Book Club Etiquette

Book clubs are usually made up of like-minded people who love reading and talking about books. So why is it that they're also petri dishes for bad behavior? Modern Manners Guy describes the worst book club etiquette offenders.

Richie Frieman
5-minute read
Episode #268

A while back, I wrote an article called What Is Proper Book Borrowing Etiquette? that dealt with terrible people who treat borrowed books like plates, doorstops, or worse, lose them altogether.

As an author and book lover, I was appalled to hear the many stories of unmannerly book treatment that Modern Manners Guy readers have sent in response to that episode. Many also talked about rude manners not just in book borrowing, but also at book clubs, which led me to this week's topic: book club etiquette.  .

Book clubs are a great way to bond with friends over a good book, and usually good food and drinks too. Unfortunately, sometimes book clubs turn into breeding grounds for unmannerly behavior.  So before you settle into your chairs for a fruitful dialogue about the casting of Christian Grey in the movie version, check out my top 3 quick and dirty tips for proper book club etiquette:

Tip #1: Take Turns Hosting

Some people love to play host, while others only pretend to enjoy it. One reader emailed me that in her book club “Mary” (not her real name) insisted that she would host club meetings every week. At first the other members thought she was just being generous and embracing her inner Martha Stewart, but it turns out that Mary just liked the added attention that came with being the hostess with the mostest.  She took care of the menu, drinks, and wouldn’t let anyone even bring an appetizer to the club meetings. And as much as the other book club members enjoyed her hospitality, they too wanted a chance to contribute their personalities to the table. Resentment brewed.  

Ladies, I’m with you. Not giving others a chance to host the book club meeting is kind of like being a bully. If Martha Stewart is in your book club, well, that’s one thing. I mean, you can’t beat that, and heck, why would you even want to? But in reality most of us will never we be in a book club with Ms. Stewart (but if any of you are, might I suggest a great new book called REPLY ALL…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career?).

If you’re a part of a book club which meets on a regular basis, it’s only proper to pass the hosting responsibilities around the group. For starters, even if someone says they like hosting, everyone needs a break.  Between the planning, the cooking, and the cleaning, after a while it gets old.  

As friends – and fellow book club members – make a deal from the start that you rotate locations for every meeting. Also, delegate the roles of who brings what in advance. Mix it up and keep it fresh. As well, if one person doesn’t have a house that can comfortably accomodate the entire group, they can be exempt from hosting duties. But for those who do have the space, make it fun and easy on everyone so you can focus more on the book than the menu.