Since 1996, Leelanau Books in Leland has hosted a local book club. Now, they share the secrets to going strong for more than two decades.

The format has evolved over the years, but members now meet monthly from September through June in Leland to discuss both fiction and non-fiction stories. “There is something quite energizing to have a really good discussion—we come away with a refreshed mind,” says Leelanau Books owner, Paula Alflen. “Reading and reflecting about a book is a kind of therapy, and this group has melded in such a way that we all feel a positive energy when we finish reading and then discussing, and sharing, a stimulating book.”

Here, Paula and her book club share their top five reasons why having a book club is the “best thing in the world” and why theirs works so well in their Northern Michigan community.

1. They’re an Open Club

“Anyone is welcome, which means we get a wonderful diversity of people and opinions,” says Paula. Leelanau Books’ club members are welcomed from not only locally in Leland, but from surrounding towns such as Northport, Glen Arbor, Cedar, Maple City, and Suttons Bay, too.

2. They Meet in the Mornings

“We meet in the late morning, finishing around noon, a time that seems to be workable for our members. We prefer to not be going out at night. We do however often meet for lunch after the discussion session at a local restaurant, which is great for getting to know each other personally,” explains Paula. Plus, at the end of the season they host a social celebration, where they brown-bag lunch at a member’s house in Leland.

3. The Bookstore Hosts and Moderates

“Because we have the fortunate venue of the bookstore, no one has to prepare their home,” Paula says. Leelanau Books provides hot beverages for attendees and a moderator who steers conversations away from politics and religion. “We have a very respectful and tolerant membership, so members feel safe expressing their opinions—it’s an easily flowing conversation.”

4. Attendance is Flexible

“If you’re out of town, no problem,” Paula says. “We don’t meet in July or August which is typically too busy for everyone (including the bookstore!).” While some members join only in the spring, others join in the fall, allowing for flexible attendance.

Plus, Leelanau Books encourages members to attend even if they haven’t read that month’s book. “They often find themselves adding to the discussion, and actually appreciating the book—which they now want to read for sure—in a different way, but doing it sort of backward,” says Paula.

5. Anonymous Book Suggestions & Voting Selection

“We select our books by submitting suggestions at the end of the season, and then we vote for 10 (the number of months we meet),” explains Paula. “We do not know who has suggested any of the books, so we can feel more open about expressing our opinions and not causing offense.”

Leelanau Books’ Top 6 Reading List

Here are a handful of reads that recently sparked lively discussions.