Where to find a local or online book club, plus seven important questions to ask before you join one.

By Jessica Dukes

There are so many reasons to join a book club beyond simply reading and discussing books. You’ll broaden your horizons as you’re introduced to titles you may have never picked up otherwise. You’ll have a chance to hear and discuss viewpoints different than your own. You’ll meet new people who share your interests, and it’s a fairly inexpensive way to hang out with them (as long as the meetups don’t evolve into elaborate dinner parties).

Here’s where to look for book clubs near you, and the essential questions to ask once you find them.

Where to Find a Local or Online Book Club

Your local library, community center, or independent book store is the perfect place to start. Look for invites posted on bulletin boards, or even better, ask your librarian, bookstore employees, or community center staff if they know of any book clubs that are inviting new members. These places may even have their own book clubs.

Check Meetup to see if someone near you has set up a book club that grabs your attention. You’ll see a description of the book club, the meetups they’ve already had, and how many members are in the group. Goodreads is a reliable source for specific book clubs online, and members often meet in person. Reddit also has a huge and dedicated book club, which votes on and reads two books a month.

7 Questions to Ask Before Joining a Book Club

How often does the book club meet?
More to the point, how often are you available to read a book and meet to discuss it? If your life gets busy, will it be okay if you miss a month? Do they meet in the summer and over the holidays? Will you be disappointed if other people regularly miss meetings? Think about all of these things before deciding whether or not a book club will fit into your schedule.

Who are the book club members?
You don’t need to vet each member before you decide to join a book club, but it is a good idea to get the lay of the land. Are most members retired, working professionals, stay-at-home parents, or literature PhDs? (Ideally, there would be a mix of people and interests.) Is the group closed, or can new members join at any time? Can people bring friends to a book club meeting? A basic understanding of who you’ll be spending time with will help you set your own expectations about the club.

What happens at the book club meetings?
Is the focus on food, drinks, and hanging out with a light conversation about the book? Or are book club members expected to come prepared to discuss themes, ask questions, and share their reviews? Decide what kind of experience you want to have before agreeing to join the group.

Does the book club meet in person or online?
These are two completely different experiences, obviously. In person, you’ll get to know each member better and may even make a friend for life. Online book clubs tend to be less personal by design. On the other hand, in-person meetings run the risk of becoming sidetracked by appetizers, wine, and small talk, while online discussions stand a good chance of staying in their lane.

Is there a theme?
Does the club stick to one type of book, or do they choose titles from all genres? Maybe you’re looking for a group that shares your love of sci-fi. Or maybe you want a random book selection every month so that you read a mix of poetry, history, plays, and any genre under the sun. It’s best to know ahead of time what type of books you’ll be reading to ensure that it holds your interest.

How are the books chosen?
If book club members take turns choosing, depending on how many people there are, you may only get to choose one book a year. Is that okay with you? Is there a fair system for nominating and voting on the next book that the group reads? Either way, the last thing you want is to feel like you’re committed to reading a bunch of books that don’t interest you.

How will the books be discussed?
A rambling conversation, with everyone throwing out their opinions of the book, will quickly fizzle out and die. A structured conversation, however, will help the discourse flow. Will someone be designated to find book club questions? Perhaps each member is required to bring a question to the group. However the discussion happens, ask whether it’s structured or a free-for-all.

If All Else Fails…

Start your own book club! Map out some of the answers to the seven questions above, then put out the word online and at your local libraries and bookstores.

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