How to Host a Literary Society Meeting

How to Host a Literary Society Meeting

Here's something that may surprise you, knowing what a book lover I am: in all my years as a reader, I've never been a part of a book club.

It's true! While I love reading, love discussing what I read, and love swapping book recommendations with friends, a book club has never really appealed to me: my time for reading is limited (especially as a working mom of three young kids!), and so when I cozy up with a book at the end of the day, I want to know it's something I just can't wait to read, not something someone else has picked for me. After all, my TBR list is stuffed with books I'm eager to readselfishly, I don't want prioritize other people's choices!  

(As a former English major, I think there's also a part of me that rebels against reading a book for discussion as opposed to reading it for enjoyment's sake. Though I loved my liberal arts days, I'm quite happy to leave them in the past and simply enjoy a story without analyzing it to within an inch of its life!)

All this to say: a book club has not (historically!) been something I prioritized. In lieu of a book club, I've enjoyed being a part of an almost-decade-long articles club as well as hosting several book swaps over the years. And today, my bookish pals, I've got another fun idea for us: hosting a literary society meeting!

Cultivated Reading Journal with books

An important item to bring to the meeting: your Cultivated Reading Journal!

Wait, what?! What's a literary society meeting?

Though it sounds like something out of the 19th centuryand, in fact, the roots of modern literary societies can be traced back even furthera literary society is easily transposed into the 2020's. In its simplest sense, a literary society is a group of people interested in literature. Many "societies" focus on a particular genre or author, but others gather to discuss any and all books and writers. 

A literary society differs from a literary circle, which is a group of writers and others bound together by friendship, and a salon, which is a group of friends who gather to discuss ideas (though often, after reading the same thing!).

In 2024, I'm suggesting that the ideal literary society meeting is a gathering of bibliophiles coming together to share what they've read and loved recently. You know those books you practically chase down strangers on the street to insist they read? Yep, that's what we're going for here!

I'm in! How do I host a literary society meeting?

Despite its distinctives from a book club, a literary society actually has several things in common with it.

To host a literary society meeting, you'll first need to choose book-loving friends to invite. As few as four and as many as 12 could be just right. If your circle of readers is smaller, consider inviting a few friends and asking each of them to invite another book-loving friend outside the circle. Chances are they'll be delighted to be asked, and you'll all meet a few new bibliophiles in the process.

With your guests in mind, choose a date, time, and format:

  • You can meet over a sit-down mealmaybe a dinner potluck or an easy Saturday breakfast spread. Discussions always go down easier with food!
  • You can nibble on snacks or sweets in between a meal, like a mid-morning meet-up or an evening, loungewear-clad gathering after kids are in bed.
  • You can join up for a walk or hike, and talk while you're moving. Perfect for a smaller group!

With your guests and details set, go ahead and issue the invitation. A quick text message or in-person conversation is great to gauge interest at first, especially because a literary society doesn't have as much brand recognition as a book club :) For a more formal one-time affair, an e-vite is an easy way to gather your guests. Paperless Post and Minted both have lovely book-themed digital options.

What do you do at a literary society meeting?

The best part! In advance, ask your guests to bring 1-3 books to share with the group. The goal is for each attendee to leave with new additions for her TBR list, so as each guest presents her books, she might answer questions like:

  • What made you want to read this book? 
  • Why did you love this book?
  • What will stick with you from this book? Did it change anything, big or small, about the way you move through the world or live your life?
  • Who else should read this book?

Of course, if a guest wants to bring a spicy take on a book she's read (particularly if its popular!), that can be fun, too :)

If your society meets regularly, it might be fun to theme some gatherings: for example, everyone brings YA books (or nonfiction, parenting, fantasies, romances, World War II novelsthe options are endless!).

Go around the circle sharing, snacking, and discussing. If guests have hard copies they're finished with, this is a perfect opportunity to add in a casual book swap, too! 

And that's it! Simple, bookish perfection.

What do you think, friends? Would you host a literary society meeting? Are you already a member of a book club? Or do you prefer to go it alone in your reading life? :) Let us know in the comments! 

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Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is Cultivate What Matters' Content Strategist and Writer. With over a decade at Cultivate, Emily loves helping women uncover what matters, set good goals, and live them out with joy. Her free time is spent with her high-school-sweetheart husband and three young kiddos.

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