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Book Club Picks: How Book Clubs Pick Books

Welcome to my weekly series: Book Club Picks. This week, I'm taking a break from sharing lists of books and am talking about how book clubs choose books, along with the pros and cons of different methods. If you're putting together a new book club, or looking for new ways to choose books in an existing club, read on for some ideas.



How to choose book club selections

Who decides what your book club is going to read for any given meeting? Here are a few ways you can make those decisions.

1. Host decides

One option is to have the host choose what book will be discussed at her or his meeting. Usually book clubs have a different host for each meeting, whether the group meets at each other's homes or in a public location. One person usually leads the discussion. In this case, that host would choose the book for the meeting.
Pros: The host gets to discuss a book they want to read. It's a simple decision that only involves one person instead of getting a group of people to agree on a book.
Cons: There may be times when no one else in the group wants to read the book that the host has chosen.

2. Host picks a few and members vote

This is the option my book club uses and we like it. The host chooses three books. We then put up a poll in our Yahoo Group and all of the members vote for one of the books. Whichever one gets the most votes is chosen for that month's discussion. If there's a tie, the host gets to pick the winner. If you don't have an online group for polling, you could have the host bring a list to an earlier meeting and have everyone vote in person.
Pros: The host gets to discuss a book they want to read, but the group gets to pick the actual book. Everyone gets to be part of the decision.
Cons: It takes time, especially if you do an online poll. There are times when no one likes any of the selections (although that has been rare in our case).

3. Committee chooses

Another option is for a book club to put together a selection committee of just a few people who choose the books. They can come up with the list of possibilities themselves or the membership can submit books to be considered. Then the committee goes through and actually chooses the books for each meeting. Committee members can serve for a certain amount of time and then others can get a chance to serve.
Pros: The burden of picking books is placed on just a small group so it should be easier to come to a consensus.
Cons: Other members may not feel they get enough say in what books they read. There may be politics involved in choosing the selection committee.

4. Pull a book from a hat

Here's an interesting way to choose books. Write several book titles on little slips of paper, and pull one from a hat for each meeting. The group could keep an ever-growing list of ideas submitted by members, and when it's time to pick a new book, they all go into the hat. As new ideas come up, they get added to the rest that haven't been chosen yet.
Pros: It's a fun and exciting way to pick books. Everyone gets to submit ideas but no one is responsible for making the decision themselves.
Cons: There could end up being a lot of books, some of which the majority don't want to read. There isn't room to choose books that match the mood of the season, for example, something lighter in the summer.

5. Have a book picking party!


Lara from Overstuffed Life shared a fun option for choosing books: "We have a book picking party every summer. Every member brings two books to put into the vote and then we vote for our favorite 12. We like it because we have the whole list for the year all at once--then we can pick up the book when we see it on sale or read way ahead."
Pros: Who doesn't love a party? Especially when it involved books! Everyone gets to submit two books they like and vote for the ones they want to read.
Cons: Picking for the whole year could mean missing out on some new releases throughout the year.

If you're in a book club, how do you choose the books for each meeting? Do you vote or does one person choose? I'd love to hear more ideas!


Next week, I'll be sharing a list of summer reads that would be good for book clubs: lighter reads that still have plenty to talk about. Please let me know if you have suggestions for other topics to cover, or if you would like to write a guest post for my Book Club Picks series. I'd love to hear about your book club or your favorite books for discussion!

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Comments

  1. In my book club, we do the party method. We have a party each December and people come with recommendations and, from that, we choose books for the next 11 months. My mother is in a book club where the leader chose the books and that sounded just awful to me!

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    Replies
    1. That sounds like fun - yours, not your mom's. I don't think I'd like a club where one person chooses the books.

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  2. Great ideas! I belong to several book groups, but the most successful - my neighborhood book group - has been around for decades (I joined more recently). They use option #2 with some changes - at each meeting, we pick our book for 2 meetings later (to give everyone lots of time to get and read the book). Whoever is hosting that night chooses 4-6 books and then we vote there at the meeting. If there is a tie or two books are close in votes, we re-vote with just those 2. This process works very well for us!

    Great post :)

    Sue

    2015 Big Book Summer Challenge

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    Replies
    1. I think our group did something similar until we started up the Yahoo group and moved polling to the computer. We also try to have the polls up 2-3 months before the meeting to give people time to get the book from the library if there's a long wait, and to read it.

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    2. My book club recently found out about OpenBooks.com (http://openbooks.com/) and it has changed the way we choose (and download books). It is a website with a HUGE selection of books and you pay what you want for the book you download. The idea behind it is that you pay what you think the book is worth. Not only that but once you download the book you can easily share it with your book club for free. There are no restrictions on making copies and you don't have to fill out tons of forms or anything... your ebook is literally a click away. When it's time for us to pick a new book we go to the site (pick a genre) and then search there. I think every book club needs to take advantage of this amazing new way to download and share books :)

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