Readers' Corner

Rules and Standards for Book Club

To make a Book Club successful and growing, it is important to adhere certain book club rules and standards for behavior which prevents pointless arguments or even oblivious offences and helps to run Book Club more efficiently and smoothly. Most of the book club rules and standards are basic and common sense but it is necessary to remind rules frequently to all members of the club. It can be a diplomatic way to deal with one member who may be annoying other members or flouting certain rule and correct their behavior for future.

If you’re deciding on the rules for your book club, consider the kinds of conversations you’d like to have. Are you doing it mainly for fun or for deep critical analysis? Additionally, it’s a good idea to think about the place where your book club will meet. It might have rules about bringing food or putting back chairs after a meeting if you’re meeting in a public place like a library community room. You should consider these when deciding on the rules for your book club.

Here are a few guidelines to help you get started. Your book club may have specific rules, but here are a few common ones. The most important thing of all is to have fun! If you do not agree with any of these rules or feel they are unnecessary for your group, you may ignore them.

  • Take some time when starting a book club to sit down and draw up a list of rules and standards of behavior which all starting members agree upon. It may seem a chore when all you want to do it get to the meaty literary discussions but it is well-worth the time and effort and will prevent a lot of time-wasting (and potential conflict) later from people arguing over how things should be done.


  • Make sure that everyone is agreed on what is acceptable behavior within the club – take a majority vote if you have to. Even if it is simple things like whether people should be allowed to interrupt others while they are sharing opinions so resulting in a more free but possibly more chaotic discussion or whether everyone should wait to express their opinions in turn – these are important details to note down and agree upon.


  • Emphasize to all members the importance of disagreeing in a polite and tactful manner, whilst also emphasizing that it is perfectly acceptable for people to have a difference of opinions.


  • If your book club has decided on a certain genre or area of interest, make sure all members understand this and only recommend books within the criteria.


  • Ensure that all members respect the authority of the book club leader or moderator during meetings.


  • Within reason, show zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior, such as “flaming” and decide on a course of action for dealing with such members. For example, the club may give a certain number of warnings before expelling such a member.


  • Remind all members of the importance of keeping on topic during discussions and in particular, to participate.


  • All personal discussions and social small talk should be kept to the periods before and after the literary discussion.


  • It is a good idea to ask members to source references if they decide to cite copyrighted material.


  • Make sure that all members are aware of the importance of attendance and punctuality at meetings – consistently arriving late, for example, or not attending shows a lack of respect and consideration for those who have arrived on time. Stick to your regular meeting schedule as much as possible and impress upon all members the importance of making the reading group meetings a fixture in their social calendar.


  • Try to start all meetings on time and keep to the decided time frame (e.g. 1 hour).


  • Remind members to allow others their turn to speak and to refrain from “rambling on” and hogging all the discussion time.


  • If the book club organizes social events, e.g. a themed dinner, remind all members to contribute and for those with certain assigned responsibilities to take these seriously.


  • Encourage all members to come prepared, whether it is with notes for discussion or simply to have read the assigned book or section of the book.


  • Finally, just as in business, it is important to end meetings with a clear idea of next steps and who is to take them, end all book club discussions with a clear decision on the next book to read, the next leader for the discussion or presenter of the book and the next meeting venue and place. It can also be a good idea to assign one member to provide timely reminders ahead of the next meeting.


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