Book Groups! Everything you ever wanted to know about them.

The latest FoBL event on April 4th 2024 was held at the Hannaford Centre in Darling Street – the new location for Friends of the Balmain Library while the Balmain Library is undergoing renovation.

Attended by nearly 40 people, some coming as far away as the Shire and even Perth Western Australia to find out about Book Groups.

It was an informative, interesting and entertaining afternoon.  Cups of tea and coffee were available to accompany delicious fresh homemade scones with jam and cream.

Set up as a panel, 5 speakers were invited to talk about their experiences with different types of Book Groups.

The speakers were Lisa Mantle from the Inner West Libraries, Richard Mayes, Jenny Spence, Jan Aitkin, and Carolyn Allan.  Each speaker provided the audience with tips, advice and anecdotes of their experiences with Book Groups over many years.

A synopsis of what the panel had to say:

  • Lists of books for Book clubs can be found on the library website with over 220 titles. Book sets are available and can be reserved online through the library.
  • Running or coordinating a book club works more harmoniously by putting a few rules and place
  • Meeting on a monthly basis except for January seems to be the most popular choice.
  • Each member of the group puts forward titles, suggesting books that are neither too long nor too short. A system of voting can be used to select the final choices.
  • Book club meetings can take place in people’s homes on a turn taking hosting roster, in restaurants or other venues. Supper, dinner and wine are options that may be served.
  • The supply of books may be difficult to get hold of if the author is popular or out of print.
  • Normally most Books clubs find that between 8-12 members is a workable number


Open Book Group (OBG) is a FoBL initiative set up in 2007.  It is held on the 2nd Tuesday of the month, at the library. It was set up originally with certain protocols and these remain the same today.  There is a set date, set location, set book for the month and a nominated facilitator. Entry is free with tea, coffee and Tim Tams as refreshments. A monthly report of the book discussed is available on the FoBL website and makes for a very interesting read.  It runs well with 12-15 people but may rise to 20 with overseas participants dropping in when they are in the neighbourhood.

Forensic Fiction Group/ Detective stories was set up when it was discovered that within a social group there was a very keen interest in Detective stories.  Meetings are held in members’ homes, on a set afternoon, with snacks and cups of tea.  The group is always on the lookout for a title from another country, another style, a new detective, a new author.There is no nominated leader and discussion on politics, health and friends may get more air time than the book of the day

Balmain Blokes Book Club otherwise known as the Balmain BBC started in 2014. Positive voting and feedback of a certain book and overall atmosphere of that meeting results in a long term tradition. The winning Bloke gets the trophy which is to wear the oversized Beige Jacket for a period of time.

The Indonesian Book club acts as a vehicle to understand Indonesian people and their culture through literature. Texts maybe in both Indonesian and English.

Unlike other Book Groups, this one is run on zoom and can have up to 50 members.

Final points.

Lots of interesting information to start people thinking about what they are interested in when it comes to Book Groups and tips to get them started.

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