How to Start a Book Club for People That Don’t Read

It’s easier than you think

Sep 3 · 3 min read
Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

Sharing books with others is an excellent way to promote the habit of reading amongst your family and friends. It’s one of my favorite strategies to read more and make the most of your books. If you like the idea of reading with others, you might have already tried to create a book club at home or in your favorite coffee shop… and you’ve come across a tiny issue.

We’ve all seen it. Every member of the new reading group starts with a lot of excitement. But, for some reason, by the second meeting, no one has read anything. The excuses start coming: “I have a ton of work” or “I forgot” or “I lost my copy.” By the time the third meeting arrives, people already started canceling. By the fifth session, you find yourself alone with your book in hand. I know, I’ve been there… it can be pretty discouraging.

The most common way of running a book club is selecting a book and dividing it into sections to read during the week and discuss when the group meets. If no one reads at home, getting together to chat won’t make much sense. There won’t be anything to say.

Even with their good intentions, many people find reading constantly very difficult. When it comes to reading groups, it’s common for members to give up when they fall behind, ashamed because they fear they are the only ones with that problem.

A small change

But everything isn’t lost. Sometimes all you need is a small change. Nobody says your reading group has to be like every other reading group. You can make all the changes you want to help your friends develop the habit of reading.

There’s a very simple way to create a book club for people that don’t read: What if you eliminate the need for reading during the week? What if you not only get together to talk about a book, but to read a book?

That’s exactly what a did with a group of young adults that wanted to read more but weren’t disciplined enough to commit to reading by themselves during the week. I simply asked them to set aside an hour and invited them to my house so we could read together.

We used a book with short chapters and we read out loud, a paragraph each person. Finishing the section of the week didn’t take more than 15 minutes. After reading together, we still had plenty of time to discuss what we just read.

Unlike traditional reading groups (in which people read at home), in our group, the author’s ideas were very fresh in everyone’s mind. We had the chance to immediately discuss the ideas and questions that popped up as we all read together.

This strategy is perfect for people that are just starting to develop the habit of reading. It’s very impractical for long and deep volumes, but who says a book has to be 300 pages long to be valuable?

If you create a group like this one, I’m sure that people who “don’t like books” will be encouraged to read. You’ll have provided a context in which they can share their journey with books flexibly and casually.

We need more spaces like this, where reading is not treated like something exclusively for “super intellectuals.” We can all be great readers, the hardest part is to just start.

A version of this article was originally published in Spanish on Medium.

Ana Ávila

Written by

Editor. Clinical Biochemist. Writes about productivity, minimalism, and books.

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