Methods for Selecting Book Club Books

Having great members is a key component to a great book club, but you also need to select great books to discuss. And a great book isn’t always a great book club book. You want something that lends itself to conversation.

Choosing the right titles is one of the most crucial elements in ensuring a good discussion and lasting book club success. Be clear about how books are selected, and think about how far in advance you want to select books.

Booked {Reading Together} | Selecting Great Discussion Books / How to Select Book Club Books

Yesterday I gave a list of tips and things to consider when selecting book club reads. But how do you actually decide what your book club will read? How you go about it can vary, but there are some general methods:

Leader-driven. The book club leader (or core group) chooses titles. This can be quite successful when the individuals selecting are skilled in selecting books that fit with the group and are good for discussion. This can also allow for thoughtfully balancing the reading over the course of the year, with a variety of themes and genres.

Leader-limited. The book club leader (or core group) proposes titles, and then the members select from those proposed titles. This can also be quite successful at eliminating books that don’t fit the group guidelines, or focusing the group in particular directions, while still giving members a bigger voice in the process.

Group selection. At a regular meeting or special separate meeting, members gather and promote the books they want to read for the upcoming reading period (whether six months or a year). This can be helpful at promoting lots of group involvement, but it can also lead to some disappointing choices, and stronger-voiced (or –willed) members dominating selections. This can also be done via email, to avoid having to use meeting time on it, and that might help allow all members to have their voices heard.

Rotation. Members have an assigned month, and they select the title and facilitate the discussion. This is simple, and ensures everyone gets a turn picking the book. It also can lead to the most random of choices and lackluster discussions.

How We Do It

Our book club does a bit of leader-limited and group selection. All regularly-attending members can suggest books, and group leaders mostly guide choices to balance the year’s reading calendar – we read a mix of genres and styles, and try to avoid having similar titles back-to-back.

Be aware that selecting books too far in advance prevents your group from taking advantage of new discoveries that may catch everyone’s attention, or from tying your reading in to anniversaries or other opportunities you may have been unaware of when originally selecting (such as a movie version of a book)

Booked | Reading Together | A Series All about Book ClubsBooked: Reading Together

This is part of the Booked: Reading Together series. Throughout October, I’m writing all about book clubs.

Check out the archives in case you missed a post.

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Read This, Not That: Productivity Advice
Two years ago: 31 Days of More Great Nonfiction: A Year of Biblical Womanhood
Three years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction: Confessions of a Tax Collector


  1. All this book club talk is making me think I should survey the members of my new book club to find a balance that will please everyone. I am prone to just read the book, discuss for 20 minutes at the meeting, and then chat. Perhaps others will expect my new book club to be more serious. 🙂

    • Not necessarily – that may be just what everyone else wants too. It’s not like the only way to run a book club is with a formal discussion for 2 hours.

      My posts are supposed to be sharing ideas and possibilities, not this-is-the-only-way. My book club never does *everything* I’m mentioning. Some of our book choices end up being really brief discussions, some are longer; it just seems to depend on the book and who attends and what all we have to say about it.

      If your group is happy, keep doing what you’re doing!

  2. Our group has done rotation and group selection. Mostly these ways have worked fine but a few issues have caused problems like people not able to fulfill their month because of a conflict (rotation gets thrown off) or so wide of a range we had to use a ballot and then tie breakers to choose (group selection). I will say that these two ways have introduced me to books that I would not normally have chosen to read.

    • That’s one of the things I really love about book club – it has gotten me to read books I never would have otherwise! No matter how they were selected. 😉

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