Prepping for Book Club

The Prep Work

Wait! Before you get the wrong idea, let me explain. The only prep you need to do for a book club is read the book. After you’ve read it or at least attempted it (there can be DNFs), all you need to do is bring your thoughts, opinions, and insights and share them with the others. Don’t hold back, either. There is no right, wrong, stupid etc. when it comes to discussing a book. I held off joining a book club for years because I was so worried that I would say or do something completely moronic (which I feel I do quite often) in front of people I didn’t know. That was a mistake because even though I may have been moronic, at some point, I feel appreciated and welcome. So, just join and enjoy. No more work required.

I always look forward to book club as it is one of the few just-for-me activities that gets me out of the house and it revolves around books. Two things I enjoy are doing research and organizing and that is what I do to prep for book club. Here’s what it looks like for me:

  1. I read the book, ask questions, write in the margins, make notes, and copy out quotes.
  2. If there are reading guide questions in the back, I read them over and think about what my answer would be. I may even note down some ideas, so I don’t forget. Otherwise, I look for reading guides online. I print the reading guides so I can highlight the questions I think will people will enjoy or questions that will move the conversation forward, in case of a lag.
  3. The author’s website is a great place to start gathering details about the book, the inspiration behind it, and the book’s author. Emailing Ann Walmsley via her website, lead to the interview I did for my podcast on The Prison Book Club, an experience I’ll never forget. Ever. You just never know where your research will take you.
  4. Reading reviews of the book can provide some interesting insights, as well. I find this particularly helpful if I’m not enjoying the book. A review might give me a reason to finish the book or provide a fresh outlook on the content. Honestly, I don’t read a ton of them because I don’t want to dilute my personal opinion with too much thinking from other people. I like to form my own conclusions but sometimes we all need a little help.
  5. Planning the food comes next. Inspiration for the food that I want to serve or contribute (depending on which book club it is) comes from what was eaten in the book. For instance, for A Wrinkle in Time I served Strawberry Jam on Toast Cookies. For Hidden Girl, I tried to recreated a market scene with fruit, flowers, and baked treats because the main character remembers the market when she is hungry. If I am short on ideas or food wasn’t present enough, Pinterest is a huge help in this department.
  6. The hook starts the meeting or helps to set the scene for the book club members. For A Wrinkle in Time, I printed and laminated quotes from the book on pretty backgrounds. During the meeting, we discussed them and each person got to take his / her favourite one home. When we read A Christmas Carol, I played an amazing audio-book version of the story’s opening passage. It had music, sound effects, and character voices. It totally set the scene for this ghost story.

I know this sounds crazy, it’s crazy to do all this. But, I really enjoy it. I enjoy this process as much as reading the book itself. These planning activities bring me closer to the narrative and to the author by extension. Undoubtedly, this hearkens back to my happy days as an undergrad, studying English lit. Studying, learning, sharing a mutual love of books is what those courses were all about for me. And, that is what book clubs have become for me.