Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

What’s a book club doing at a medical conference?


Join a book club or start a book club - in either your professional or personal context. You'll be glad you did!

Our team recently published this study about the impact of book clubs for healthcare professionals. Based on my own experiences and the data, having regular book club gatherings with colleagues (e.g. your medical team) is a great idea.


My top tips for running effective and meaningful book clubs:


1.) Choose books of moderate length (or even shorter books).


Like you, your book club members are likely to be extremely busy. Choose something that people feel like they can actually make time to read, instead of having to skim it the day before your club meets. 300 pages or less is desirable and picking a selection that is also available in audio format can be useful for those who want to listen to the book while doing other things (like commuting).


2.) Engage the group in realistic scheduling.


Give members at least eight weeks to read the book (which translates into no more than about four meetings per year). Ninety minutes is generally a good amount of time for having meaningful discussions. Starting and ending on time are critical for members’ engagement and appreciation of the events.


3.) Assign a facilitator.


The person leading the discussion should own how the time will be spent and must be prepared to help keep members on topic.  For book clubs occurring within professional groups, spending some time to consider how the insights / pearls / story relate to the work of the group or the organizational mission can be a valuable way to use at least part of the time.


4.) Food and drink!


Of course! If catering isn’t in the budget, coordinate a potluck with a digital sign-up sheet for who is bringing what. If you want to get really creative, pick food and drink that ties into the book in some way.


5.) Go for it!


Buy a few copies of a great book (check out the above study for recommendations), distribute them to colleagues, and schedule the date.



In another post, “Getting Into Character,” I’ve explained how reading fiction has helped me to become a more empathic and caring physician. Also, I have learned much more about leadership, management, innovation, and creativity from reading books than from workshops, courses, and retreats.


Let us know YOUR tips and ideas for book groups!