“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.” – Henry David Thoreau
About three years ago, when I had emerged from the haze of my son’s infancy, I was ready and rested enough to reclaim a genuine love of mine: Reading. Feeling a bit isolated, I also wanted more time with a small and special group of family and friends, my inner circle. So, I combined those two needs and started my own book club. I’ve been reading and reaping the rewards of it ever since.
If you love reading and want to, as I did, use books to bring people together, here are some tips for starting a book club:
1) Find people who enjoy each other and love to read.
2) Be a democracy. If one person chooses all the books, it could begin to feel like a teacher assigning homework. In my club, all of us suggest titles and then we agree on what to read next.
3) Eat good food. Thoughtful discussion requires plenty of nourishment. If everyone contributes something to the meal (dessert, a salad, an appetizer, drinks, etc.) no one is over-burdened.
4) Let discussion questions guide you. A group of friends or family can easily get distracted and never actually discuss the book. To avoid this, we each come with questions we want to ask others about the book. When the questions are gone, we have plenty of unstructured time to discuss whatever we want.
5) Choose great books. That’s easier said than done. There are so many choices out there. Numerous websites like www.bookclubclassics.com  and www.readinggroupchoices.com  provide title suggestions for book groups. For a complete list of Oprah’s Book Club titles, visit www.oprah.com .
6) Read old books, too. Bookstores seem to push the brand-new titles still in hardback. But you can save a lot of money by reading classics and non-new titles available in libraries.
Here are just a few of the books we have enjoyed since we started nearly three years ago (in no particular order):
- The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson
- The Help, Kathryn Stockett
- East of Eden, John Steinbeck
- The Winter of Our Discontent, John Steinbeck
- My Antonia, Willa Cather
- The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
- One Amazing Thing, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
- The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch
- The Road, Cormac McCarthy
- One Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaleed Hosseini