Expat Life

Book Clubs for Expats- 8 Tips To Establish Your Own

Are you a member of a book club abroad? As you know joining a book club is a great way not just to read more books but also to build new expat friendships. Here’s 8 tips for starting your own book club.

It’s all about books, or not?

I’ve been a member of a bookclub in The Hague, Beijing and Brunei. What you will notice is that no 2 book clubs are the same. While some book clubs are very book focused, in (most) others it is also about sharing personal experiences. In fact, I couldn’t tell you what the book was that we read at some of the most memorable meetings I attended. And it has happened that I did not read (or finish) a book but still went to enjoy the meeting. It is the discussion and the personal sharing that makes book clubs so popular.

Virtual Expat Book Club

Currently, my book club activity is limited to following the Expat Book Club from a distance via Facebook and Instagram (over 700 followers). The Expat Book Club was set up online to connect women with a love of reading who live overseas. In the Expat Book Club one book is read each month, and the moderator, Rebecca Hilton, provides readers with discussion questions. There are also live meetings of the EBC in various locations.

8 Tips To Start Your Own Book Club Abroad

Here’s my 8 tips if you want to set up your own book club abroad

1. Fix Dates

Choose a fixed date and time, like the first Thursday of the month at 8PM. This will put it in the mental calendars of participants and they will start planning around it. Of course, with busy travel schedules not everyone can join all the time, but fixed works best.

2. Fix or Vary Locations:

Both a fixed location (e.g. a specific restaurant or café) or a monthly change of venue can work. At each members home is also a good option, that makes for a nice and intimate feel.

3. Keep Number of Participants Manageable

You need enough participants for a nice discussion, but not too many as that becomes impersonal. I suggest to aim for 8-12 members, so if a few can’t make it (expats are always travelling), you still have company. Ask around, or put a message on a local Facebook group to find members.

 4. Pick A Language

Somehow I’ve ended up in all Dutch book clubs, though I mostly read books in English for fun and business. So you could start a club in your native tongue, or make an international one.

5. Select Books Together

All members can suggest 1 book, or you can have people vote from a long list. If you struggle, you could choose the top 10 popular books for 2018, or the top 10 books of all time. Look at suggestions from Oprah’s book club. You can also take a look at the book suggestions of the Expat Book Club, which include discussion questions and books per country. Of course, not all books will be to your liking, but that is part of the fun.

6. Plan Books In Advance

Making a list of books for a few months or even for the whole year in advance may be useful. That way, members have time to source the books during home visits or travel (if you do not have bookstores in your area) or exchange them with other members.

7. Have Someone Prepare The Meeting

Leading the Meetings: over the years, I’ve seen various ways of conducting meetings. From prepared questions sent in advance and grammar analysis to no preparation. What worked best imho was that 1 person prepares a few questions (between 5 and 10) about the book and leads the discussion. All members take turns to prepare a book discussion.

8. Beyond Books

What is very nice to do from time to time, is have a special book related activity. For example, with my The Hague book club we went to Winternachten Literary Festival, saw a play based on a Charles Dickens novel, and watched a movie based on one of the books we read. Such activities were great for making a change and building closer relationships. So maybe in your city you could visit the house of a famous writer who used to live there or you could get together for a movie night. 

Are you a member of a book club? What is your tip for meetings or great books to read?

 

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