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Book Club Rules and Standards

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 30 Oct 2019 | 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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PiperUp In my experience, the clubs that have the most comfortable meetings & retain members are the ones that don't accept unacceptable behavior from its members. If members are allowed to behave in a rude manner towards other members, then they're being enabled. Most book clubs I've belonged to have ignored eye rolling unless there's also loud sighing, mumbling under breath, mimicking, etc. or unless multiple members complain. I hope you've removed the other member. It sounds like she's cruel to others in a sly way that is probably only really noticed by those on the receiving end. If not & you can't remove her from the club for some reason, here are tips: -when she doesn't acknowledge someone when spoken to, step in & acknowledge the person "Hi Jane, it's nice to see you again." -when she speaks over someone, step in & say "Jane was speaking, you may have a turn to speak once she's finished." -when she tries to get the group to talk about someone in front of them: "If you have additional questions please try to phrase it better or address the person directly & ask "I'm curious about what you said earlier, where can I learn more?" Best wishes!
BookLover4Life - 30-Oct-19 @ 11:32 PM
We have a member in our book club who rolls her eyes when someone says something with which she disagrees or if someone she doesn't like shares an opinion. There's also a member who only speaks with & interacts with certain members of the group. When others attempt to interact w/her, she stares through them as if they don't even exist. If one of them is sharing an opinion with the group, she'll speak over them so that everyone starts paying attention to her. Or if someone she doesn't like says something with which she disagrees, she'll say "Someone said X, but is that really true you guys?" in an attempt to get the group to talk about the person in front of them instead of asking the speaker questions about what was said or asking the speaker to provide sources that back up their claim. I've argued that both of these ladies should be removed if they can't treat all members in a kind & civil manner but others in the group disagree & think it would be cruel to kick them out of the group & that instead we should just ignore the behavior w/hopes that if ignored the behavior will stop. Unfortunately, the behavior is escalating/getting worse not better. I feel like we're enabling toxic behaviors of these 2 members. Any suggestions for how to handle? Or is the solution to remove them from the group?
PiperUp - 17-Jun-19 @ 8:32 PM
May I add: No political opinions please.I am the primary organizer of our book club and it really grinds me when members slip in political opinion to a discussion. We do not allow political books, self help and avoid religious theme books. These topics seem to bring out the worst in us and ALWAYs offend someone.
TheoJ - 18-Mar-19 @ 7:27 PM
I love reading especially and thick books and the thicker they are the better it is.I especially enjoy historical fiction and legal thrillers, etc. and I also love cooking and crafting and many other things.
bobbie - 5-Mar-19 @ 8:06 PM
Nancy C.- Your Question:
Last night we had a book club meeting. It was the meeting that marked a full year of our book club. We are seven women, all neighbors and range range in age from late forties to early seventies. Last night we were meeting to discuss a foreign book. Everyone attended but only three members had finished the book. One was 3/4 of the way through. One member had watched the foreign movie, in the original language 2 had watched the American version. The movie version had made significant changes from the book and the American movie was almost unrecognizeable. Of the four people who had read the book only one had seen the movie version.Everyone likes each other and we really do like the social part of our meeting. However, once the discussion started the people who had only seen the American movie kept interjecting the movie into the discussion. It was, in my point of view, distracting and frustrating. The woman who had selected the book finally said , we don't want to hear anymore about the American movie. That slowed down the movie comments but they kept coming. The people who did not read the book at all are younger and really do have busy, busy lives. They thought they would like the book but said they just didn't have time. One of the " movie people" is very upset. She feels she was shunned and public ally shamed. I don't see it that way but feelings are feelings. The " reader" felt that those who did not read the book should listen to the discussion. Perhaps ask questions about the book but that bringing in a movie, that only two of seven had seen ; was going off topic. So my question is, what should have happened? Do we need to have a moderator that sets the rules before we start. I really wanted to discuss the book but I don't want to lose friends over it.

Our Response:
Gosh, that's a difficult one and perhaps something you should aim to discuss at your next meeting. We can't give you any "rights and wrongs" as each book club creates its own rules/procedures. Ask everyone for their suggestions...would you be willling to alternate meetings so that a film is discussed every other one? That would give the busy people more time to read the books.Or perhaps have separate discussions for both the film and the book where a there is a film of the book?
TheReadingClub - 5-Mar-18 @ 3:09 PM
Last night we had a book club meeting. It was the meeting that marked a full year of our book club. We areseven women, all neighbors and range range in age fromlate forties to early seventies. Last night we were meeting to discuss a foreign book . Everyone attended but only three members had finished the book. One was 3/4 of the way through. One member had watched the foreign movie, in the original language 2 had watched the American version. The movie version had made significant changes from the book and the American movie was almost unrecognizeable.Of the four people who had read the book only one had seen the movie version. Everyone likes each other and we really do like the social part of our meeting. However, once the discussion started the people who had only seen the Americanmovie kept interjecting the movie into the discussion. It was, in my point of view, distracting and frustrating. The woman who had selected the book finally said , we don't want to hear anymore about the American movie. That slowed down the movie comments but they kept coming.The people who did not read the book at all are younger and really do have busy, busy lives. They thought they would like the book but said they just didn't have time. One of the " movie people" is very upset . She feels she was shunned and public ally shamed. I don't see it that way but feelings are feelings. The " reader" felt that those who did not read the book should listen to the discussion. Perhaps ask questions about the book but that bringing in a movie, that only two of seven had seen ; was going off topic. So my question is, what should have happened? Do we need to have a moderator that sets the rules before we start. I really wanted to discuss the book but I don't want to lose friends over it.
Nancy C. - 2-Mar-18 @ 10:18 PM
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