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What is a Book Club?

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 17 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
What Is A Book Club?

If you are fascinated by books and love reading, joining a book club could be one of the most enjoyable ways of indulging in your hobby. Through a book club, you will meet like-minded individuals and have a chance to participate in regular discussions about books you have read, as well as be introduced to new books and other reading opportunities.

Types of Book Clubs


These are reading groups made up of several individuals who meet in person at regular intervals - usually each month - to discuss a specific book. Such gatherings tend to be more personal and intimate since members have the chance to meet often, face-to-face and they usually have a strong social dimension.

Popular places for reading groups to meet include private homes, libraries, bookstores, cafes or even in restaurants over meals. In addition, they tend to be smaller so as a member, you have more control over the choice of reading matter. Usually, the title for each month is voted from a list of suggested titles or the members may each take turns suggesting a book. However, the small size does also mean that the views and perspectives involved in the discussion can be a bit limited.

In today's busy modern world, it can also be difficult to arrange a regular meeting time and place that would suit every member's lifestyle and schedule. Recruiting quality members for such a book club can also prove to be a challenge. Nevertheless, such traditional book clubs remain a popular format.

These can be further subdivided into:

  • Single-Title: this is the most common method, where one title is selected at a time and all members read the same book in the same time frame. They then meet to discuss this book and this method works particularly well for those who like intensive discussion of books. Members are responsible for obtaining their own copy of each month's title, although they can either buy (new or second hand) or borrow. In some instances, if buying several copies of the same title from a book seller, a discount can be negotiated.

  • Multi-title: in this case, members all read different books at the same time but the same group of books is rotated around the club so that each member reads each title in a serial fashion and ultimately, all members will have experienced each book.

  • Shared Pool or Open Loans: here the focus is more on sharing books than on serious discussion. All members contribute to a diverse pool of books which others can borrow to read. As with "Multi-title" book clubs, discussions are necessarily more casual with each member briefly describing their chosen book that month and what they thought of it. This is also a popular set-up as each member will get a wide variety of books to read at a greatly reduced cost. You also have a chance of hearing from another member who has read it what a book is about and decide whether you might like it before committing to reading it. However, those looking for an in-depth discussion of titles may be disappointed.

  • Catch-and-Release: a more uncommon and unusual type of reading group, catch-and-release book clubs operate by transferring ownership of the book as it passes from each member to the other and the original owner usually has no expectation of having the book returned. A well-known book club of this type is "Book Crossing" where members use a website and a system of identification numbers to track released books as they migrate through the world-wide community.

Online Book Club

With the advent of the internet, online book clubs have flourished. To some extent, they are simply a special type of internet discussion forum or group but they do have the great advantages of being convenient to access and easy to participate in.

Discount/Commercial Book Clubs

These are incredibly popular and are really a way of purchasing books regularly at a discounted price. Because you have to commit to a set number of books a month, they tend to work better with genre books because you already know in that case that the books are the type you like and you know what to expect given that the books all fall into a specific genre. However, these are not really reading groups and do not really involve discussions or the social aspect of traditional book clubs.

Celebrity Recommendations Book Clubs

A unique type of book club - again, these are not so much a reading group with discussions but more a way of obtaining a reading list, in this case, a list recommended by a celebrity or media personality whose opinion is treated with respect.

With the wealth of book clubs out there, it is plain to see that whatever your interests or lifestyle, you can easily find a book club to suit you.

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