Literature Girl

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Reflections on Running a Book Club

('Run a book club', they said. 'It will be good', they said. 'It will help you make likeminded friends', they said...)


I decided to create a book club at my high school whenever I was about fourteen, because there wasn't one and I thought that maybe if there was, it would attract interesting people for me to meet and potentially befriend. The school librarian liked my idea, so we made one together, and she generally ran things alone for the first few years.

Eventually, I reached my final year at the school, and the librarian retired. I was asked by the English department at my school to take over managing the club myself: creating posters and making announcements, managing the budget, sourcing and ordering books, planning meetings, communicating with members, writing up schedules, leading discussions, and so on.

I agreed, because even though I knew by now that the club probably wouldn't attract the kind of people who actually wanted to have discussions with me about philosophy, theology, or classic literature (how naive of me to think there were many such people in the first place, never mind in a high school), I thought it was a club that the school should have anyway.

The management side of running the club went smoothly, and budgeting was easier than anticipated due to a library grant and websites that offer secondhand books, which I strongly recommend using instead of ordering new books. Aside from that, though, I think the greatest challenge I faced wasn't interest in the club itself (because there was a substantial amount of people who were interested), but rather maintaining a clear focus during meetings and establishing a group who cared for the same kind of literature.

Those who wanted to read the classics were a very scarce minority, and most of the people attracted (again, this was in a high school) based their taste in books off of whatever was most popular on TikTok that week. (If I have to hear the term 'BookTok' one more time I am going to commit a violent crime.)

Besides the fact that I have very little patience for such people (and such books; I tried reading several during my time running the club and they were all equally trite nonsense), this made actually establishing one single reading group very difficult. The solution we decided on was by splitting the club into two smaller reading groups at a time, and offering a selection of two books (usually one classic and one contemporary) based on a set list determined democratically every few months. Some of the books chosen were as follows:

Ultimately, it wasn't an overly painful endeavour, and I did have some lovely discussions on different occasions, but it often felt futile because people had such varied interests in what they wanted to read. If I were to compile a short list of advice for anyone who plans on creating a book club, it would look like this: