Book clubs in Singapore: how to find one and tips for starting your own

Whether you're already an avid reader, or have been vowing to pick up that dusty copy of Shantaram languishing on your bedside table, we've put together our list of how to find a book club, or even create your own

We’ve all had that conversation with our mum friends, the one where we bemoan the fact that we’ve not read a book in years. And if we have read a book, it’s probably got ‘What to expect…’ in the title. Recently we’ve caught wind of a few book clubs popping up across the island, so we thought we’d give you the lowdown on book clubs and help you to reignite your passion for reading.

Start your own or join one?
You might like to have a snoop around to see if there’s an existing book club you could join. The upside of existing groups is that the structure is already set and you don’t have to worry about any admin… Just read the book and rock up! It’s also an excellent opportunity to meet new people from all walks of life. This fair island is dotted with book clubs, you just need to find them! Well established book clubs include Healthy Book ClubThe Hungry Hundred, Friends of the Museums and The Singapore Girly Book Club. It’s also worth having a look if your club or association has a related book club, like ANZA or The American Club. And of course, don’t forget your trusty friends Facebook and Meetup if you want even more choice.

Your other option is to establish your own book club. Obvious perks include setting the vibe for the group and having greater say in what types of books you’d like to read.

Setting your objectives
What do you want to achieve with your book club? Is it to get back into reading? Are you keen to expand your mind and learn new things? Do you want a thinly veiled excuse to drink wine during the week? Or do you want to make new friends, or catch up with old ones? There are so many reasons why a book club is a good idea. We suggest loosely defining what your objectives are first. This will help you identify who you might like to invite to join your book club.

We’ve also seen a few alternative groups being set up, for those of us who aren’t quite ready to tackle a whole book. Consider adding podcasts, blog posts or news articles to the reading list. They’re short, can be done while multi-tasking and are often quite provocative to discuss in group settings.

A coffee and a good book? Mum heaven! Photography: Jessica Mulder via Unsplash

Who to invite
You may like to put out a blanket Whatsapp to every woman you know in Singapore, or perhaps you’re more discerning and want to field the idea with a few friends with similar interests. Or if you’re new to the Red Dot or want to mix things up, why not put a message up on Facebook or Meetup? You do need to consider that not every person will be able to make it to every meeting, so it’s always good to take a ‘the more the merrier’ approach.

Book club etiquette 101
Once you’ve established your book club, you’ll need to do some initial housekeeping. Without getting too militant, agree a list of ground rules. For example, can you still attend a meeting if you’ve not read the entire book? Is it ok to criticise other people’s opinion? Or will there be a discussion guide? We suggest putting this list together as a group at your first book club event.

When and where to meet
Choosing how often to get together takes some consideration. If you’re a group of busy mums, it might be unrealistic to assume you can conquer a book every month. But avid book readers might be keen to meet more frequently. Set these dates in stone so that dates don’t clash with other commitments.

Your location also needs thought. Can you host it at your home, or take turns among members? Or would you prefer to hold it at a bar or cafe? The whole group should be involved in this decision, unless it was stated up front.

Choose your books wisely
Every so often we get the urge to conquer one of those really deep, wordy tomes that require immense concentration. Night one starts off beautifully – you power through 50 pages relatively effortlessly and retire for the evening feeling righteous and at least 7% smarter. Night two sees you nod off three pages in after a big day wrangling a threenager. Night three you get stuck in the black hole that is Instagram (‘I’ll just follow this last link, then I promise I’ll stop…’). And then before you know it, six months have passed you by.

Our point here is, take baby steps. Start off with a light, shorter novel that will reinvigorate your desire to read. Ask friends or consult one of the many Facebook support groups for suggestions of worthy novels.

We’d also suggest agreeing the first few books before book club kicks off. The key word here is democracy. You might like to get each member to provide three book suggestions (with a short blurb on each) and then put it to a vote.

Join a virtual community
Can’t find a local book club that suits your purpose? Go online. The interwebular is teeming with online book clubs of all sorts. Of course the queen of the world, Oprah has a marvellous book club. And did you know Emma Watson runs a book club called Our Shared Self? It’s a beautifully curated list of books with a focus on empowering women. The beauty of online book clubs is that you can join in meaty conversations from the comfort of your couch and connect with other like-minded readers spread across the globe.

So now we’ve given you the low down, it’s time to drop everything and read!

Top image: Karim Ghantous via Unsplash

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