Why and How to Start an Office Book Club
An office book club is a unique way to strengthen relationships between co-workers.
Viget is full of avid readers. 40% of Viget employees belong to our #books Slack channel where book lovers share recommendations and discuss books. We almost exclusively talk about books that we read for fun. Reading and discussing books related to our industry is an important part of professional development but connecting over our fun reads is also beneficial.
We started a fiction book club last year to take our book talk to the next level. We select a book every 5-6 weeks. Sometimes only 2 people join the discussion; sometimes there are 7 or 8 people. A few folks come consistently but we’ve also had people join for a single meeting because they’re interested in a particular book.
Reading fiction with your co-workers can help you:
- Build stronger relationships. A book club brings coworkers together in a unique way. It provides the opportunity to create personal connections outside of social activities like a happy hour.
- Read outside your comfort zone. When multiple people contribute to book selection, you end up reading books that you might not have known about otherwise or may not have picked up for yourself.
- Finish more books. When there’s a due date on the calendar and your coworkers are expecting you to show up to discuss a book, you’re more likely to actually finish the book in a timely manner.
- Get more out of your reading. Discussion helps you walk away with a better understanding of the book — and how you feel about it.
- Experience empathy. Fiction focuses on telling human stories from perspectives that may be different than your own which helps build your empathic muscles.
Here are some tips for starting a book club at your workplace:
- Create a central place to discuss books and to organize meetings. Slack works well for us but another internal communication channel may make more sense for your organization. Our #books channel is used to provide book club updates but its primary purpose is for folks to share recent favorites.
- Pick short-ish books. Aim for around 300 pages or less. People are more likely to participate and finish the book if it’s short.
- Give folks at least a month to read the book. It can take a while to actually get your hands on the book (especially if you’re trying to get it from the library) and it might not be easy for everyone to find time to set aside for reading.
- Focus primarily on books that have been out for at least a few months. That makes it less likely that participants will face a long holds list at the library. It also increases the chance that some people will have already read the book and can join the discussion without setting aside additional time to read.
- Don’t be afraid to get real. A book club isn’t much fun if there’s nothing to discuss. Many of our picks have focused on race and gender issues which led to interesting and important conversations that might not otherwise have fit into office life.
- Have a plan for the discussion. Look up questions online. Many authors and publishers produce discussion group guides for exactly this purpose. You can start the discussion by having folks share their general reactions to the book but it’s always good to identify a few topics ahead of time to help guide the discussion if needed.
- Keep meetings to 30-45 minutes. This provides enough time to get into the book without being too big of a time commitment. Try to time the meetings around lunch or at the end of the day to minimize work distractions.
- Read the book in its entirety. With fiction, it’s nice to talk about the book all at once. It also limits the time commitment. Working your way through a book a week at a time can be more of a burden and prevents you from addressing larger themes.
Reading with your co-workers is a rewarding practice and I encourage you to give it a try. If you’re interested, here are a few of our previous book club selections to get you started:
- Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
- Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
- Sophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen
- The Power by Naomi Alderman
- The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
- Underground Airlines by Ben Winters
We’re also always on the lookout for good picks so if you have book club recommendations, feel free to share in the comments. Happy reading!