Setting up a Book Club

The overall aim of the Bad Bugs Book Club is to read novels where infectious disease forms part of the plot, so that aspects of microbiology content can be unpicked and explored. This approach can also be used as a tool for public engagement with science. Although the Bad Bugs Book Club is run for adults, we have also previously run events for young adults.

The original Bad Bugs Book Club group comprised of both scientists and non-scientists, so that different aspects of fiction are addressed – such as writing styles, historical aspects and scientific perspectives.

For more information about the Bad Bugs Book Club visit our website, where you can access meeting reports and reading guides for around 60 novels. If you need any recommendations on titles to read, please email Professor Jo Verran at [email protected].

Below are some top tips for putting together your own book club as recommended by founder Professor Jo Verran:

  1. Around eight people in a reading group, is optimum. This allows time and space for everyone to contribute.
  2. Build a group with different areas of expertise and interests, and a mixture of both scientists and non-scientists.
  3. If you are starting your first book club meeting, think about how you are going to advertise the meeting to prospective members. Decide on a good title to start with. We love Nemesis by Philip Roth – it is well written, easy to read, and offers a brilliant perspective on the poliovirus before vaccines.
  4. Choose an informal setting, such as a pub or a café and book a table. We usually hold our meetings on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening from 6.30–8pm.
  5. Always start your meetings with introductions and highlight the aims of book club before the discussions begin. Prepare questions or discussion points ahead of the meeting.
  6. End the meeting by deciding on the next book and identifying a date/location. Our group has around five meetings a year. The overall organiser of the book club meetings should always be prepared to offer suggestions for new books in the absence of other contributions. They are also responsible for managing communications, events and location bookings.
  7. Ideally, a member other than the organiser should suggest a book and act as the meeting host. This individual is responsible for suggesting a book and preparing questions for discussion. You also might need to do a bit of research about the disease of interest in the novel such as history, properties, current issues and future concerns.
  8. Consider any events in the microbiology calendar when choosing your next book (for example, World AIDS Day), or a topic that fits with local science or literature festivals (to support its promotion). Also consider meshing the book club meeting with related events such as film screenings, guided walks, video calls with the author, or ongoing projects/exhibitions at local libraries or museums.
  9. Want to share the progress of your book club meetings with others? Why not document the meeting, so that your discussions and any outcomes can we shared across the Bad Bugs Book Club website?

We hope that this project will contribute significantly to the celebrations of the Microbiology Society’s 75th anniversary. Please join us and set up your own branch of the Bad Bugs Book Club and help us demonstrate the impact of science literacy, through engagement with fiction.

Please let Jo Verran know if you are meeting so that she can see how well the ‘free franchise’ activities are going (this is also useful for her impact case study)!

For any more information about the Bad Bugs Book Club and how you can get involved, contact Professor Jo Verran at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter.

Image credits:

Jo Verran
Shutterstock/Royalty-free stock photo ID: 395398660