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This article was written by
Emlyn Chand
Lead Literary Contributor

Original article printed in
January 25, 2010

This article is part of a series 
by Emlyn Chand

Articles in the Series include:
Finding that niche for your Book Club
Created By: Emlyn Chand

How do you find your book club's niche? Sure, I guess, it’s possible for your book club to be niche-less, but—believe me—the more guidance you give the group from the get-go, the easier it will be for you to manage later on (and even to attract members initially). Without a theme, you may have a hard time shooting down Fred’s suggestion that you read “Dianetics”…again… Without a theme, you will struggle to find your direction. Every time you need to decide which book to read next, that decision will be a little tougher without that added push in the right direction. Maybe Vicky has joined the group hoping to read lots of novels, but when selection after selection is a dry piece-of-nonfiction, she feels like her opinion doesn’t matter to the group, and maybe to you, as her friend. In short, craft out that specialty. Maybe, according to the will of your members, it will be modified later, but for now, think of something to get you started.

When dreaming up Ann Arbor Classics Book Group one year ago, I knew right away that Classics was it for us. Not only did I want to better verse myself in this sophisticated and timeless cross-section of literature, but I also belonged to a similarly themed group back in Chicago—I knew the format worked for me and that it could attract an interesting pool of readers.

What interests you? Think about the last several books you have read is there any clear or subtle theme? Perhaps, you gravitate more towards chick lit or detective stories, religious philosophy or biographies. If your last half a dozen reads have been light-hearted contemporary romances, don’t burden yourself with a genre like pre-Bolshevist Russian literature. You may think this is a very significant body of work—and yes, maybe you are right—but never start a book group based on what you think you should be reading, base it on what you actually enjoy reading!

Another reason why pre-Bolshevist Russian literature doesn’t work is that it is too narrow of a topic. If you want your book group to be short-lived ala “The Jane Austen Book Club”, then it may be better to identify the several books you have in mind right-off-the-bat, informing potential members that the book group will read this set list of books over the next few months. After that list is exhausted, your group may think up another highly specialized list of books to discuss, may alter its aims to be more general, or may disband altogether.

Are you starting this book club all by yourself or are you dreaming it up with one or more friends? Creating a book club as part of team has both benefits and drawbacks. With more minds, you will have more ideas floating around, but this can also make it more difficult to settle-in on what you will be reading, when, who’s in charge, who will host, etc. etc. In this situation, you would again want to examine what each of you has been reading lately and look for themes. It can be hard when you want to include all of your best gal-pals in this endeavor, but only Susie is against the idea of starting a travel literature book club. Before you sit together to plan out the future of the group, make sure that everyone understands that a book group is, after all, a group. Ultimately, you must cater to the collective will to see the club rise and move forward into a meaningful existence.

Melissa LR Handa is the founder and organizer for the Ann Arbor Classics Book Group and the lead books contributor for If you would like more information or to join the group, please feel free to send an email her way.

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