Guidelines for Starting and Running your WorkLife Book Club 

Including Helpful Questions to Enhance the Learning Through Reading Experience 

Learning Resources From School of WorkLife Learn Through Reading and Doing
Learn Through Reading and Doing

The WorkLife Book Club book and The Learning Through Reading series are designed for people who work for the same company, for people who work at different companies, for people who are flying solo (self-employed freelancers, contractors, consultants, side-hustlers, business owners), people who are not working (people who are taking time out), and people who are retired, who although no longer part of the workforce, have curious minds, and a desire to maintain mental stimulation through discussing case studies of WorkLife struggles and successes, and the wisdom that can be gleaned from books.

The WorkLife Book Club book and The Learning Through Reading series are for people from all walks of life and from across all WorkLife stages. The connecting factor is that members have a love of reading and enjoy learning through reading. 

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First, a little background on how The WorkLife Book Club book and The Learning Through Reading series came about.

I began a blog called WorkLife Book Wisdom. (I later renamed it WorkLife Stories because I was writing a wider range of stories). The idea came from my love of books. Reading has always been my go-to place for learning. The stories I wrote were based on real-life struggles and successes. The protagonist in the stories gleaned the wisdom needed to navigate their challenging situations from the books they read. 

I developed the first six WorkLife Book Wisdom stories I had written into the WorkLife Book Club book. The book takes readers on a journey through the streets of Shoreditch, East London, as the members share culinary experiences, while discussing WorkLife struggles and successes through the wisdom found in the books and case studies they read. 

Then I developed the next six WorkLife Book Wisdom stories I had written into case studies which I called WorkLife Book Wisdom Learning Through Reading series. The stories are presented as case studies for group discussion. The case and the recommended book are the required reading for each book club meeting and help to frame the subsequent discussion. 

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The Guidelines for Starting and Running your WorkLife Book Club, Including Helpful Questions to Enhance the Learning Through Reading Experience, are applicable for book clubs where members read a selected book only and also for book clubs where members read the selected book and the case study.

The Guidelines for Starting and Running your WorkLife Book Club

Whether your WorkLife Book Club is going to take place in person at your workplace or home, remotely via an online meeting platform or in a more social setting, the following guidelines will help you establish your WorkLife Book Club Chapter: 

• Decide on a regular meeting time – as a suggestion, monthly is good – but meetings can be closer together or further apart as appropriate to the group’s WorkLife needs and demands while allowing time to read the book and, if relevant, the accompanying case study (the prerequisite reading for the School Of WorkLife Learning Through Reading series for book club meetings); 

• The optimum length of the meeting needs to fit in with the group’s needs – i.e. if it needs to fit in around a lunch hour, allow time to get from and back to work. If there are no time restraints, longer meetings may work better for members; 

• The optimum number of members can vary. As a suggestion, if numbers go above ten, consider setting up two or more groups. Also, a group can be as small as two people; 

• Meet over food and drinks (this applies for remote meetings too); 

– it can be anything from coffee or tea and cake, to slices of pizza and beer or wine, to a potluck supper, to canapés and cocktails, to recipes from a specific cookbook, to cuisine from a particular culture; 

  • At the first meeting (or before), to help people get to know each other in the context of reading, a good question to ask everyone is: What do you enjoy about reading?
  • Take turns to choose the WorkLife case study and featured book; 
  • When reading the case study and accompanying book, noting particular areas of interest is good practice – simply highlighting them on the page or making brief bullet point notes is sufficient; 
  • Begin the meeting by having the person who chose the case study read it aloud. If there is no case study, you can get straight into the book discussion; 
  • At the end of the meeting, each person summarises the WorkLife lesson they took from the experience – the case study, the book, the discussion; 
  • It is good practice for the person choosing the WorkLife case study and featured book for the next meeting to let everyone know their choice before wrapping up the meeting. 

Below are suggested questions for people to ponder while reading the book and case study (if relevant). These can also help to structure the discussion and to keep the flow going – if needed. Feel free to add your own. And please note there are no hard and fast rules – dip in and out as and if you see fit. 

Helpful Questions to Enhance the Learning Through Reading Experience for your WorkLife Book Club

The following questions are designed to enhance your WorkLife Book Club learning through reading experiences (and the flow of conversation, if needed). They can help develop a rhythm and flow as a group. In the beginning, they may be helpful to guide different areas, but it’s also OK to go with the flow and see where that takes you. A more structured or a more free-flowing approach is up to you individually and/or collectively as a group to figure out what works best for each and all of you. 

Questions to Ponder

What are the main themes of the story? 

What are the underlying themes of the story? 

Can I connect to aspects of the story through my WorkLife story? (my experiences) 

Do I have thoughts and emotions that are consistent with the storyline?

Am I having emotional responses and insights into the character’s emotions? 

Are there valid and competing viewpoints that I find interesting?

Was there anything that caused me to look at things differently?

Has anything brought about thoughts or ideas for change?

Has anything brought about thoughts or ideas for remaining constant?

Does the reading apply to my WorkLife? If so, how? 

Does the reading apply to my organisation/network? If so, how? 

What did I enjoy about the book? 

What did I enjoy about the case study? 

What was my impression of the protagonist of the story? (sometimes, there can be more than one protagonist) 

What was my impression of the antagonist of the story? (sometimes, there can be more than one antagonist) 

What were the struggles and successes for the protagonist? 

How did the book wisdom help the protagonist? 

Were there support characters? If so, what was my impression of them? 

Who were the heroes in the story? (heroes can sometimes be abstract, e.g. circumstances) 

Who were the villains in the story? (villains can sometimes be abstract, e.g. circumstances) 

What piqued my curiosity?

Where did the reading take my imagination? 

It’s important to remember that nothing is set in stone and that there will be meetings where people say more and other meetings where those same people say less. It doesn’t have to be precisely measured – just fairly balanced. The important thing is that everyone has an opportunity to speak while not feeling forced to do so or to say more or to be shut down to say less. Mutual respect among members in listening and speaking will help get the balance right. This is not a place for hard and fast rules. This is a place for a relaxed and enjoyable discussion. 

And finally: make it easy for people to participate. 

Many companies have book programmes that people who enjoy learning through reading can tap into. It’s quite simple: the company covers the cost of the books and, if relevant, accompanying case studies. This represents a meaningful investment by the company to support people who enjoy learning through reading to continuously learn, develop and grow personally and professionally in their WorkLife. 

Happy Reading and Happy Learning. Carmel 

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O’ Reilly: WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer Author of WorkLife Book Club, Your WorkLife Your Way and The School of WorkLife book series. Created to help you manage your WorkLife Learning. Blogger & Podcaster: Telling people’s powerful stories about WorkLife challenges & successes Founder of www.schoolofworklife.com My guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.