How To Start Your Own Home Book Group
How many close friends can you confide in?
For many adults, it may feel like there’s a steady decline of friendships as we get older. After leaving high school or college, we lose the shared experience so we lose touch. A report published in the Royal Society Open Science journal found that the maximum number of connections for both males and females occurs at the age of 25. From there, it’s all downhill; although the decrease is faster for males than for females.
Granted, it may be hard to distinguish your lengthy list of Facebook friends from those close pals you can share meaningful insights with.
In order to remedy the situation, maybe you’ve thought to join a local sports team, or attend a few work-sponsored happy hours. Alas, weeks go by, and you’re still stuck on the same small talk over the latest episode of Succession, the crazy traffic on the way over, or the new workout you “swear by.”
Now the question becomes: how can you create a core group of friends in adulthood instead of just maintaining associates?
Turns out, books are the perfect means of forging lasting, sincere relationships.
Scott Hambrick, our Reader-in-Chief here at Online Great Books, formed his own Home Book Group back in 2015. Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Scott sent out a formal invitation in the mail to seven other men in his area, asking if they would like to join him in reading the Great Books.
Nearly five years later, the group is still going strong. Every third Thursday of the month, the same men join Scott at his dining room table and discuss the very best books of Western Civilization from the Iliad up through John Calvin’s biography.
The beauty of following a Great Books program versus Just Another Book Club:
You’re committed to reading as opposed to other forms of entertainment. Why follow the Great Books program and not just another book club? With the Great Books, you’ll be entering a conversation between the Greatest Thinkers of Western Civilization. These books are self-referential– if you pick up Niechze he will undoubtedly mention Descartes. Descartes will go even farther back to Aristotle. You get the picture.
There is a deep sense of history embedded in these books. As Adler says, “We also learn from the past by considering the respects in which it differs from the present. We can discover where we are today and what we have become by knowing what the people of the past did and thought. And part of the past — our personal past and that of the race — always lives in us.”
C.S. Lewis is also a champion of the Great Books. He humble writes, “[Our age’s outlook] is especially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period.”
Here at Online Great Books, we’ve developed a community of goal-oriented, disciplined, intellectually curious men and women who challenge themselves to constantly be better. This requires that we read only the best. The rest is just filler!
Tune in to Podcast #30 where Scott talks with founding member and OGB interlocutor Thad Hensley about how to start your own Great Books home group.
Like all noble things worth doing, starting your own book club requires some work. On the podcast, Scott talks about his own experience organizing and executing his Tulsa Home Group and the advice he would give to people interested in starting their own home group.
Scott’s Criteria for Starting Your Own Book Group:
1. Pick A Range
There should be people in your group that come from all different walks of life. Scott’s home group ranges from ages 22-67, with members who are Catholics, atheists, Mormons, Protestants, married, single, kids, or no kids. Scott hand-selected people who he thought would do the work and would be interested in talking about the books. The more variety the better.
2. Set the Tone
Scott highly recommends sending a formal invite via mail. There’s something real and tangible about receiving a stamped letter opposed to an evite. Determine a consistent day/time each month and stick with it. Start by committing to doing it for a year.
If your home is unavailable, borrow a room at a public library or a room at a restaurant. As long as you can shut the door and hear each other, you’ve got yourself a winner. Find a place, get rid of your excuses, and invite some people! It doesn’t have to be people you know intimately, it could be strangers at first. That’s even more exciting.
3. Be Hospitable
Scott always has scotch, bourbon, and rye on the table. A cheese plate and some fruit will do, nothing too fancy. Begin and end your book club promptly, be respectful of everyone’s time.
4. Plan Ahead
In order to communicate effectively, Scott recommends starting a Slack channel or Facebook group with your members. Also, organize a Google calendar with future readings your group can subscribe to. In order to keep everyone on the same page, make sure to pick the same edition of the book. Scott usually picks from four editions: The University of Chicago Press, Hackett Publishing, Oxford University Press, or Penguin Classics.