Readers Write

How Does Your Book Club Choose Books to Read?

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe. Catch the title by the toe. If it hollers let it go. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe. My mother said to pick the very best one and you are not it!

For some book clubs it may be eeny, meeny, miny, moe or rock-paper-scissors, but for other book clubs the selections are intentional and sometimes democratic.

For Will Schwalbe and his mother, when they took part in their two-person End of Your Life Book Club, there was nothing formal about their selection of books, but there was purpose behind their choices. If Will’s mother read a book she thought her son would enjoy, she shared her suggestion. Intent on connecting with his mother in the intimate way only sharing a book allows, Will followed her lead and read the titles she proposed. It worked the other way, too. If Will found a book he knew his mother would enjoy reading, he read it and passed it along to her. The point for them was reading meaningful books together.

People join book clubs for a variety of reasons: to be accountable for reading, to connect with others through books, to challenge themselves to think and feel in new ways. The varying personalities that come together to make up a book club often determine the personality of the book club itself as well as the book selection process.

Readers contributed the following responses to our question about how their book clubs decide the books they will read.

Katie writes: “Our book club is pretty laid back. Although we choose a book each month, we don’t always end up speaking about the book at length. We are all friends and it provides us a chance to get together and chat. Currently, whoever is hosting the coming month’s book club meeting chooses the book the group will read so it is up to her discretion. One year, we did try something new. We assigned a genre to each individual and she had to pick a book based on that genre. We enjoyed the diversity of books chosen, but many felt there was too much pressure, and they had difficulty finding a book they wanted to read that fit the genre. Many in our group are at a point in their lives where they simply want to read and enjoy a book.”

Ann writes: “My book club is made up of local women who are a part of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. We have chosen books a variety of ways, but this year we are going to participate in the national Reading Women book club. We will read the books chosen for the entire chapter and discuss the books in our small group.”

Pam writes: “Sadly, I am but a tag-along in a book club…kind of begged my way in and I have disliked every book they choose. People recommend books, but one woman kind of decides….books are boring and predictable. The club does not like books which seem to be my style!”

Dawn writes: “Luckily, we all have similar taste, so we usually go around and see who has a book they heard about that they are interested in. If it sounds good, we go with it!”

Mary writes: “Group consensus, sometimes from other book lists, such as Oprah’s, etc.”

Melanie writes: “We put entries into a hat and pull.”

Jeff says: “Our book club starts with some kind of history-based book, often one sent for free to our club by our teachers’ group. Then we find recommendations on blogs and history sites for other books that go deeper on the themes. We mix nonfiction and fiction, different periods in world history, and authors from different regions of the world. Each year it’s a different set of themes. Fascinating way to encourage reading, discussion, and learning! Last year, we started with George Washington’s Leadership Lessons. This year’s first read is a little dark, (The Way of the Knife), but I think it will be good background. I teach high school and my students ask intelligent questions about what’s going on in the world.”

Laura writes: “The leader picks a few choices, we all vote on our favorite.”

Jennifer writes: “Give suggestions and then choose.”

Tina writes: “By author or subject matter.”

Kristi writes: “Although I’m not currently in a book club, if I were I believe that finding common interest for the group would be a great way to pick a next book. Members could also vote on their favorite genre of book and pick a selection from that.”

Matt writes: “We look at reading lists and suggestions from current events magazines. We tend to like nonfiction, columnists, books that give a different perspective on the world.”

Bob says: “My mom is a librarian and she still tells me what to read. LOL. Actually, everyone in our ‘book club’ is also a sports coach or in a professional field where relationship building is key. So we try to read ‘what everyone is reading’ so we can have conversations with people. Sometimes that’s teen books, sometimes it’s the latest business book, sometimes it’s a best-selling novel. We are all guys. So if it’s already out in movie form, we rarely the read the book! ha.”

Evelyn writes: “We take a vote!”

How does your book club choose its next read? What books will you choose to read in your own end of your life book club?


  1. I have recently published a novel that might interest reading groups. Fling! is a wildly comic romp on mothers, daughters, art, and travel. Lewis Buzbee, author and professor of creative writing, University of San Francisco, says, “Fling! is both hilarious and touching, the madcap journey of an aging mother and her adult daughter from cold Protestant Canada into the hallucinogenic heart of Mexico’s magic, where the past literally comes to life. Every page is a surprise… A scintillating read.” The heart of the book is how they approach their aging selves and are open to new experiences.

    I would love an opportunity to discuss my novel with reading groups. It’s been receiving great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I’m available to meet with groups either in person, via Skype, or on speaker phone.

    Many thanks
    Lily Iona MacKenzie

  2. To come up with our first year’s reading list, we asked everyone to bring two book nominations along to the first get-together. Then the group chose one of the two nominations put forward by each person. It was a quick and easy way to get a year’s worth of reading programmed but the downside was that people nominated books they’d already ready (and knew they liked). Might try something different for next year …

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