 recommendations! Order your copy here.