Peer pressure gets a bad reputation, but when it comes to filling your life with more knowledge and books, it can be a real helper. I'm talking about the purest form of peer pressure you could possibly opt into: book clubs.
Of course, not all book clubs are the same, and there are a lot of different ways to do them, so there are no hard and fast rules. But if you're wondering how to start a group that thrives, we do have some ideas.
I spoke to Alisha Ramos, who runs the book club for her online community and newsletter, Girls' Night In, to find out about some of the best practices that can make your book club really succeed.
Listen to Life Kit
This story is adapted from an episode of Life Kit, NPR's podcast with tools to help you get it together. Listen to the podcast at the top of the page, or find it here.
1. Make scheduling really easy
Coordinating a book club meeting amid everybody's cousin's daughter's baby shower and dog's root canal can be more painful than an actual human root canal. Ramos' advice is that it's really important to make sure that scheduling is consistent and easy. "Stick to a monthly recurring schedule so that every month it's super predictable when book clubs are happening," she says.
You can all pull out your calendars and figure out a date that works for the next book club at the end of a meeting, or if you wanted to, you could use a tool like a Doodle poll in a follow-up email that makes scheduling much, much easier. Consistency in meeting times is important in this case, too, so that the book club has momentum.
2. Set an intention
It might seem like if you're in a book club, you're there to just read more books. But Ramos' second piece of advice is to set an intention for your book club so that everyone who attends really understands why they're there and what they're doing.
Ask yourself: Is this about meeting new people? If so, maybe folks can bring a new person to the book club at each meeting.
Or you could make the intention to expand your knowledge about a particular thing, to try a new type of book or to read more widely than you may have previously. So if you want to read more books by women of color, explore comic books or learn about the history of music in the 20th century, use the intention for your book club as an organizing principle.
3. Pick the right book — and agree on it
Picking a book that not everybody is interested in or that people aren't on board with can be a death knell for any book club. So Ramos says you need to have a strategy for picking the book and really make sure that there's consensus about how it's chosen.
And don't be afraid to pick something controversial — Ramos says that some of the books they've chosen at Girls' Night In have been pretty divisive. "It creates really great discussion because people like to do a little bit of debate," she says.
(NPR's Book Concierge has some suggestions for titles that make a great pick for any book club!)
4. Provide context
Our final way to make your book club more successful is to add a little bit of "rabbit hole" energy to it, meaning that for each meeting, somebody — maybe the host or the person who suggested the book — should do some research on the book's world to set the scene.
"I think that's a really good tip, especially if you're not loving or jibing with the book, just to gain a little bit more context from the author herself or himself about where they're coming from," Ramos says.
So if you're the one hosting a particular book club meeting, you can do some reading on the historical context of the book or listen to some interviews with the book's author. You could create a guide with discussion questions to circulate in advance or just use it as a guideline during the event.
That way, even if a person doesn't particularly enjoy the topic of a book, the person can still approach and engage with it.
We'd love to hear from you — if you've got a good life hack, leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823 or email us at LifeKit@npr.org. Your tip could appear in an upcoming episode.
If you love Life Kit and want more, subscribe to our newsletter.
The audio portion of this story was produced by Clare Schneider and Sylvie Douglis.