Starting Your Own Book Club

Reading is a solo activity, but delving into books can be a communal pursuit. Join local author Cynthia Swanson as she shares her recommendations for running a book club.

People sitting around picnic table with books
Photo by Alexis Brown/Unsplash

“I enjoy nothing more than talking about books,” says Cynthia Swanson, a local author who uses Denver as the backdrop for her bestselling books, like the The Bookseller. “One of the hardest experiences for me is when I read a compelling book that’s not a book club book and I really want to talk about it.” Swanson is a passionate part of the city’s literary scene, organizing over 10 local authors and editing the final draft of Denver Noir, a haunting collection of short stories taking place around the metro area.

Swanson has been part of a book club since 2001, and she’s been a guest speaker for other clubs as well. “I recently gave a talk for the Arno Book Club, which has been around for nearly 100 years,” Swanson says. “They operate differently than most clubs, meeting monthly for lunch and featuring an author as their speaker.”

If you are interested in starting your own book club, Swanson suggests rotating duties, which include selecting the book and discussion questions and hosting the meetings at one’s house. If your home is not an ideal location to meet, she recommends HOA clubhouses, libraries, or quiet restaurants.

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If you’re short on books to read, Swanson has lots of suggestions: “The Sentence by Louise Erdrich (my club’s favorite from last year); Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (a Pulitzer Prize-winner that everyone should read); Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine (short stories set in and around Denver); Tell Me Everything by Erika Krouse (creative nonfiction 2023 Colorado Book Award-winner); and Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker (nonfiction, takes place in Colorado Springs, and generated much discussion in our group). Currently, we’re reading I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai, which I’m devouring. Later this year, I’m especially looking forward to Yellowface by R.F. Kuang.”

Cynthia Swanson
Photo courtesy of Cynthia Swanson.