There’s No Crying in Book Club

Everyone loves book club, right? Sharing your favorite titles with friends, great refreshments, and woohoo, a night out! Sometimes, though, things can go awry. My co-sleuths Summer and Dorothy found that out the hard way when they started their own book club to catch a librarian’s murderer on their second casePermanently Booked.

Here are a few potentially sticky book club “situations”—and a little advice—from the Ladies Smythe & Westin and me:

No one agrees on what to read.

Take turns choosing titles. Sometimes following themes and book guides and reading a zillion titles in the same genre gets boring, so don’t be afraid to shake things up. But keep those title selections on the short sideWar and Peace and Moby Dick are just perfect— for students slogging through English 101.

There’s plenty of discussion—but not about the book.

Set an agenda ahead of time, and stick with it. Plan “chat” time before or after the meeting—or both. Rule Numero Uno? Cell phones away and off, please. (Oh, wait. You knew that already, right?)

No one likes your refreshments.

Bring food you know most people will enjoy. It’s okay to be different, and healthy choices are always appreciated, but maybe you should reconsider that anchovy-kale-bean dip. Also, refrain from bringing up your new diet or anything you read recently on WebMD while other members are digging into the cherry ambrosia or chocolate fondue.

The same person does (all) the talking.

Every book club has at least one know-it-all member (not you, of course). If gentle hints fail, set a timer!

No one else has read the book.

Annoying? Yep. But you can probably count on at least a person or two who’ve seen the movie. Are there ways the book and movie differ? Discuss! And if YOU haven’t read/finished the book, show up anyway, and ‘fess up–or do your best to fake it. Resolve to be more prepared next month.

Some members feel left out.

No Mean Girls at book club! Be nice to everyone, and listen politely to each person’s opinions. Don’t trash anyone’s book choices, even by mistake. And sure, it’s okay to be critical of a book, but be sure to offer up a few positive points, too.

Your hostess looks…tired.

Some people enjoy throwing a party, and have the perfect space to hold a crowd. But hostessing every meeting can be a drag. Take turns, and always volunteer to help clean up (hey, you might even snag a few leftover brownies —that’s why they call them brownie points). If your home or apartment just won’t cut it for hosting, for whatever reason (aw, come on, you can think of one), consider meeting in a restaurant, bar, coffee shop, library, or local bookstore. It’s an excellent idea to check with the venue first.

You brought up the murder, and it wasn’t in a book.

Oops. As the Ladies Smythe & Westin discovered firsthand, discussing a real murder at book club is a big mistake. Time to make a gracious—and hasty—departure!

Have YOU you ever faced an awkward situation at book club? Share your advice in the Comments section below!

About Lisa:

Lisa Q. Mathews lives in New England but sets her mystery series The Ladies Smythe & Westin in sunny Florida. Like her co-sleuths Summer and Dorothy, she adores iced tea, rich desserts, Nora Ephron movies, and of course, fun detective stories!  Learn more about Lisa at




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