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Book Club Rules and Standards

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 16 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Book Club Rules And Standards Reading

For a book club to be successful, thrive and grow, it is important that certain rules and standards for behaviour are adhered to. This prevents unnecessary arguments or even unwitting offences and helps everything run more smoothly and efficiently. In many cases, the rules seem so basic as to be simple common sense but it is still worth reminding all members of a club’s rules when they first join and to pass a friendly reminder around at periodic intervals. This can also be a diplomatic way of dealing with one member who may be annoying others by flouting certain rules and a polite way of correcting their behaviour for the future.

  • Take some time when starting a book club to sit down and draw up a list of rules and standards of behaviour which all starting members agree upon. It may seem a chore when all you want to do it get to the meaty literary discussions but it is well-worth the time and effort and will prevent a lot of time-wasting (and potential conflict) later from people arguing over how things should be done.
  • Make sure that everyone is agreed on what is acceptable behaviour within the club – take a majority vote if you have to. Even if it is simple things like whether people should be allowed to interrupt others while they are sharing opinions so resulting in a more free but possibly more chaotic discussion or whether everyone should wait to express their opinions in turn – these are important details to note down and agree upon.
  • Emphasise to all members the importance of disagreeing in a polite and tactful manner, whilst also emphasising that it is perfectly acceptable for people to have a difference of opinions.
  • If your book club has decided on a certain genre or area of interest, make sure all members understand this and only recommend books within the criteria.
  • Ensure that all members respect the authority of the book club leader or moderator during meetings.
  • Within reason, show zero tolerance for inappropriate behaviour, such as “flaming” and decide on a course of action for dealing with such members. For example, the club may give a certain number of warnings before expelling such a member.
  • Remind all members of the importance of keeping on topic during discussions and in particular, to participate.
  • All personal discussions and social small talk should be kept to the periods before and after the literary discussion.
  • It is a good idea to ask members to source references if they decide to cite copyrighted material.
  • Make sure that all members are aware of the importance of attendance and punctuality at meetings – consistently arriving late, for example, or not attending shows a lack of respect and consideration for those who have arrived on time. Stick to your regular meeting schedule as much as possible and impress upon all members the importance of making the reading group meetings a fixture in their social calendar.
  • Try to start all meetings on time and keep to the decided time frame (eg, 1 hour).
  • Remind members to allow others their turn to speak and to refrain from “rambling on” and hogging all the discussion time.
  • If the book club organises social events, eg. a themed dinner, remind all members to contribute and for those with certain assigned responsibilities to take these seriously.
  • Encourage all members to come prepared, whether it is with notes for discussion or simply to have read the assigned book or section of the book.
  • Finally, just as in business, it is important to end meetings with a clear idea of next steps and who is to take them, end all book club discussions with a clear decision on the next book to read, the next leader for the discussion or presenter of the book and the next meeting venue and place. It can also be a good idea to assign one member to provide timely reminders ahead of the next meeting.

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