October 19, 2018 • FOOD, PARTIES

Seven Tips for Hosting the Best Book Club Ever

Throughout her new book, Whiskey In a Teacup, Reese talks about how her grandmother Dorothea taught her everything she knows about gracious Southern living, hospitality, and traditions. Caroline Harper Knapp of House of Harper grew up in a small Texas town, so she can definitely relate. It was also her grandmother and mother who taught her how to make people feel at home. They passed down sentiments and traditions that she, in turn, will pass down to her own kids.

Caroline’s mother and grandmother are both quintessential Southern cooks and hostesses. For them, it isn’t as much about the formalities as it is all about how they make guests feel welcome and at ease. “Not to be cliche, but there is a lot to be said about a warm Southern smile,” says Caroline. That smile lets guests know they are always welcome in your home. Caroline’s own home is usually pretty lively with two young boys and a dog running around, which she loves because it helps guests feel immediately relaxed. As she says,”There isn’t anything you can hurt that my kids already haven’t! Ha!”

Caroline loves hosting holidays and carrying on her family’s traditions, but she also enjoy hosting smaller events like her monthly book club. It give her a chance to catch up and have meaningful discussions with friends.  And of course she likes to bring some of that Southern hospitality to her book club meetings by setting a pretty table and cooking a delicious meal.  Read on to get a few of Caroline’s tips so that you too can host a successful book club meeting of your own!

Book Selection: It probably goes without saying, but the book you choose for your book club group will set the tone for the conversation topics  and the guests that you will include. For Caroline, Whiskey in a Teacup was the perfect selection leading into the holidays to spark discussion around traditions, special family memories, and of course, delicious Southern recipes.

The Menu: Caroline loved the idea of creating a book club that revolved around the dinner table. Don’t you agree that the best conversations are always around a meal? A dinner party made perfect sense for discussing  Whiskey in a Teacup since it covers a lot of delicious recipes and the art of hosting guests. Depending on the book you select and the schedules of your book club members, you might want to opt for wine and light bites, or a morning coffee, instead of a full meal.

Set the Tone: As a mama of two, Caroline knows how difficult it can be to clear the house for an extended period of time, but in order to host a successful book club, it’s crucial to have your home be distraction-free, so hire a sitter or get your husband to take care of the kids! One of the best parts of a book club is meaningful conversation in a relaxed environment, something that feels like a rare treat these days!

Get Your Guests Involved: Although the hostess is tasked with the main responsibility of providing a clean, quiet place for the group to meet, other guests can pick up some of the hosting duties like bringing a dessert or bottle of wine.

Set Expectations: When Caroline hosts a book club, she want to have meaningful conversations, but she also wants it to be fun! She think it’s important to set expectations in advance so people know what to expect. Some people might feel intimidated by a book club, so it’s helpful to outline some expectations from the get-go. Caroline likes letting members know that they will be talking through topics discussed in the book, but that they shouldn’t feel pressured to come prepared or feel like they will be put on the spot. Again, it’s about having fun and catching up with friends in the comfort of your own home!

Prep Topics in Advance: Even if you don’t want your book club to feel super formal, it’s great to have a few topics outlined in advance to keep the conversation going, and to keep it from completely derailing into other topics, i.e. work, kids, etc. If you’re taking the time to meet for a book club, you don’t want to leave the meeting feeling like the book wasn’t even discussed — which is bound to happen with a few glasses of wine and no agenda!

Have a Regular Meeting Day & Time: In order to make meetings as easy as possible on your guests’ schedules, try to stick to a regular day and time. Realistically for Caroline’s set of friends, that means once a month either as a late breakfast once kids have been dropped to school or in the evening once kids are in bed. Make it as easy as possible on everyone so that they will want to be a part of it!