Our last How to Book Club post talked about what makes a great book club read, and the questions to ask before deciding on a book. But how do clubs actually pick their book club books? We dug into our annual survey data to find out! Whether you're just starting your book club, or looking to shake up how you choose books for book club, this post is for you!
First: timing. How often do book clubs choose books? And how far in advance do they choose them?
Most book clubs (62%) choose one book at a time. For some clubs, that means picking the next book once they’ve finished reading their current book. Other clubs will pick one book at a time, but do so several months in advance.
That’s how my in-person book club operates - at the end of each month’s meeting we pick the book we will discuss in two months’ time. Picking the book a few months in advance allows members to get ahead if they’ve got some free reading time on their hands, and it also gives members who prefer to get their books from the library a little extra time to wait for their library hold to come through if we’ve chosen a popular book.
About 25% of clubs choose several books at a time. Most often this means that, for a club that meets every month, they’ll pick their books quarterly (picking 3 books at a time) or twice a year (picking 6 books at a time).
The final 13% of clubs choose all of their books for the year at once. Clubs will often make this a fun occasion where the club gets together for a bigger than normal meeting in order to make all their book club selections (one club described this as their annual “book club bootcamp”).
Second: What method do book clubs use to choose books?
Some clubs choose by consensus - they discuss the book possibilities until all members agree. This is typically only feasible with smaller clubs so that they’re aren’t too many opinions to wrangle.
Other clubs, especially larger ones, find it easier to put decision-making power in one person’s hands. That can be the club leader or admin (particularly in the case of public clubs, like those run by a book influencer, bookstore, or library), or it can rotate through different members. In-person clubs that rotate hosting duties often have the host pick the book for the meeting they host.
A few clubs go the random route - picking a book randomly, typically off of a predetermined list (such as their club’s Books We Want to Read bookshelf on Bookclubs). They’ll use a random number generator, or a good old-fashioned hat. Some get really random - one club on Bookclubs spins a wheel to pick a person in the club, then spins a wheel again to pick a book genre, and then that person must choose a book for the club to read from that genre. Clubs that pick books randomly tend to emphasize the fun of a surprise book pick, and say that this method can lead to a more eclectic set of book club selections.
The most common way for book clubs to pick their books is by voting, which was used by almost half of the book clubs in our survey. The list of books to vote on can come from an open discussion, from a more formal process where each member suggests one book, from a running list of books the club wants to read (again, using your club’s Books We Want to Read bookshelf is a great way to keep track of this!), or can be selected by the club leader or the meeting host. Typically, between two to four selections are presented to members for voting. This can be a simple poll, but some clubs get elaborate (bracket-style tournament, anyone?).
Bookclubs’ polling feature makes voting on books with your club easy. You can search for and add books to your poll, or automatically populate a poll from your clubs “Books We Want to Read” shelf). Create your poll and share with your club and you’ll be ready to read in no time! (Don't have a Bookclubs account for your club? It's easy – and free – to set one up today!)
My book clubs use a combination of the above methods. We frequently just discuss all the books on our individual Want to Read lists until we decide on a book that everyone is interested in, but with all the great books out there, sometimes it’s just too hard to choose! When that happens, we’ll postpone the decision by putting it to a vote once we’ve narrowed it down to two or three options. I love hearing about what other members in my clubs are currently reading or excited to read next. I’ll often add a book we’ve considered to my personal TBR list even if we don’t pick it for book club.
How does your book club pick its books?