A few years ago we were one of those clubs that picked books a year ahead in advance. We assigned everyone a month and that person got to pick whatever book they wanted. Then we would try to remember the order and the books for rest of the year. I'll confess, there were sometimes we forgot. Other times we would end up reading too many similar books all in a row. It wasn't a bad system, but after awhile we decided to shake things up.
Our first major change was that we decided to go on a quarterly system. Every three months we go ahead and pick new books. This gives us more leeway to consider what we have just previously read. The other advantage of the quarterly system is that it allows us to incorporate new members' choices earlier into our rotation. We like to give new members about three months to get used to the club, then we try to incorporate them into the next round of book selections.
The other major change we made is that we democratized the process. Before, we just allowed a person to pick a title and that was it. Technically, we still let people pick what titles they want to read in their month, we just ask them to pick 3 or 4. Then they present those titles to the club and the club votes on which of those titles they want to read most. In a way it gives the whole club ownership of the book selection. If we pick a fantastic book, we're geniuses, if we didn't - then its no one person's fault since a majority picked it. The other great thing about voting is that it introduces us to more books. Each of these books we selected above were competing against 2 or 3 other books - meaning we learned of 9 - 12 book titles that we may not have known before.
So to run through an example, we just picked our books for February, March, and April. From our records, we knew that it was about time that Lorene and Lauren host again. We also decided that Amy, one of our newest members, would be the third person to host. Lorene opted to host for February so she nominated 4 books:
- My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
- Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
- How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
- MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche
Altogether, 9 of our current 11 members voted for February. Sometimes if people know they can't make it for a month they opt not to participate in the vote.
In this case we ended up with a tie for "My Family and Other Animals" and "How to Be A Woman", so we ended up letting Lorene pick between those 2. The other two races were much more definitive.
This system isn't perfect, but we found that it has worked well for us over the past few years. If you're in a book club, how do you pick your books?