A December meeting is always tricky for book groups. Readers are busy and can’t get through the book or give priority to another holiday event. My answer to this dilemma can be summarized this way: Go big or stay home. I don’t like the idea of staying home. If your book club is succeeding, your readers will care enough about each other to make a holiday meeting a priority. So that leaves “go big” as the go-to option. Here are twelve ideas for a special December meeting.
1) Hold a Family Open House
Family members and other close relations get shunted aside throughout the year as book clubbers desert them for the mysterious book club meeting. Why not have a Christmas meeting where you invite them to come? Stick with your regular format so they can see what their loved ones are doing, but add extra food and fun to the mix. Give them advance warning and invite them to read the book. One caution if you try this option: decide in advance whether you are going to take on new members after the open house.
2) Have a Holiday Reading
Ask each of your members to pick a different holiday book to try. Ask them to pick a selection or choose the words of a poem, an essay, a carol, or some other bit of literature that will share the holiday spirit to read aloud.
3) Gift Book Exchange
To take the pressure off the question of whether or not to give gifts to book club friends, plan a swap of books. You might choose white elephant books or ask readers to bring a book they really appreciated. As the organizer, bring a couple of extra books just in case. Wrap the books and pass them around randomly. Draw names to go first and let that reader open two of the books and choose one. The next reader then opens another book and can either choose to trade it for the first reader’s choice, keep the book they just opened, or take the book the first reader passed on. Continue until everyone has had a turn. Or just keep it simple and drawn names in advance and pick a book for the reader whose name you selected.
This can easily be added to any of the other ideas. There’s plenty of great food floating around at Christmas time. Particularly if you don’t normally bring food to meetings, this would be a good month to indulge.
5) Reflect on the Last Year’s Reading
Make a bookmark that lists the group’s name, the year, and the last year of books. Consider printing it on heavy paper or laminating it to make it last. Go around the group and ask each reader to share a highlight of their participation in the last year. Or make a ballot and have readers rank their top five book choices, then compile the results.
6) Try a Christmas Service Project
Find an organization that is looking for help in providing gifts to a child or family and collect for some through your group. Visit someone who is shut-in or alone at the holidays and read aloud or have your book group with them. Collect a small library of book donations and send them to a school, to soldiers abroad, or to some other worthy group.
7) Take in a Holiday Event
Go to a holiday movie together, see some lights, go to a Christmas Tree exhibit, a showing of the Nutcracker or a local play. Decorate a group tree. Sometimes it’s hard to beat the competition, so just go with the flow, organize some car pools, and take the book group out for some shared holiday fun.
8) Gift Ideas
Other gift ideas for a December meeting: bookmarks are inexpensive. Buy a selection and let your friends choose. Most bookstores sell some kind of book-themed bag for an inexpensive price. Get crafty and make cards with author pictures or book covers on them.
9) Book Art
There are thousands of great ideas online for book art. If you’ve got a craft streak, do a little bit of research and identify a project. Get the supplies together or get the other readers to bring the old books, pictures or other materials that will be necessary. Spend your meeting crafting together, then see if the local library would be willing to put your creation on display.
10) Plan Next Year
Have a nomination meeting, where each member is asked to come prepared to pitch three books for next year’s reading list. Collect the titles in advance so a ballot can prepared and take votes, either picking the top choice from each reader’s slate of three or just the top choices overall. Or use whatever other selection process works for your group. Create a calendar of reading that will be ready to pass out in January. If you decide your schedule through such a process, make sure that readers know to select books that will be easy to obtain and meet other criteria set by your group.
11) Share Lists of Favorites
Ask each of your readers to compile a list of ten to twenty favorite books. Or you might have them pick a favorite in each of several designated genres or categories. Ask them to bring enough copies (in a common format) so that each other reader can take one away. You might also compile the results into a small gift book that is printed up at a local copy store to share with other friends and advertise the group.
12) Make Reading Resolutions
Ask each reader to come prepared to present a list of five reading resolutions for the upcoming year. These might include a number of books they will read, a change in reading patterns, or specific titles that this year they’ll finally make time for. Share them aloud, or make a game by having one member type up the lists in advance, post them on the walls, then try to identify which reader goes with which list. Make funny reading resolutions for other members. Or draw names and ask each reader to assign one book that they think their person should read for a future meeting.
With a little ingenuity, your group can design a holiday event that might quickly become a treasured tradition. Don’t give up on December! Design a meeting that will make the holidays bright.