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How to Participate in a Book Club - Even if You Didn't Read the Book!

There is nothing quite like reading a great book cover to cover. The author leads you to new places, introduces you to new people, thoughts, processes, and helps you discover more about yourself. Attending an active book club discussion is also an enlightening experience - for everyone present. Book clubs are a great way to discover great books, learn from new perspectives, and connect with a variety of people. However, sometimes life gets in the way and you don't finish (or even begin! 😬) the book in time for the book club discussion. While it may seem daunting to show up to a book club discussion without having read the book, there are still ways to participate and contribute to the experience. Here are some of our book club prep tips if you didn't read the book:


Read the book synopsis on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia often provides a short summary of the book that allows you to understand the story, some of the characters, and the purpose behind the book. The Wiki page will also be a great source of information to learn about the author. You can typically find several links included to learn more about the author, book, real-life individuals, industries, and issues related to the book.

Read a book review.

Google the words “book review” along with the name of the book. Look for prestigious critics who have read the book and take note of the pros, cons, comparisons, and other insights they provide. Reading reviews also helps you better communicate about your own company, and introduces you related books and authors that will expand your knowledge about a particular topic or industry.

Listen to an interview with the author.

Authors and publishers take advantage of every opportunity to share about the book, and many of these talks are available digitally. During your lunch break, listen to a podcast of the author talking about the book. You’ll learn about the individual, the “why” behind the book, and some other tidbits that may be worth sharing during the book club meeting.

Visit the author’s social media links.

The author’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media pages are a great place to find links to interviews, lectures, book suggestions, and insight into the life of the author.


LISTEN to the people who read the book before chiming in.

Be sure to give those who did read the book the first opportunity to answer questions and steer the conversation. Listening to their conclusions and discoveries will help you to make connections to your life. Once the readers have shared, follow up with a clarifying question or share a related experience.

Crowdsource answers to problems.

One of my favorite book club experiences was when Executive Mentor, Angie Stocklin was facilitating a conversation about the book Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone by Mark Goulston, MD. We were talking about how to give difficult feedback to employees who were going through a major life event over an extended period of time.

Diana Caldwell shared that after you’ve had multiple conversations and made provisions to support the person, it’s time to say, “We need you performing the way you did before X happened. Our team needs you for X reasons. What do we need to do to get you back on track?” It allows the manager to be compassionate, open, and honest about the current situation in a way that supports the person dealing with something significant. It was a great piece of advice that I added to my tool box.

If you have a challenge related to the book or a topic discussed, ask your fellow participants how they have successfully dealt with that type of situation in the past. These discussions are not only intriguing, but can encourage those who are going through something similar by giving a different perspective.


Share what you learned on social media.

If you learned something new during the conversation, share your wisdom on social media and tag the author, facilitator, person who shared with you, and @IamAStartupLady. We love sharing news and information that educates and uplifts our community.

If you didn’t read it - don’t judge it.

If the discussion leaves you feeling like you wouldn't enjoy the book, resist the urge to skip it. The book was significant enough to be chosen which means it probably relates to you in some way. Instead of writing it off, make a note of your critique, read the book, and revisit your thoughts.


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