Secret to a successful book club? Don’t read the book


I’m in two book clubs right now, both focused on some really good business books. Both – despite well-intended members, great leadership and really well-chosen books – are having a tough time continuing.

For busy professionals, the attraction of a book club is clear. Many of us want to read more, and we figure a book club will not only help motivate us to actually finish, but give us a chance to share ideas and learnings with others.

Problem is, we still don’t necessarily have time to read. And because we feel guilty that we haven’t finished the book and prepared for the meeting (and assume others have), we bail from the discussion, and eventually from the club altogether.

The solution to this problem for any book club but especially a business-oriented club is surprisingly simple.

Don’t require that people read and finish the book.

Instead, to foster a successful and growing book club, try the following steps:

  • Pick a book, as usual, that is relevant to the club’s focus and that everyone wants to read
  • Pick a date on which the club will meet to discuss the book, ideally no less than three weeks away to give folks a chance to get through it in between their already busy schedules
  • Three days before the book club meeting, write a blog post or executive summary with the gist of the book, it’s key findings, it’s key implications and opinions, etc. (if you don’t have time, find one already written on the Web – someone will have already written a review, an executive summary, an outline of key points). Check this one as an example.
  • Send the summary to all book club members. Those who have read the book, as well as those who haven’t, will be on the same page and ready for the discussion

A good business book club meeting doesn’t spend a lot of time on the book anyway. It uses the book and its findings/ideas as a launching pad for discussing what the book means for each individual member and their respective businesses.

Think about your last book club experience. Would this work? Would this format make you more likely to participate in a book club in the future?