I find a great book club meeting shares many of the same qualities as a great novel. For instance:

A cozy setting, such as a home, is the best place to host your club meeting. You want an environment that is comfortable enough to encourage discussion and where there’s no time limit, like you would have if you went to a restaurant. To create the right atmosphere, choose a place that is tidy and free of distractions, such as young children or a blaring television.

Every book is first and foremost about the characters. Your book club meeting should have the same focus: the guests. The hostess, usually the homeowner, needs to be willing to take on the responsibility of making the guests comfortable. The hostess’s other responsibility is guiding the discussion and making sure everyone’s opinion is heard.

While we certainly don’t want fisticuffs at the neighborhood book club, a difference of opinions, respectfully shared, makes for a great book club meeting. The hostess might even want to research any controversy regarding the book you are discussing so as to encourage a lively discussion. Oftentimes, someone with a minority opinion will be hesitant to offer it until the way is opened up. A little preparation beforehand can make for surprising discoveries and help keep the discussion moving.

While the book you’re discussing will provide plenty of food for thought, don’t forget to include refreshments, too—an absolute necessity for book club meetings! Finger foods and something to wash them down are a great way to set the mood and invite conversation. Oftentimes, a particular food mentioned in the story itself can complement the discussion—such as the character’s favorite cookies. You could also consider making something that fits the general mood of the book, eclairs for a book set in France, for instance, or moon-shaped cookies for a story about werewolves. The hostess doesn’t have to be in charge of the refreshment: delegation is a virtue. Sweets and wine can go a long way toward overcoming the initial awkwardness in any group.