Starting a book group

Aside from the book groups that the library hosts for kidsteens and adults, Princeton is a town that has a healthy number of independent book groups. Being part of a book group can be a wonderful way to build community, deepen friendships, and talk about books. If you’ve ever considered starting one of your own, here are some things to consider.

Finding people.
Maybe you already have friends or acquaintances who are on board, in which case, you’ve got this part covered. Otherwise, start by word-of-mouth, asking those already in your circle, to spread the word. Post on social media or

Set the theme.
Get together and decide what type of group you would like to start. Will your focus be exclusively on the books or do you envision it as more of a wine, cheese and book group? Do you want to focus on one genre (sci-fi, mystery, literary fiction) or do you want more variety? It’s helpful to set parameters from the beginning.

Following the leader.
Will you take turns facilitating the group, or will there be one person in charge of coordinating? If each member takes a turn leading the group, perhaps they select the book for discussion. Or, all members suggest some titles and the group votes on the selections.

Tips on selecting books.
Contrary to what you might think, picking books that everyone in the group may enjoy may not be the best selection method. Think about it: if everyone loves the book, what is there to say? A successful discussion is one in which participants feel free to express a variety of opinions. A member of the long-running fiction book group that I lead at the library once commented that “there’s often friction in the fiction we discuss, and we keep coming back to talk about it together.”

Also consider the format and popularity of the book. If you’d like to discuss the book that everyone seems to be reading, it might be difficult for people to get copies of it. If you select a book that has come out in paperback, chances are that it will be more widely available. Do members read ebooks or listen to books? Check out hoopla, featuring ebooks and audiobooks that are available for immediate download, so there’s never a wait.

Meeting location and frequency.
There are a host of places you could meet. You might consider rotating at members’ homes; meeting at a restaurant or coffee shop (although external noise might be an issue); or the local library. Princeton Public Library has study rooms that may be reserved 48 hours in advance by library cardholders. If your group is on the smaller side (6 or fewer members), a study room could be an ideal location. Otherwise, we do have paid rental space that could be an option. How frequently will the group meet? It’s best to set a schedule and the books in advance to allow members to plan ahead.

You might also think about meeting virtually via Zoom or Google Meet.

Now that you’re ready to start your group, keep in mind that we’re here to help you along the way. Browse the fiction and nonfiction group lists for great local book group selections. Find discussion questions using NoveList PlusLit Lovers, and publishers’ websites. Or ask us to track one down for you. The library also provides multiple copies of adult book group titles, when possible. If the book is available in paperback, we will purchase five copies; and if the book is only available in hardcover, we will try to purchase three copies. Keep in mind that we require two months’ advance notice for multiple copies, and that the books become part of our browsable collection for anyone to check out.

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