The Welcome Mat

The Welcome Mat

Our book club has achieved some renown in our community, and I find myself fielding several requests by others to join. I am not sure how to handle this and accepting new members into an established group can be tricky. How should I proceed? – Ellen

Congratulations on your successful book club and its “rep.” Are you noting the similarities between high school and book clubs?

But on to your new candidates. Establish with your group whether space is truly available for a new member or two. Some club members might feel the more the merrier; others may feel squeamish about anything new (“Wasn’t that basil plant on the other side of your kitchen the last time I was here?”). Mutually decide if you would like to invite the candidate to a future club meeting and if you do, be sure to send details about the book you will be discussing well in advance. If the candidate will be arriving alone, be sure to send overly specific directions.

Once you have observed the potential new member’s book club style, the group may discuss his or her potential merits, chemistry with the regulars, the authenticity of the person’s smile, aura or any other criteria you might have developed over the years, or suddenly last night. Remember, it is your club and you reserve the right to extend an invitation or add names to your ever-growing waiting list. But why not make “welcoming” the official position of the club?

Too Much Information

I participate in a couple of book clubs. In one, our professional facilitator selects interesting books, does extensive research, keeps the discussion moving and relevant to the book. There’s disagreement but not acrimony. But the other club I find especially annoying: the volunteer leader pulls voluminous material off the Internet, more often about the author than the book, and insists on reading it verbatim. Then another person designated to recommend the next book, circulates about five books for the group to look at while she makes her pitch for each of them prior to a vote. There is very little time devoted to actual discussion of the book. What should we do? – Dorothy

“Volunteer” can mean many things: selfless and tireless individuals who toil for a worthy cause (I’m looking at you, Lady Sybil Crawley). Others are well meaning, though if they insist on a public reading of the entire Internet, they are probably in need of a lot of attention.

Decide on the rules going forward: Ten well-researched minutes for the introduction of the fall of Rome, including the author’s bio; one hour (or a time to be determined by the group) for the discussion with everyone allowed to make a brief statement about the book. The last 15 minutes might be dedicated to new book selection but presenters must make a Pact of Conciseness. Pitches for P.D. James’s smashing best seller Death Comes to Pemberley,  incorporating exacting references to Mr. Darcy and his estate, or a book and movie re-visitation of The Help, leaving no character unturned, should be prepared well ahead of the meeting for maximum effectiveness.

Parking Regulations

I attend a wonderful book group at my branch library. The only problem is the parking lot – it is a madhouse at the time of my book club. It is held at a very busy branch that has also suffered through reduced hours. Lines for spaces are often 3 or 4 cars deep.  One time I watched a patron leave the library, go to her car, turn on the ignition … and then take out her cell phone and yak for about five minutes. Then she put on her lipstick!  Any advice? – Stamford, Ct.

Three brief applications of your car horn – works every time.

The Shelf Life of a Book Club

I am starting to feel as if my book club of 11 years has exceeded its natural shelf life. I am constantly finding excuses to stay home with my daughters and husband who have their own schedules, so family time is important. And BTW, I also work full time, travel for my job and sing in a Gospel choir. How can I confirm whether it’s time to move on? – Anonymous

Think about why you joined the club in the first place. Has it changed, or have you and your busy life? If you find yourself putting book club attendance somewhere between folding school play programs and cleaning out everyone’s sock drawers, it’s probably time to send out your email of farewell.

But in most cases, book clubs are like the Hotel California where you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. And in the end, your club will most likely have you back if you decide you miss them, and you will.

The Club Column welcomes your book club questions. Please send your questions to:

Follow Diana Loevy on twitter: @Dianaloevy

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