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Reading Group Gold

Reading Group Tips

Tried and true, below are a few ideas that reading groups have done in the past to spice up their meeting and get the conversation flowing.

How to start a reading group  |  How to run a reading groupReading group recipesReading group cocktails


Tips on How to Start a Reading Group:

Bring together a core group of enthusiastic, accommodating readers
Aim for between 5-15 people.
Ask around your office, social groups or other civic organizations.
Check online or at your local bookstore or public library to see if there is a local book group you can join.

Set a regular meeting time
It’s difficult to coordinate many scheduled but if you set a regular meeting time and date with your core group, you can avoid playing favorites and can be upfront about what level of commitment is required. 

Spread the word
Word of mouth is a great way to advertise your reading group! Feel free to also post flyers or announcements are you job, school, local hang outs or via social media. 

Establish a set of group rules
How are books chosen?
Who will host?
Who will lead each discussion? 

Set the schedule for the first few months and invite people as you go along. Some people are more likely to join a reading group that has already been established. Be consistent Even if your reading group is small to start with or an ideal size right off the bat, from time to time you’ll have the opportunity to invite new people as members move away, drop out, etc. 

Have FUN!
Make your reading group your own! Use book themes, food and beverage recipes! Try some of ours!


Tips on How to Run a Reading Group:

Choose a book!
The most popular reading group choices are fiction books and memoirs but don’t feel limited. Try poetry, history, biographies or even political science! Anything that will generate a discussion is a good choice.
Pick a genre or theme to center your book selections around. Maybe a specific literary era or author that you absolutely adore. Themes can change with each new book you choose so don’t feel like you’re stuck.
Set some limits so that selecting a book is easier. By creating a narrow field, you increase the useful comparison between the different books your group reads. Decide on fiction, and then have everyone in your group choose one book related to the theme (love, war, religion, art, family, etc.). Everyone gets a turn to share a book they really love. 

Keep it simple.
Remember your ground rules and stick to them! If members haven’t read the book, encourage them to come anyway! You don’t have to finish the book to have an opinion on the story.
If there are disagreements about the book, be gracious! There is no one specific way to interpret a book.
If members are more interested in socializing, be gentle but firm. Insist that the conversation be limited to the book. Decide whether or not a social hour is required before or after the book is discussed. 

Stick to a meeting format
Plan for 2-2.5 hours per meeting
30-45 minutes – social time, eating, drinking
60-90 minutes – book discussion 

Hold and nurture that discussion!
Designate a reading group leader each meeting to lead the discussion. It could be the person who started the club, or the person who chose the book. Alternate leaders to keep every discussion fresh.



Reading Group Recipes:

Need an extra something to lure your members to your reading group meeting? Try some recipes from our most popular cookbooks!


Tie-Dye-For Cupcakes
page 48 from Hungry Girl 200 Under 200 Just Desserts by Lisa Lillien 

You’ll Need: 12-cup muffin pan, foil baking cups or nonstick spray, 4 medium bowls, large bowl, whisk 

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Cool: 25 minutes 

1/12th of recipe (1 cupcake): 135 calories, 3g fat, 231mg sodium, 25g carbs, <0.5g fiber, 15g sugars, 1.5g protein 

1/3 cup vanilla frosting
1 sugar-free vanilla pudding snack with 60 calories or less 
1 3/4 cups moist-style white cake mix 
1/2 cup fat-free liquid egg substitute 
3/4 teaspoon baking powder 
2 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles 
5 drops red food coloring 
5 drops blue food coloring 
5 drops yellow food colouring 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with foil baking cups, or spray it with nonstick spray. In a medium bowl, mix frosting with pudding until smooth and uniform. Cover and refrigerate. 

In a large bowl, combine cake mix, egg substitute, and baking powder. Add 3⁄4 cup water, and whisk until smooth. Stir in 1 tablespoon sprinkles. Evenly distribute batter among 3 medium bowls. 

Mix a different food coloring into the batter in each bowl until uniform. Evenly distribute red batter among the cups of the muffin pan. Repeat with blue batter, followed by yellow batter, so that each cup has three layers. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 16 to 18 minutes. Let cupcakes cool completely, about 10 minutes in the pan and 15 minutes out of the pan. 

Spread cupcakes with frosting mixture, and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sprinkles. Enjoy! MAKES 12 SERVINGS


Zucchini Bread w Toasted Brazil Nuts
page 28 from Lobster for Leos, Cookies for Capricorns by Sabra Ricci

Organic canola oil spray
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
½ cup organic canola oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 zucchini, shredded
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup Brazil nuts, toasted and chopped

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spray a nonstick loaf pan with organic canola spray.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the beater attachment, beat the eggs and sugar together on medium-high for 3 minutes until the eggs are pale yellow. Whisk in the vanilla and oil. Stir in the zucchini and set aside.

In a bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients, except for the nuts. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and blend well. Stir in the Brazil nuts, and pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.

Place the pan on the middle rack in the center of the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Test the loaf by inserting a skewer in the center to make sure it is done before removing from the oven; the skewer should come out clean.

Remove the loaf from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.


Cantaloupe, Tomato, and Basil Salad with Feta Cheese
page 54 from Lobster for Leos, Cookies for Capricorns by Sabra Ricci 

1 cantaloupe, halved and seeded
½ red onion, peeled, halved, and sliced into thin half-moons
1-pint red teardrop tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
¾ cup fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
¼ cup Villa Manodori balsamic vinegar
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt
4 ounces French feta cheese, crumbled

Using a melon baller, scoop melon balls into a large bowl.

Add the onion, tomato, and ½ cup of the basil and mix together. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, and salt.

Transfer the melon and tomato mixture to a serving bowl. Drizzle the vinaigrette over salad. Garnish with the remaining ¼ cup basil and the crumbled feta.


A Trio of Mousses
page 40 from Recipes for Cookies, Cakes, Pies, Tarts, Muffins and Scones, Small-Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers by Debby Maugans

Chocolate Mousse – makes ½ cup

1/3 cup cold heavy (whipping) cream
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
1 ounce bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Place the cream and confectioners’ sugar in a small, deep mixing bowl. Beat on high speed using a handheld electric mixer until firm peaks form. Scrape in the cooled, melted chocolate and beat until blended.

Cover and refrigerate the mousse until ready to serve, up to 2 hours.

Caramel Mousse – makes 1/2 cup

1/3 cup old heavy (whipping) cream
3 tablespoons Rich Caramel Sauce (buy her book for the recipe!) or store-bought caramel sundae topping

Place the cream and confectioners’ sugar in a small, deep mixing bowl. Beat on high speed using a handheld electric mixer until firm peaks form. Beat in the caramel sauce until blended.

Cover and refrigerate the mousse until ready to serve, up to 2 hours

Peanut Butter Mousse – makes 1/2 cup 

1/3 cup cold heavy (whipping) cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar 2 tablespoons peanut butter

Place the cream and confectioners’ sugar in a small, deep mixing bowl. Beat on high speed using a handheld electric mixer until firm peaks form. Scrape in the peanut butter and beat until blended.

Cover and refrigerate the mousse until ready to serve, up to 2 hours.


The Boyfriends Chili: The Colonic You Can Drink With
page 95 from Recipes for Disaster, a Memoir by Tess Rafferty

1 large onion
2 pounds ground beef
2 hot sausage links
2 cups water
1 12-ounce beer
4 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cumin
1 cup chili powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 inches pepperoni, cut into small pieces
Salt, pepper, and Tabasco to taste
Cheddar cheese
Sour cream
Chopped tomatoes (optional)

Heat oil in a large stew pot. Dice the onion, then sauté it for five minutes over medium heat in the pot. When the onion starts to brown, add the ground beef. Keep “chopping” the beef with a wooden spoon so the beef breaks up into little pieces, which is how The Boyfriend likes it best, just tiny granules of beef.

Once the beef is browned and chopped into the preferred consistency, add water, beer, beans, paprika, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, vinegar, and garlic.

In a separate pan, sauté the sausage and then add that to the chili pot, as well. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Continue to simmer for 2 hours, stirring it every so often so it doesn’t stick to the bottom and make sure the liquid isn’t boiling off. If it does, add more beer of water.

At the start of the second hour, dice up the pepperoni into ¼ to ½ inch cubes. “Don’t be anal about it,” says The Boyfriend. “They don’t have to be perfect cubes, Just don’t make them too big.” Sear the pepperoni in a pan with a little oil and add pepperoni to chili.

Now’s a good time to start tasting and adjusting the spices, too. If it’s too hot, add more water. If it’s not hot enough, add Tabasco or more cayenne pepper. Continue to simmer for the second hour.

Serve with cheese, sour cream, and chopped tomatoes.


Quick Mac and Cheese
page 64 from Simply… Gluten-Free Quick Meals, More Than 100 Great Tasting Recipes for Good Food Fast by Carol Kicinski 

12 ounces gluten-free macaroni
3 cups low-fat (2 percent) milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 dashes hot sauce
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated on the large holes of a box grate
12 cup Gruyere cheese, grated on the large holes of a box grate

Optional Crunch Topping 
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ gluten-free panko-style bread crumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil

If making the crunch-topped version, preheat the oven to 500 degree. Cook the macaroni according to the package directions. When the pasta is done, drain it well and return it to the hot pot.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. Mix ¼ cup of the milk with the cornstarch and stir well to combine. Heat the remaining milk with the salt, pepper, and hot sauce in a large, deep saucepan just until it comes to a boil. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture and cook for about 1 minutes, stirring constantly until the mixture has thickened.

Remove from the heat, add the cheeses, and stir until melted. Add the cheese sauce to the cooked pasta and mix well. If you are including the crunchy topping, pour the mixture into a shallow baking dish. Combine the topping ingredients and spread over the top of the mac and cheese.

Bake in the oven for 6 to 7 minutes or until the topping is golden brown



Reading Group Cocktails:

Add some of our literary inspired cocktails for more spirited conversations!

Half-Bloody Mary Blues

1 oz Smirnoff® No. 21 Vodka
3 oz tomato juice
2 red hot sauce
2 green hot sauce
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
0.5 oz lemon juice
1 pinch salt
1 pinch peppers
1 stalk celery

Add Smirnoff No.21 Vodka, tomato juice, red hot sauce, green hot sauce, worchester sauce, lemon juice, pinch of salt, pinch of pepper.


Middlesex on the Beach

1 1/2 ounces vodka
1/2 ounces peach schnapps
2 ounces cranberry juice
2 ounces orange juice

Add vodka and peach schnapps to a highball glass over ice. Fill with equal measures of cranberry juice and orange juice, and stir.


Someday This Champagne Will Be Useful to You 
For the book club host who feels that mixed drinks are overrated, go with the classic bottle of bubbly.


Franzen Fizz

2 ounces gin
juice of 1/2 lemons
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
carbonated water

Shake gin, juice of lemon, and powdered sugar with ice and strain into a highball glass over two ice cubes. Fill with carbonated water, stir, and serve


Tom Wolfe Collins

2 ounces gin
1 ounces lemon juice
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
3 ounces club soda
1 maraschino cherry
1 slice orange

In a shaker half-filled with ice cubes, combine the gin, lemon juice, and sugar. Shake well. Strain into a Collins glass almost filled with ice cubes. Add the club soda. Stir and garnish with the cherry and the orange slice.


A Sidecar Named Desire

3/4 ounce Cointreau
3/4 ounce lemon juice
1 1/2 ounces cognac

Shake well with cracked ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass that has had its outside rim rubbed with lemon juice and dipped in sugar.


Bridget Jones’ Daiquiri

1/2 ounces strawberry schnapps
1 ounces light rum
1 ounces lime juice
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
1 ounces strawberries

Add ingredients with a bit of ice in a blender. Blend and then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish w/ strawberry.


Love in the Time of Kahlua

1 ounces vodka
1 ounces Kahlua® coffee liqueur
1 ounces Bailey’s® Irish cream
1 ounces cream

Shake all ingredients with ice and pour over ice in an old-fashioned glass.


Margarita Atwood

3/4 cup fresh lime juice, about 3 large limes
3/4 cup silver tequila
3/4 cup Cointreau

Mix equal portions of lime juice, tequila and Cointreau in a pitcher. Fill a cocktail shaker half full of ice cubes, add enough margarita mixture for a couple of drinks (a generous cup), secure the lid and shake for a full 15 seconds to chill the mixture and properly dilute it with the melting ice. Strain into the salt-rimmed glass and enjoy.


A Visit from the Gin Squad

2 ounces gin
5 ounces tonic water
1 lime wedge

Pour the gin and the tonic water into a highball glass almost filled with ice cubes. Stir well. Garnish with the lime wedge.


No Country for Old Fashioneds

2 ounces bourbon whiskey
2 dashes Angostura® bitters
1 splash water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 maraschino cherry
1 orange wedge

Mix sugar, water and angostura bitters in an old-fashioned glass. Drop in a cherry and an orange wedge. Muddle into a paste using a muddler or the back end of a spoon. Pour in bourbon, fill with ice cubes, and stir.


The Tequila Sun Also Rises

4 ounces orange juice
2 ounces tequila
1/2 ounces grenadine orange slice for garnish
Maraschino cherry for garnish

Pour tequila in a highball glass with ice, and top with orange juice. Stir. Add grenadine by tilting glass and pouring grenadine down side by flipping the bottle vertically very quickly. The grenadine should go straight to the bottom and then rise up slowly through the drink. Garnish with orange slice and maraschino cherry.


For Whom the Bellini Tolls

3 ounces Prosecco sparkling wine
2 ounces fresh white peach puree

Mix and serve in a champagne flute.


A Beer for Owen Meany 
Self-explanatory, for those in your group who have more down-to-earth tastes.