Top 9 Must-Have Book Club Rules

Published on: 06/19/2023
Published By: Larissa De La Cruz
book club rules

Are you thinking of starting your own book club but don’t know what ground rules to set? Or are you thinking of joining a book club but need guidance on the rules and expectations beforehand? If so, read on to learn more about 9 common book club rules.

To ensure that your book club is successful, it’s important to set rules and expectations for all book club members. This promotes a fun, interactive, respectful, and healthy environment where book lovers can come together and openly share their opinions with each other.

To help you get started, here are my top 9 book club rules and recommendations.

1. Determine the book selection process.

Every book club needs to establish what books they will select to read and how. It’s essential to decide on the best method for choosing the next book, so that members know that to expect.

Here are five common ways a book club could choose a book.

  • The club leader chooses the book.
  • Books are nominated by the club leader, but members vote.
    • In smaller book clubs, the group leader creates a poll, through Doodle or within their Facebook Group, listing potential books to read and group members vote on which one to read next.
  • Members take turns choosing books.
    • Club members take turns in picking the next book to read. This is a fair process that allows everyone’s interests to be represented. If you get the opportunity to choose a book for your club, be mindful of picking a genre that most members will enjoy reading. This method is more common in smaller clubs.
  • Members nominate and vote for books.
    • Some book clubs opt for a more democratic book selection process that allows members to take turns in nominating and voting for the book that will be read next.
  • Books are randomly selected.
    • Some clubs prefer to randomly pick a book from an established list by either using a random book generator online or you can go old school and throw all the book names into a hat or bowl to randomly select that way, too.

It’s up to the club leader to determine the timing and frequency of the book selection.

  • Choose one book at a time. Once the club members finish reading one book, they immediately select what to read next.
  • Choose books quarterly. Some clubs meet quarterly to pick the next three or six books that they will read.
  • Choose all the books that will be read for the calendar year. Some book clubs meet annually and pick all the books that they will read for the calendar year.

2. Be open to re-reading a book.

Joining a book club for the excitement of reading new books and discussing them with others might sound great. However, sometimes you might have to re-read books that you have read before. While this does not sound exciting for you, it’s important to remain open to reading it again. Here are some benefits to re-reading books:

  • It deepens our understanding. Re-reading a book can help you identify nuances that you might have missed before. This allows you to attain a deeper understanding of the storyline, the author’s intention, and gain a new perspective of the book that you didn’t get the first time you read it.
  • It improves our retention. Re-reading a book allows you to remember more information, be able to share details with others, and even encourages you to take more immediate action on what you learned.
  • Brings on comfort and joy: Re-reading a book can bring nostalgic feelings from who you were when you first read it and how much you have evolved to be the person you are today. As you are reading, you will realize that you are learning something new from it that you didn’t the previous time.

3. Create an agenda.

An agenda consists of the meeting title, date, time, discussion topics, and names of the individuals who will be presenting specific topics. Creating an agenda for your book club has the following benefits:

  • Gives the attendees time to get prepared for the meeting.
  • Structures the meeting’s purpose to ensure everyone remains focused on the topic.
  • Encourages participation because group members know what is expected of them.
  • Increases efficiency because it helps you allocate the time for each topic accordingly.
  • Creates a sense of professionalism and organization in your book club.

The agenda should be sent out at least 24 hours before the meeting as this will allow members to review it, come prepared with questions, comments, and ready to share their opinions.

4. RSVP.

This is the simplest rule of all—RSVP. It is polite to let the book club host and your fellow group members know whether you will be attending or not. If the meeting is in person, this can help the club leader or main host plan food and drinks accordingly. However, if the meetings are virtual, it is still courteous to confirm your attendance.

The meetings can be held either in person or virtual and the pros and cons are listed below:



  • Build trusting relationships with other group members
  • Increase engagement and participation
  • Limit distractions


  • Easy to set up via Zoom or Google Meet
  • Have more reach by connecting with people nationwide
  • Cost effective



  • Increased costs (e.g., food, beverages, handouts)
  • Limited to local/regional attendees
  • Time consuming since group members need to travel somewhere to meet


  • Technology and network connection issues
  • Lack of personal interactions with group members
  • Increased chances of distractions

If you opt for hosting a virtual book club, it is recommended to create a survey to poll your audience on the best days or the week and/or times of the day that would work best for them. From there, you can create a Doodle poll and email it to everyone. Examples of survey forms are:

  • Google Forms
  • JotForm
  • Survey Monkey

When using a scheduling tool, like Doodle, this should include dates and times that generally work for group members (based on the survey results). They can select their availability as this will help the book club host to schedule a time that works for (almost) everyone.

5. Read the book.

Part of being in a book club is that you read the book. Sometimes, life happens, and you don’t have time to read it, or you hated the book so much that you could not bring yourself to finish reading it. Still, it’s recommended that you attend the meetings and read the book as much as you can, so you can contribute to the discussion.

6. Be prepared to discuss the book.

Whether you read the book or not, it’s important to come prepared to engage in the conversation. Before the meeting, brainstorm what you would like to share with the group. These are some questions you can begin to think about and be prepared to discuss.

  • What did you like or dislike the book? And why?
  • Who was your favorite character? Why?
  • How did the book make you feel?
  • What did you learn from it?
  • Would you recommend it to someone else? Why or why not?

Being prepared shows your fellow group members that you care and are committed to the book club.

If you have not gotten a chance to read the book yet, you can still ask these same questions above to participate in the discussion.

7. Speak up.

The best book clubs are the ones where everyone participates. It’s okay to be timid and feel scared to share your thoughts but eventually, you want to get comfortable speaking up and contributing to the conversation. Your fellow members want you there and they want to know your opinion of the book. Remember that you are entitled to share your perspective. Your opinion matters just as much as everyone else’s.

8. Be honest and respectful.

Part of joining a book club is to share your reading experiences with others. There will be instances where you and your fellow group members will disagree on a book takeaway. Even if everyone else liked the book, it’s okay for you to be honest and share your thoughts and feelings about it in a respectful manner.

  • I feel this way because of X…
  • I disliked that the character behaved that way because…
  • I think the author could have written a better ending because…

Similarly, you also need to be respectful of other people’s point of view of their reading experience and allow yourself to see it from their perspective. Instead come with an open mind and ask questions to understand their reasoning.

  • Why did the book make you feel that way?
  • Why did you like that character so much?
  • Why did you like the ending?

Although you might not agree with them, you can still thank them for sharing a different perspective that you did not take away from the book. This can turn into a lively debate where everyone can learn from each other.

9. Be an active listener.

One of the most important book club rules to practice is active listening. While you might be excited to share your thoughts and feelings about the book, it’s important to be mindful of not dominating the conversation. Here are a few tips to show that you are actively listening.

  • Face the speaker and make eye contact.
  • Pay attention to non-verbal cues.
  • Show that you are listening.
  • Don’t interrupt the speaker.
  • Don’t plan what to say next.

While your fellow group members are interested in hearing your opinion, they also want to hear everyone else’s. Remind yourself to let others have a chance to speak up while you actively listen without interruption.

top 9 must-have book club rules

In conclusion, while this article only focused on setting book club rules, it’s important to remember to have fun and enjoy the process. Being part of a book club encourages you to read, learn from others, and provides an opportunity to network.

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