How to Start a Book Club — Tips From the Founder of the Marin Wine & Book Club

Book club

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The Marin Wine & Book Club (MWBC) has read nearly 50 books over seven years. Since all our 12 male members are over 60, we have really bonded (especially during the pandemic) and have developed a quality, convivial friendship.

The MWBC was started October 2015 by myself and 12 men from Marin, as well as one from San Francisco. All of them are professionals who meet three criteria: they’re local guys, like to read, and will show up regularly. That’s the secret sauce — no one can make all meetings, but we have 8-12 most of the time. It’s a convivial, friendly group.

Marin Book Club

Every two months, we meet to have appetizers, wine and dinner at a new host’s home. By and large, the group agreed not to disappoint on three key items: the wine, the food, and the books (New York Times bestsellers, award winners, both non-fiction and fiction.)

MWBC has a nice collective personality (i.e. no jerks, drunks or domineering types). We have four Guardsmen, a few dentists, lawyers, and business people mostly. Books Clubs are fun and enlightening, and especially make for thoughtful aging for those 40+.

For those interested in creating their own club, here is the template for how we did ours.

Tips for Book Club Organizing:

  • There should be around 12 members max, otherwise there can be too much talking and not much listening.
  • The dinner host should select the book (fiction or non-fiction) — just don’t disappoint with a bad book.
  • Start around 6-9:30 p.m. — appetizers and food can be bought, or served by the host (or spouse, if willing to assist).
  • Each member brings wine to share — red or white.
  • Start with the usual yapping, wine and appetizers. Then at some point after dinner, go around the table to give views on the book and give a general score from 1-10 (no more than 5-7 minutes each).
  • Create a follow up email with an average book score — plus a few photos.
  • If you hate the book, no one cares. But do try to read it anyway (I hated A Gentleman in Moscow but it’s still a best seller today).
  • Always Google the book’s talking points which helps stimulate discussion and points out important elements.
  • The MWBC club is about fellowship, so we meet about every 6-8 weeks to space out the reading — we like Wednesdays best.
  • Everyone rotates as a book/dinner host. For those that have a small house, ask a buddy to host (you organize/pay for food and cleanup after.)
  • Book club members who either don’t read that much or live too far away do not make good members — participation counts!
  • The group collectively must approve the new member — one bad apple can ruin the group.

A few of the club’s recent reads:

Bruce Woodward has served the needs of high net-worth investors, families, and their enterprises for over 35 years. He is the Portfolio Manager/Financial Advisor at Integrated Advisor Solutions. Prior to joining the firm in 2021, Mr. Woodward worked with Del Monte Corporation, Sunset Magazine and Botsford Ketchum Advertising. He started as a financial advisor, working with several leading firms: Kidder Peabody, Prudential Securities, Paine Webber/UBS, Wells Fargo, and SF Sentry. Mr. Woodward is very active in several Bay Area community organizations such as The Guardsmen, the Olympic Club, Bohemian Club, and Golden Gate Wine Society. Currently he serves as Trustee of the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association. Mr. Woodward previously served in various civic organizations, including: CPMC Hospital, Sacred Heart Schools, UOP School of Dentistry, Palo Alto Financial Planning Council, Atherton General Plan Committee, Pets Unlimited, Gladstone Institute, and Sausalito Wine Experience.