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Literary like-mindedness: Why join a book club?

What makes a successful book club? Experts show how to get the most out of your literary leanings.

For those who haven’t already jumped aboard the book club bandwagon, winter is a great time to get involved. Relaxing, social, entertaining and stimulating, book clubs connect the dots on the solitary experience of reading and produce no end of opinionated, lively discussion on both the prescribed books and plenty more.

We asked Sydney’s Newtown Book Club and independent literary powerhouse Readings Books Music Film to share their secrets to a successful book club…

Newtown Book Club

Key ingredients for a successful book club?

It’s important to provide a good opportunity to socialise as well as talk about all things literary. A fun venue choice can make all the difference. We often host our meetups in a quiet pub or café, allowing our members to chat about books in a relaxing atmosphere. It’s also essential to have a good organiser to guide discussions and make sure that even the shyest guests feel included. Lastly, we’d suggest choosing an eclectic range of books.

What book has generated the most lively discussion in the Newtown Book Club?

In February we delved into Murder in Mississippi, a true crime book by the (usually) very funny John Safran. Just like Safran’s comedy, his book proved to be very polarising – some of our members loved it, others hated it.

What do you think people get out of joining a book club?

Book clubs are a fantastic way of connecting with other people and challenging yourself intellectually. Reading a book is normally a solitary activity – a book club provides the opportunity to share your thoughts with others who might have different views. Sharpen up your debating skills if you’re covering a controversial book!

Readings Books Music Film

From your perspective, what are some of the wellbeing benefits of joining a book club?

Reading is relaxing, and for some it can even be a meditative experience. It is a fantastic way to keep your mind active. Extending the experience of reading alone by joining a book club is wonderfully beneficial.

How long has your Carlton book club been running and why do you think it’s been so successful?

The Readings Contemporary Book Club based in Carlton has been running for over five years, although members and book club conveners have changed throughout that time. We also run contemporary book clubs at our Hawthorn and St Kilda shops. We are starting a Queer Book Club and a Non-Fiction Book Club at our St Kilda shop shortly too.

Readings’ Book Clubs are distinctive from many other kinds of book clubs, and I believe successful because they are primarily about talking about books and secondarily a social event. Many people abandon their book club when they feel passionate about a certain book and want to talk seriously about it, but realise that most people haven’t even read it and have come to simply gossip or catch up socially. The book then becomes superfluous to the gathering. In contrast, Readings’ Book Clubs are for those who want to discuss books in a structured yet still informal setting.

Top 5 book club suggestions

Penguin Books Australia shares its top books for book clubs this winter…

1. The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane – the critically acclaimed debut novel from young Australian writer shortlisted for the 2014 Indie Award, 2014 Stella Prize, 2014 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

2. Only the Animals by Ceridwen Dovey – the highly anticipated second novel from internationally acclaimed award-winning author Ceridwen Dovey.

3. Murder in Mississippi by John Safran – astonishing true crime investigative memoir by award-winning documentary-maker, journalist and broadcaster John Safran.

4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – the moving international bestseller is released in Australian cinemas in June. Make it a book club/movie night event.

5. Eyrie by Tim Winton – the number one bestselling, and most recent, novel by one of Australia’s favourite writers.

For book extracts, author Q&As and extra content visit

(Images: Main: Alexandre Duret-Lutz; Used book store: Shelby H; Readings Carlton: Snipergirl; Readings Hawthorn: Michael Griffiths.)

What makes a successful book club? We talk to some of the experts to find out how to get the most out of your literary leanings.

Fiendish for books? Check out our travel wish-list of the best bookstores around the world

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