How to Pick a Winning Book for Book Club

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How does a book club choose a book to read? If you’re part of a book club, you know that this process can be surprisingly challenging–there are just so many books and book club recommendations out there, and everyone in the club has different tastes, interests, and opinions.

Naturally, you want the book to be engaging and exciting enough that everyone will read it, but it should also be suitable for the group.

It’s essential to ensure everyone’s voices are heard, and that the club chooses books that are discussable, accessible to all group members, and short enough to read in the time between meetings.

Selecting a book club title doesn’t have to be difficult, but there are a few things you should consider when choosing your next book club read.

One of the most common complaints of book club members is that the club chooses books that don’t interest them.

It’s understandable. Sometimes book clubs make decisions based on what will be easiest or what group leaders are most interested in reading.

Allowing only the leaders to choose can leave some readers feeling like they’re always stuck reading books chosen by other people when they, too, would like a turn selecting a title.

If you can choose books members enjoy or spark their interest, there’s a greater chance that more members will finish the book–which means more productive conversations during book club time.

If you need some book recommendations, there are plenty of resources here to help. Check out my curated book lists based on different themes, genres, and interests.

What to Consider When Choosing Book Club Books

So what do you need to think about to make a good book club pick? Consider the following, and discuss with your book club:

Glasses on a stack of books
  1. Content– What are the themes or topics? Is it appropriate for book club discussions? If it covers hot-button political issues, consider whether this is right for your group.
  2. Length – Is the book long enough to keep book club members entertained? Is it short enough to read in the month or so between meetings? Try to find the sweet spot that ensures members will have enough time to finish any book choices. In general, it’s a good idea to choose books that are fewer than 400 pages.
  3. Discussion-worthiness – Can you have a good discussion about the book? Can you finish discussing it in one meeting?
  4. Genre – Do book club members enjoy reading this genre? Is this the same genre your club always reads? If your club seems stuck on literary fiction (for example), try to mix it up with different titles and genres.
  5. Newness – Is the book too new, too old, or just right? Books published in the last year or chosen by popular celebrity book clubs can be exciting, but they can also be more expensive and harder to find. Older books may have more book club discussion questions and other resources already available. They also may be cheaper than recently published books–or even be available in the library.
  6. Favorites – Do you want to read people’s favorite books, or do you want to choose something new to everyone? Also, reading someone’s absolute favorite could be a recipe for conflict if another member doesn’t like it–people get very attached to their favorite books!
  7. Diversity – Do the book selections only speak to the experiences of one culture or demographic? Choose books that are diverse and representative–books by authors and with characters from many different backgrounds and walks of life. Among other things, diverse books offer readers different perspectives and the rich, life-changing reading experiences and discussions that many people want from book club.
  8. Accessibility – Is a particular book too difficult for the group to read and discuss? Avoid books that are known for being impenetrable (if Infinite Jest is on one person’s TBR pile, it’s best not to drag the rest of the group on that particular literary journey). While your selections don’t always have to be popular or have wide appeal, you don’t want half the group to get frustrated or bored and not read the whole thing.

Everyone doesn’t have to love the books the club selects, but you do want choices that encourage members to read the book and participate in the conversation.

PRintable Book Club Discussion Questions

Get a free printable list of book club questions that work for any book…

Printable book club discussion questions

PLUS 40+ more genre-specific questions when you subscribe to email updates.

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Methods for Selecting Books for Book Club

There are many different ways to choose book club books, and the best way is the one that works for your club.

Try out various methods to find one or more your club likes, and that gives everyone a voice in selecting books and introduces variety in your club’s reads and meetings.

Book club members discussing a book

Here are some options and tips for ways to pick a book club book:

Take Turns Picking Books Each Month

Taking turns is one of the easiest ways to pick books.

This method saves a lot of time, and it ensures that every book club member has a chance to choose a book that interests them.

A woman reading a book

This method is also an easy way to rotate leaders and hosts within book clubs.

For example, you may decide that the person who hosted last month picks this time around, and that person also leads the discussion.

Draw from a Hat

Have each member put suggestions in a jar (or hat, or bowl…) and draw a new one each month. Or, draw three books and have the group members vote on which to read.

Choose a Genre and Vote on Three Books

Assign one person to choose several books from a specific genre or on the same theme. Vote on the options they bring to the meeting. Each month, switch genres and take turns bringing in book titles.

Vote on Two Choices from Every Member

Ask each group member to bring two book suggestions to the meeting, then go around and quickly vote on which of the two to read.

Then, slot each of the winning books into the reading schedule for the year. This method gives everyone the chance to choose but still allows the group to vote.

Book club members looking through the pages of a book

Discuss Current Reads

Have members take turns bringing in a book they are currently reading or have recently read. Vote on which will be the next book in line for discussion; the member who brought the book ideas will lead the discussion at the next meeting. (If the member has already read it, this gives them more time for discussion prep!)

Use an Online Poll

Ask members to submit a book that interests them. Then, create an online poll and ask everyone to vote for their favorite book choice.

If you have a Facebook group or use other social media, you can easily create a poll with each book title.

Choose a Topic or Theme and Create a Book Flight

Have a small group choose a subject matter of interest, then select books on that topic from different genres.

For example, one person might choose a historical fiction book for one month, the next would choose a nonfiction book for the following month, and the third person would choose a fiction book that addresses the topic.

This is an excellent way to work in historical or current events of interest and can lead to great conversations about the different perspectives offered in each book.

Books stacked in a row

Choose from a Book List

Select a genre or theme and print out a book list. Vote on which book to read, or use a random number generator to choose one from the list.

Using book lists is a great way to encourage reading widely by trying new genres that your club may not often read.

For example, if your club tends to read popular literary or contemporary fiction, try a list of nonfiction, science fiction, or even graphic novels.

Follow a Book List

Another way to use a list of books: find one list and read the first 12 selections for the year.

Consider: award winners (Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, etc.), banned books, bestsellers, or themed book lists.

Read the Works of One Author

Agree on a specific author and read several of their works over the next few meetings. Consider choosing a local author and inviting them to talk at one of your meetings.

Check with Your Public Library

Libraries may have a book club kit that includes copies of books and other book club resources.

You also might consider choosing the Big Library Read on Overdrive each month. This ensures that everyone can easily get an e-version for free, and you’ll find resources like author events and discussion boards that can enrich your club’s conversation.

Successful Book Clubs Choose Great Books

Book clubs are a great way to discover new books and genres, share the love of reading with others, and discuss favorite books.

Choosing good books is the most important part of book club, and finding a selection process that works for everyone can ensure that all members are satisfied with your book group.

A large stack of books

It’s essential that book selection is not too difficult or time-consuming and that everyone feels included in the process.

While choosing book club selections can be challenging, trying some of the different methods listed above can help your club determine what works best for the whole group.

When your club is new, you may want to combine methods and mix them up every time you choose your next read. If you land on a favorite selection process, you can continue using it until the group decides it needs some variety.

Be flexible and keep an open mind; you’re sure to find some book club favorites and build a successful book club that lasts for years.

What is your preferred way to choose books in your book club? Let us know in the comments below!

PRintable Book Club Discussion Questions

Get a free printable list of book club questions that work for any book…

Printable book club discussion questions

PLUS 40+ more genre-specific questions when you subscribe to email updates.

.

How does your book club choose books? Do you have a favorite method (or any that didn’t work at all)? Share in the comments!

How to Pick a Book for Book Club that Everyone Will Love

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