Reading groups

How to set up a reading group, get support and order books.

1 Setting up a new reading group

We are gradually reintroducing reading groups into libraries. Contact your local library to find out what’s available and to book a place. View our current offer and select the Love Reading tile to find out how to join the Virtual Reading Group on Facebook and discover our hints and tips for reading groups.

Reading groups are a great way to meet people and share your views about books you have read. The easiest way to start a reading group is to begin with friends, work colleagues, neighbours and acquaintances.

An ideal number is between 6 and 12 members, as usually not all members will attend every meeting. If you have too few people you may not get a range of views for discussion, but too many and it is hard for everyone to have a say.

The most important thing is that group members feel comfortable with each other and able to contribute to the discussion if they want to. Even if members have not read a particular book, they should still be welcome to participate.

If you would like to register your reading group with the Library Service, visit your local library to pay your subscription and collect your membership ticket.

Our dedicated service supports over 350 groups in West Sussex. For an annual subscription (currently £33.00) we provide:

  • a group membership ticket
  • multiple copies of titles
  • access to an online system or hotline phone number to place requests
  • a seven-week loan period
  • priority booking for library author events
  • an eNewsletter.

Library-hosted reading groups

As well as supporting private reading groups, many of our libraries host groups themselves.

Contact your local library to:

  • check if there's space in a library reading group
  • find out about groups in your area
  • get support to start your own group.

2 Request reading group books

It is important to choose titles that will encourage debate and stimulate discussion. One idea that works well is for each member to suggest a title and then that member can host the discussion.

Alternatives to this are:

  • reading around a theme (childhood, journeys, food, historical period)
  • reading different novels by the same author and comparing them.

Search the library catalogue, or see the 'Reading Group booklist' below, and then complete the reading group request form.

Reading group request form

If you don't want to complete the online form, print off and complete the form below and hand it into your local library or call the hotline.

Make sure you:

  • request three titles at a time
  • provide alternatives in case your first choices are not available 
  • complete the 'Collection date' fields
  • indicate in the 'Additional information' field if you need books in large print or audio format, and how many you would like
  • avoid requesting newly published titles, as there may be long waiting lists for these titles
  • provide at least four weeks' notice for the books you require.

We will confirm whether we can place your reservations, usually by the next working day.

3 Guidance for reading groups

Things to consider:

  • Where to meet - You could take turns to meet in each other’s homes or a public venue such as a community centre, church hall, or local pub.
  • How often to meet and what time of day - Most groups find that once a month works best - this gives plenty of time to read any book. The time of day depends on what is most suitable for all members. The most important thing is to keep venues, times and dates regular, so it is usually best to arrange dates in advance.
  • How long meetings should last - It is probably best to allow between 60 and 90 minutes for your discussion.
  • Coordination - Your group’s named contact will be responsible for:
    • looking after the group ticket
    • taking members’ contact details
    • placing requests
    • collecting the books from the library
    • collecting payments for overdue or lost or damaged books.
    It is advisable to note down which member has borrowed which copy (from the barcode at the front of the book), so it is clear who has incurred any charges.
  • Refreshments - Will you have them, who will be responsible for organising them, will you take it in turns?
  • Which books to read - You could read a variety of contemporary or classic fiction, biography, travel or crime, or just one genre.
  • Large print or audio - You will need to be careful to select books that are available in different formats if any members of your group require this.
  • Subscription renewal - Your group’s named contact will be responsible for managing the annual renewal process and subscription charge. A letter or email will be sent in advance of the renewal date.

Collecting books

Please collect your requested books as a complete set as close as possible to your given collection date. Uncollected books will be released for other library users one week after the collection date.

The person collecting the books does not have to be the named contact, but must have the Reading Group library card in order to borrow the books. Library staff are unable to give out individual copies to group members.

Loans and renewals

You will not be able to renew books after the seven-week loan period. This is to ensure they are available for other reading groups and library members. Contact library staff if there are exceptional circumstances about lost or unreturned items.

Overdue, lost or damaged items

Overdue charges at the current rate will be applied on group loans. This is to encourage members to return their books on time, making them available for other reading groups and library users. For any items that are lost or damaged, we would expect the named contact for the group to ensure relevant charges are recovered, or provide replacement copies.

4 Book discussions


  • To give structure to the discussion, it is best for one person to do some initial preparation, such as notes on significant passages, themes and characters. This may be the person who suggested the title.
  • Try to give everyone an opportunity to contribute if they want to.
  • Round the table questions are a handy way of getting quieter people to say something if they would like to.
  • Don’t put anyone on the spot - some people are content to be passive listeners and do not have the confidence to talk about a book.
  • Opinions differ and it often makes a more interesting and stimulating discussion if there is disagreement. However, remember that everybody’s opinion of the book is equally valid.


  • Did the cover of the book appeal to you?
  • What did you find interesting or uninteresting?
  • What did you enjoy most about the book?
  • What irritated you?
  • What were the main themes and issues?
  • Did you feel sympathetic towards the characters, dislike them or feel indifferent towards them - why?
  • Could you relate your own experience to any described in the book?
  • When did you feel you had become fully involved or did you decide to give up?
  • How effective was the author’s use of language?
  • Was there anything unusual about the structure and pace of the book?
  • If so, was it effective?
  • Were the beginning and ending satisfactory?
  • Where did you read the book?
  • Did this have any influence on your enjoyment of reading the book or otherwise?

5 Ideas for developing your reading group

  • View the reading group booklist of suggested titles.
  • Participate in reading group events offered by libraries, such as book awards - reading the long listed and short listed titles.
  • View the offers for reading groups in 'New Books' magazine, available in all West Sussex libraries.
  • Register your reading group on Reading Groups for Everyone for special offers, tips, news and more.
  • Discuss resources for choosing titles, such as radio extracts and press reviews.
  • Choose a genre that you would not normally read, such as science fiction/fantasy, poetry, classics, short stories.
  • Choose a book set in a particular country or area that you have visited.
  • Try translations of international prizewinning titles.
  • Read two books with similar themes and compare them.
  • Keep a reading diary where you can write reviews or scores out of ten.
  • Extend the discussion of a particular author to include his/her other work and biography.
  • Write a review for the library website, Pageturners Reading Group eNewsletter or an internet blog.
  • List your ten favourite books to take to a desert island.
  • Compare the book to its film adaptation - why might they be different?
  • Compare your reading experiences - must you finish a book at all costs? Can you read with noise around you?

6 Websites and awards

Last updated:
17 November 2021
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