I have always been an avid reader. I have read at least a book a month since I was able to read. Granted most of my reading has been in science fiction, fantasy, and detective books; but I have also read a lot of “business books” along the way. With “business books” I often end up finishing around half of the book as a lot of them get repetitive and boring.
In the last year I joined my very first book club. We have read four books so far and I am HOOKED!
The first rule of book club IS to talk about book club!
If you have only read books by yourself in the past then you are only getting half of the value out of the book. The biggest value about being in a book club is the interactions with the group. First, think about why you want to join a book club. Is it to provide the social pressure to read a whole book from cover to cover? Is it to learn? To challenge your way of thinking? Is it to get out there and meet people? To bring something new to your current group of friends? Or is it to have an excuse to get out of the house? Regardless of your reason, as long as you are reading and learning it’s a good thing!
The second rule about book club is to slow down and think about what you read.
Despite the various reasons for being in a book club, I will assume that you are doing it to learn what the book is trying to convey. When you read the book, don’t just read it in order to finish it. You should not count the pages you are reading and how much more you have to read to be done. Calculating your reading velocity is a sign that something is wrong. Commit yourself to the book and enjoy it. Put the phone down, sit somewhere quiet, grab a coffee or tea, or glass of wine, relax and commit yourself to the words in the book. Read a chapter at a time and take a few minutes to sit and think about each chapter. Remember why you are doing this.
In our book club we read parts of the book before each meeting. Typically about a quarter of the book at a time [based on logical partitions of the book]. If the book has a part 1, 2 and 3 — then we will discuss each of them in turn. This gives us time to really focus on the discussion — where the magic happens.
The third rule about book club is to have a strong opinion about the book
Write down what you thought and felt. Write it in the book — write it in a journal, write it on an old envelope and stick it in the book — it doesn’t matter — just write down what you honestly thought. It is more fun if you start off with having a very strong opinion about what you read. Don’t worry about offending someone else or having a different opinion from others — that is the fun part!
The fourth rule about book club is to discuss it with people that are different from you
This is an optional rule — if you have a group of friends that you want to discuss the book with go right ahead. I have learned that including people that have a different background from mine opens up the conversation and my thoughts to things that would have never occurred to me. We all have taken different paths to get to this specific point in time and this place. The steps along that journey have given us all a different and unique perspective on life. Remember the excitement of a first date, or the first year in college, your first job — well you can have some of that excitement again if you just drop your defenses and go and have a conversation with someone new.
For me, learning someone’s quirks and thought processes is very exciting. It can be scary at first, but the best way to learn something new is to be thrown off the deep end into unknown waters that will take you outside of your comfort zone.
The fifth rule about book club is to let someone else pick the next book
Read something you wouldn’t have read on your own. I never would have picked “The Power of Habit” on my own — but it was amazing!
The sixth rule about book club is to have some fun.
The social pressure to finish the book and be able to discuss it are good motivators to read a book — but if that is what you need to force yourself to read and learn you should look at your priorities in life. Learning is fun people! When I turned 40 last year I read a great blog post where the author said once you hit 40 you shouldn’t feel like you have to have lunch with someone that you don’t like. Your time is limited so you should spend it on things that will allow you to do what you want to do in life. For me, I value learning new things and continuously improving myself — a proven way to do this is reading and collaborating with others.
The seventh rule about book club is to take excellent notes [yes I know you are done with school]
Tim Ferriss in his article below describes how to take notes in such an amazing way that I will not even try to summarize. His post is perfect. This is an area that I am still trying to improve in myself.
Get out there and learn something new today, regardless of the medium.
It’s not cheating to listen to an audio book. Learn anyway that you can. I have listened to thousands of hours of audio books over the years. I have been an audible.com subscriber for 13 years and have enjoyed countless drives because of it.
Originally published at software leadership blog.