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

Tip #2: Get on the Same Page 

Here’s something I thought would be pretty easy to do amongst book club members: choosing a book that everyone enjoys. Not necessarily knows of, but at least potentially enjoys. I thought this was a no brainer. I mean, it’s not like you would start a book club with people who don’t get along anyway, right? So why should there ever be an issue about picking a book with good friends? Apparently this is a problem for some book clubs. One Modern Manners Guy Facebook reader told me that one of her fellow book club members, Beth (not her real name), repeatedly argued against any book suggested by other members. It was a romance-themed club, but she continually insisted on choosing books that were more, ahem, erotica than romance.

I’m a firm believer in the unanimous decision rule when it comes to picking a book for the club to read. Everyone should want to read the book the group picks.  So, if it’s your turn and you suggest a book that people may not be into, take a stab at convincing them. Explain why you selected a particular book and why you think they may like it. Bring supporting materials even, like reviews or an explanation of how it compares to another book the group liked prior.

However, when you make an argument for a book, don’t make it an argument. If your reasons still don’t go over, let it go. The world will still go on turning if this particular book is not selected. Don’t get mad and lose your temper. Doing so is improper and just immature. If you start a fight over a book, no one will want to be in the club with you.

Tip #3: Make it Social

Not giving others a chance to host the book club meeting is kind of like being a bully.

Here’s a thought…book clubs should be fun! What, too easy? Then why is fun not always the first thing on everyone’s mind when they join a book club? It should be. You join clubs to be social - remember this point when you are involved in a book club. Book clubs should be a chance to learn, socialize, and relax with like-minded friends. There. That’s it. This is not a challenge, not a debate, and certainly not something meant to bore people. If you find yourself bored, than this is the wrong club for you.

When you start or join a book club, you should only bring people into it who are there to enjoy the experience. And when I say “experience,” I mean the entire thing: the people, the ambiance, the type of discussion you have, and of course, the types of books that you will be reading. Yes, it’s always great to challenge yourself but if you are not there to be social and have a good time, you’re never going to get the full pleasurable experience out of a book club. 

Do you have a great story about a book club that went wrong?  Post all the details in the comment section below. As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.

And if you're looking for a great read for your next book club meeting, check out Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career. It's my guide for navigating and succeeding in any workplace. It's available in paperback, ebook, and even audiobook format (read by me)! It's fun, funny, and has tons of useful advice to make the most out of your career.


Books and book club images courtesy of Shutterstock.