Our witty friend and best-selling essayist Sloane Crosley—who recently released her first novel, The Clasp—knows a thing (or six) about reading for fun. Here, her tips for making sure your well-intentioned plan to hang with friends, eat some cheese and, yes, read a few books doesn’t become the thing you feign illness to avoid (including one tip we thought we’d never hear from a writer).
Tip 1: Keep the group small (specifically, six).
Six seems to be a magic number. It leaves room for everyone’s opinions and also lends some accountability. It’s no big deal if one person doesn’t read the book in a group of 12. In a smaller group, there’s more incentive to actually show up and feel a sense of ownership.
Tip 2: Don’t limit it to your best friends.
I always think the best parties are the ones where you don’t know every single person, and the same applies here. A book club should be about experiencing something together and better understanding your own take by hearing other people’s.
Tip 3: Meet once a month. No excuses.
Monthly meetings help a book club become a habit, and it gives everyone 30 days to read that month’s book. At the first meeting, everyone should come with a few titles and the group as a whole votes on which book to read first and sets a time to meet one month later. At that second meeting, the group discusses the first book and votes on the next. Read, rinse, repeat.
Tip 4: Set up a cozy, inviting environment.
Have good food and comfortable seating—and no cell phones. If you’re hosting, don’t invite people over and ask them to sit on the floor…unless you’re reading a novel about LA in the ’60s, in which case, do that.
Tip 5: Make the discussion a personal conversation, not a pop quiz.
If the fear is that a book club will be like going back to school, start with questions you didn’t ask or get asked in school: Did you even like the characters? Is it important that one does? It’ll incite people to bring their own experiences to the table, to say, “I could or couldn’t relate to this character and here’s why.” As a writer, I’m mostly intrigued by how the author creates tone and meaning, so it can be fun to talk about the book’s style or structure.
Tip 6: Feel free to cheat on the book with the movie.
Movies can help you “finish” the book if you’re afraid of falling behind, but think of a film like another person in the book club—it’s just one take, and certainly not the source material. Cheat, don’t cheat, it’s up to you (you’re not going to get kicked out of class), but you’re most certainly robbing yourself of the experience you signed up for.
Keep up with Sloane on Twitter @askanyone and if you’re in New York, come join our very first in-store book club this Thursday, January 14th, hosted, fittingly, by Sloane. She’ll be reading from her novel The Clasp at our Fifth Avenue shop and giving away copies while supplies last. Get details and RSVP here.
Photography by Jennifer Trahan