How My Book Club Took My Friendships To The Next Level

Hint: the book is optional.

By Rachelle Shuttlesworth

A few years ago, a couple friends and I decided to start a book club. Brené Brown was becoming increasingly popular and Daring Greatly was on all of our must-read lists. We were good friends who had all known each other for years, so we figured it would be pretty easy to get vulnerable with each other and talk about some of the hard topics in the book.

Deciding that we would meet before work once a week to discuss each chapter, we started our book club. While this worked for the first few weeks, we quickly found ourselves veering off course. Some weeks, one of us wouldn’t be able to finish the chapter because life got in the way. Other weeks, we would begin discussing the chapter and end up planning our annual Friendsgiving. And sometimes, someone would have something major to talk about and we wouldn’t even open the book.

So although the books we read often facilitated great conversations, it wasn’t the books themselves that took our friendships to the next level. It was the book club.

Here’s why.

image by hannah zahner

fun girls night ideaimage by kate zimmerman

Book club is a time where we can talk about the hard things.

Given the nature of the books we were reading, deeper topics usually came up for discussion. If you’ve read Brené Brown, you know that pretty much every other sentence brings up a lot of feelings. We’re currently reading through a book on the Enneagram and that has given us the opportunity to freely talk about how we don’t always see eye-to-eye with our spouse and about the realities of getting frustrated at work. So in that way, the book has encouraged us to talk openly about our lives.

But sometimes, one of us will show up and just need to talk. And in those cases, we set the book aside and consider our time together to be one where we get to listen and simply be with the other person. We all have real lives, and those lives are more important than checking off the box of discussing the chapter. There have been weeks that have been super hard for me and those are the ones I find myself looking forward to book club the most, because I know there are two other people who are ready and willing to listen to and support me.

image by hannah haston

Book club is a safe space.

When you’re reading books with other people on personality types, self-help, or religion, you’re bound to disagree every once in a while. Disagreement is healthy. And being able to disagree about something and then move on and still love the person with whom you disagree really helps connect you to that person in a meaningful way. We’re different people with diverse backgrounds and thoughts on a variety of things, and that’s what makes friendship beautiful!

In our book club, we strive not to be judgmental and are quick to apologize when necessary.

And because of that environment, we’ve become more and more comfortable speaking our honest thoughts and challenging each others’. This means that our conversations become less about surface-level topics and more about the more meaningful stuff.

Don’t get me wrong: we also feel 100% comfortable discussing our shared love of Vanderpump Rules.

image by hannah haston

Book club is a place where we all feel known.

Because of the aforementioned headlines, we’ve begun to feel deeply known by each other. When we’re discussing a book and I express confusion or disagreement with the text, my friends know the questions to ask because they understand me. Or when I come in and need to vent about a life situation, they know how to offer advice in a helpful way because they know how I process things. Or when I simply look exhausted, they know to remind me to come up with practical ways to care for myself because I tend to put self-care last. I’m not afraid to be my true self with them because they deeply know me.

image by wynn myers

Book club is the reason we started meeting regularly, and books definitely helped deepen our relationships. But the consistency and freedom found within the club are what took our friendships to the next level.

The reality is that you can only go so deep at happy hour or when with a large group. So for more consistent, intentional time with your friends, I would highly recommend starting a book club of your own!