So, You’re Hosting Book Club for the First Time

I’ve been part of a book club for about a year now, and I have to say that it’s one of the things that I most look forward to! If you’ve ever thought about starting a book club of your own, be sure to check out my post here. It’s much easier than you’d think! There are currently three members in my book club, including myself, and it’s a number that works great for us. Every six weeks, we take turns choosing a book and then hosting book club at our homes.

My First Experience Hosting Book Club

I eagerly look forward to the days that I get to host book club! When my book club was first initiated, I was the first member to choose a book and to host at my home. Like many individuals hosting for the first time, I came down with a case of “Option Overload” when it came to trying to decide which book to choose.

How I Chose the Book

I decided to narrow down my options by looking to see what my local library had available for its “Book Club in a Bag” choices. There were a lot of top contenders, but I ended up going with A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult. She was an author I had greatly enjoyed before, and I had heard great things about this latest book of hers.

How I Led the Book Discussion

As mentioned above, the “Book Club in a Bag” came with discussion questions, so my job was done there! However, I did hop on the internet to look up a couple more. A Spark of Light has been a popular choice for book clubs, so there were plenty of discussion questions to be found. I also came up with a couple of my own as I was reading.

Since this was our first book club meeting, I wasn’t extremely confident on how the discussion was going to go. I wanted to make sure I was prepared and had plenty of questions to go off of!

This ended up being a non-issue as we had plenty of things we wanted to discuss, and the other two members brought their own points that they wanted to talk about. I had a list of about thirty questions, and we only ended up referencing about five on the list!

Hosting at My Home

Now let’s talk food. Again, I came down with a case of “Option Overload”. I brainstormed a ton of options that I could serve for dinner and just didn’t know how to narrow it down.

Finally, I got the idea to tie the meal back to the book we were reading somehow. I figured if we were going to be spending a couple hours discussing one book, why not fully immerse ourselves, right?

A Spark of Light is set in Mississippi. I hopped on Pinterest, typed “Mississippi recipes” in the search bar, and scrolled.

I wasn’t sure if I’d be successful with this simple tactic, but it worked! A recipe for Mississippi Chicken would be my main course, with Mississippi Sin Dip as an appetizer and Mississippi Mud Pie as our dessert. Yes, I took it very literally, but it was a hit!

The other two members liked the idea of tying the food back to the book so much, that we’ve done it for every book club meeting we’ve had! Not only is it fun, but it takes off some of the pressure of trying to decide what to make.

Here’s another example! When my sister-in-law hosted, she chose The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. The book centers around two gypsy sisters, and my sister-in-law focused on symbols in the book when she prepared the meal.

Mushrooms were very symbolic, so she made mushroom soup for the main course. Snake wine was one of the biggest symbols in the book, and she just happened to find a bottle of red with a snake on it while she was out shopping! She topped everything off with cute decorations that also tied back to the book. Basically, everything was adorable and she set the hosting bar at a new level!

Tips for Hosting Your Own Book Club

If you’re feeling overwhelmed about what book to choose, how to lead a discussion, or how to host book club in your home, look no further! I’ve got some great tips for you here!

Choosing a Book

There’s no one right answer on how to choose a book for book club, but here are a couple ideas to hopefully inspire you:

  • Keep a list of “Want to Read” books. Mine is compiled based on recommendations from friends, books I hear about on podcasts, while scrolling Pinterest, etc.
  • Consult the New York Times Best Sellers list. New York Times Best Sellers list.
  • Read a book recently that you loved? Choose another by the same author. Some authors with a large repetoire: Stephen King, Liane Moriarty, Jojo Moyes, Jodi Picoult, Gillian Flynn.
  • Re-read an old favorite.
  • Check out Goodreads’ list of 1000 Books to Read Before You Die.
  • Join the Goodreads App for other great recommendations.
  • Check out my monthly book recommendations here!
  • Find out if your local library offers “Book Club in a Bag”. This option allows you to check out multiple copies of the same book (often around 10) and includes discussion questions! A surefire way to become VIP of book club!

Leading the Book Discussion

I know, leading a book club discussion for the first time can sound daunting and intimidating. But it’s really not, I promise!

Popular book club books will often include discussion questions as an appendix, or they can easily be found on the book’s/author’s website. Or, simply Google the title of the book and you can usually find a list of discussion questions for it.

Check out The Oprah Magazine’s list of “The Best Book Club Questions to Spark Discussion”.

Don’t rule out thinking up your own questions! I think there tends to be a misconception that only literary experts can make up questions for book club. Totally not true!

I like to keep a pen and paper next to me as I read and always jot down things that jump out at me. For me this typically tends to be symbolism and character development. As you become more familiar with reading for the purpose of discussing, you’ll find aspects that you tend to stick to for discussions as well. Don’t be afraid to jot down anything that comes to mind!

However, don’t get bogged down too much on trying to come up with the perfect list of questions. You won’t need to guide the discussion as much as you’d think you would. In my experience, the conversation flows pretty naturally from one talking point to the next.

Remember, too, that your other book club members will have their own talking points to bring to the discussion, which will take some of the weight off of you as the discussion leader.

Ultimately, I always come with a list of questions, but after letting the discussion flow naturally, I’ve only ever needed to use a maximum of three questions off my list. Relax and enjoy the conversation!

Hosting Book Club in Your Home

As I’ve mentioned, my book club happily stumbled into a practice in which we tie the meal we’re serving back to the book somehow. I think it’s important to add here that this may not always be appropriate for every book your club selects.

For example, one of my recent choices was The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. I didn’t feel that anything I chose to serve as it relates to the book would be appropriate or in good taste.

I discussed this with the other two members and we all agreed to order take out for that particular discussion night, making it clear to ourselves that the choice in food was not a commentary on the book in any way.

It’s fun to form your own traditions in book club, but just remember to always be willing to adapt and change based on the circumstances.

While my book club likes to tie our food back to the book, this is absolutely not a requirement of every book club!

Fun ideas to consider incorporating when you host:

  • Small favors that go along with the theme of the book. Example: bookmarks with a quote from the selected book.
  • A craft that goes along with the theme of the book, if you’d like to extend your evenings longer.
  • Ask members to come to your house wearing a book-appropriate outfit. Example: members can dress up as a character, in the time setting of the book, etc.
  • Themed drinks! That one’s pretty self-explanatory.
  • Make book club into a game night afterwards!

Practical ideas to consider when you host:

  • Consider having more than one area to sit. We typically sit at the table for dinner then move to the couch for our discussions. It’s much more comfortable than trying to sit at the table the entirety of the night.
  • Be sure you’re aware of any food allergies or dietary preferences.
  • Be cognizant of other’s timelines. If your book club doesn’t have a guideline for how long meetings should last, gauge how long members are expecting to stay.

Ultimately, doing anything for the first time is always going to come with elements of stress and uncertainty. You may be feeling that way about hosting book club for the first time, but don’t! Remember to have fun and sit back and enjoy the discussion.

No matter what, your fellow members will have been fed, gotten an evening out of the house, and will have another book under their belts!

To shop the books I’ve listed in this post, click below!

Share your first night hosting book club on Instagram with hashtag #thelighthousechapters!

This post may contain affiliate links. This means that if you click on a link and purchase a product, I may receive a small commission for it. However, all opinions are genuine and I would never link or recommend a product that I didn’t fully believe in, trust, and/or love!

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