This International Youth Day, why not start your own YA book club with these five simple steps
Reading has a reputation for being a solitary pursuit, but it’s also a great conversation starter and book clubs are a fun way to socialise and connect with like-minded people. This International Youth Day, we’re challenging the youth of Australia to start their own YA book clubs, gather some friends or make some new ones and discover some fantastic Australian books.
To help you get started, we’ve put together a checklist of things you’ll need to do and some recommended reading for your first titles.
Step 1: Decide what types of books you’re going to read
Some book clubs focus on certain genres, topics or particular types of authors. You might, for example, decide your group only reads books by Australian authors or debut novelists or diverse ‘Own Voice’ authors.
Have a think about what sorts of books will engage you and your friends so that you all want to keep reading. You also need to consider how you’ll choose the books your club will read. Will you be following a book club list from a publisher or book club website, or will you choose all the books yourself? Will you rotate who chooses the books or will you do a lucky dip?
Meet Me at the Intersection is a YA anthology featuring diverse ‘Own Voice’ authors. Rafeif Ismail, one of the contributors of the anthology, says, ‘When we actively seek out to read and include voices of colour in our literary space it is an act of shifting the paradigm … it is through reading widely that we come to realise the extent to which our literary spaces and practices can be vehicles of change’. Rafeif will appear at the Great Big Book Club Tea Party in October with Ambelin Kwaymullina.
Step 2: Think about where and when you’ll meet
Most book clubs meet at home, rotating through members’ houses, but there are lots of other options. Your local library will often be happy to make space available to you. They can help with book recommendations and will sometimes go so far as to purchase books for their collection on your behalf. If you’re a bunch of caffeine addicts, there are lots of friendly local cafes and even book cafes that would be happy to support your club. You could even meet at a park.
Think about who you’re going to have in this book club and what will be easiest for everyone. You also need to consider when you’ll meet. If you’ve got plenty of flexibility, you may want to wait and decide on this after you’ve found some people to join your club, but if there are only certain days and times that work for you, then set the time and see who can come.
Kate McCaffrey was a feature author at the Dymocks Joondalup YA book club. The event, held in October 2017 at the store in Lakeside Joondalup, was an opportunity for YA Readers to ask Kate about her books, get them signed and delve into the writing process.
Step 3: Find your tribe
Who is going to be in your book club? Friends? Family? Or are you looking to meet new people? Spread the word and try to find some reading buddies. Ideally you’ll want somewhere between five and 12 people so that everyone has a voice. Make sure you explain in your call-out what you’ll expect from your members. Right through from how many and what types of books you’ll be reading, to how often meetings will be and where they’ll be, you’ll need to explain how the book selection works, what you expect your members to do in preparation and whether you’ll expect them to host a meeting or lead a discussion at any point.
Beyond Carousel is by Great Big Book Club Tea Party ambassador Brendan Ritchie. Brendan says, ‘Starting you own book club means that you can make the call on things like the venue, frequency and books. And if your book club happens to have a focus on YA fiction, there are so many diverse and inclusive titles to choose from right now.’
Step 4: Create an online space
Whether it’s a private Facebook group, a Twitter or WhatsApp chat, a Goodreads group or just an email chain, it’s time to create your online space. This is a place to reinforce the rules, organise meetings, create polls for which books you’ll read, and share any book-related discussion. It also becomes a handy resource if you ever invite new members to the group and a great place for people to make their initial introductions if they don’t all know each other.
Authors like Deb Fitzpatrick have their own Facebook pages where you can find out more about them, set up a time to ask them questions online during your book club or ask them to attend in person.
Step 5: Prepare for your first meeting
With your group all set up, it’s time to choose your first book. You may have already chosen one to get things started or you might decide to use your online space to choose the first book. Once that’s done, set the date for your first meeting and get reading.
As the event organiser, it will be your job to manage the first meeting. You’ll probably want to do some introductions so that everyone can put names to faces and you’ll also want to allow some time for everyone to get to know each other, but remember that everyone has come to talk about books so allow the bulk of the time for discussion. Come prepared with some talking points: things you liked or didn’t like about the book, how you felt about the characters, what themes you picked up on. You may even want to do some research on the author and the book. Do you feel the author achieved what they set out to do? Why or why not? Remember to let the conversation flow naturally but make sure everyone gets a chance to speak and be heard.
Local publishers like Fremantle Press put their new titles up online months ahead of the publication date where you can pre-order them.
And there you go – your book club is now underway! But we’ve got some extra tips to help you get the most out of your book club:
- Did you know that you can book authors to come and speak at your book club? Fremantle Press’s authors are available to speak at your next meeting or event. Head to our website and check the author list for more details: www.fremantlepress.com.au/authors.
- Want to meet other bookish people? Our Great Big Book Club Tea Party is coming up soon. Gather your group and come along for tea, cupcakes and writing and reading related discussions. For full details and bookings, head to www.fremantlepress.com.au/events.