Our book club started quite humbly and without serious expectation in 2010. A friend from a previous/now defunct book club had made a point to write “When are you going to get another book club together?” every year at the bottom of her Christmas card. Well, there are only so many years a girl can take that kind of hounding before giving in. I invited eight women I’d come to know from various life experiences during my then 27 years in Chicago. Two of them chose not to join us; two accepted the challenge but have since dropped out of the group, and five of us, Geri, Marcia, Mary, Melissa and I just celebrated 100 books together in August, 2018. Joining us in that celebration were six members we’ve collected during our eight years: Geri invited Chris and Linda, Marcia encouraged Rosalie and Karen to join us, and Melissa added Sharon and Susan. Thank goodness Mary nagged me with every yuletide greeting, because I have made six wonderful new friends, and truthfully, I almost like them better than the original gals — but please don’t tell anyone I said that.
It’s important to invite people whose values you share. You don’t have to be identical in mind, word and deed, but general outlook and core values will often guide your book choices and the truth is, not many of us want to go to book club to argue. (I say ‘not many’ because I’ve run into people who I’m guessing would be happy to go anywhere and argue.) Some of our members like to get up on soap boxes from time to time but we are typically preaching to the choir. Naturally we have differences of opinion but it has worked out for us that each new member has fit in as well as the original member who invited her. We made it very clear from the outset that if you didn’t finish the book (or didn’t start it!) you were not prohibited from attending the gathering. The discussion may urge you to start the book or give you permission not to finish.