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Shelf Awareness: Why Work Books Clubs are Thriving

Dec 4th, 2018 • Amanda Areces

You’ve heard people talking about book clubs.  Maybe you want to know more—Who goes? How do you choose a book?  Aren’t book clubs just an excuse to have wine and snacks with your friends? Depending on the book club, those answers vary.  I have been in a book club for close to 10 years.  There are some other members who have been there since the beginning with me, and as the group has evolved, we have invited a few more. We now have a group of 12 committed women with widely ranging tastes, opinions, dietary needs and families.

My book club is my favorite night of the month. It is a chance to see friends I might not otherwise see, dive into books in a way I wouldn’t otherwise dive, and yes, have some wine and snacks. But what is striking me more lately is the value of a bringing the book club to the office, versus reserving it for after hours.  The same value I gain from my personal book club is just as, if not more important, in my professional life.  Here’s a few reasons why.

Book Clubs provide the ultimate networking opportunity.

Forget “where do you work?” “What do you do for your company?” and other one-liners you just hope will open conversation. Book clubs allow you to have meaningful and contextual conversations. Neil Blumenthal, founder of Warby Parker, is such a proponent of book clubs that he hosted a company-wide book club and even has a “To Read” section of the Warby Parker blog. He says about the benefits of book clubs, “From a team dynamic standpoint, it helps build stronger working relationships. It helps build trust when you create what is a safe environment to share ideas, or to debate ideas.” You can deepen more surface-level relationships through shared learning/discovery/discourse.

Book Clubs provide a safe environment to learn and apply learning.

A book club that I lead at HRD Advisory Group involves some prevailing research on HR Competencies—including the most influential competency to business results. You can image there is quite a bit of data to sift through.  It helps to have a group to help me break down the text, hear stories of how others are implementing the ideas, and even help me break down the data in a way that is useful to me.  It is like the group study sessions I used to attend in graduate school—my learning was enhanced by the stories of others, finding ways to implement the same model I am.


Book Clubs provide accountability to development goals.

This may include the act of reading. Best-selling author Gretchen Rubin repeatedly affirms that groups, generally, are one of the best ways in which to form positive habits. If you believe in the benefits of reading but have a hard time developing a habit of reading, public commitment to a group might provide just the accountability you need. It works for other goals as well—if there is a conversation you need to have with a colleague and you know your book club will ask about it at your next meeting, you have an automatic end date to your goal. That accountability is a powerful motivator to do the things you know you should do but might not otherwise prioritize.


Books are enhanced by discussion.

My favorite book club discussions are those where I come with an opinion that differs from others, and through discussion, I learn with new insights or even an entirely different way to apply what I read. You have heard the Russell Simmons quote “Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.” Book clubs are an easy way to do just that. When you bring together many minds to read the same content, you will certainly be exposed to different methods of application and even learn more about the best practices of your industry.

The leadership benefits of reading are clear. If you are a person who wants to grow both personally and professionally, look to a book club as a tool to help you become a better reader, grow relationships, and learn from diverse perspectives. Investing in a book club is good for your mind, good for your leadership, and good for your business.

Want to join HRD’s book club?  The conversation will be focused on the most recent HR competency model outlined in the book Victory Through Organization. It is a must-read for HR professionals. Essentially, it’s the playbook for how to be a successful HR leader.

The group will meet in Carmel at the HRD office from 8-10 AM on the 4th Thursday of the month. Dates are:

  • Thursday, Jan 24
  • Thursday, Feb 28
  • Thursday, Mar 28
  • Thursday, Apr 25
  • Thursday, May 23
  • Thursday, Jun 27

The cost is only $99! If you are interested in signing up or learning more: