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Excerpted from Hal's response to the "Only One Guy Book Group"

"To address your specific question, here is a guide to how a bookclub should choose the book to be read. We have practiced and honed this method for years and can recommend it highly:

  1. First, you need some completely arbitrary rules of what sorts of books are eligible to be selected. For example, in our bookclub, we don't read non-fiction and the books have to be available in paperback. For your bookclub, it could be no books with blue covers and only books written by authors who wear glasses. The rules themselves are unimportant - they're mainly there so that lots of discussion at bookclub can be devoted to how silly the rules are and how they ought to be changed. Also, this allows devious members of the club to try to figure out schemes for sneaking in a book that doesn't meet the rules.

  2. You need several members who read a lot and come prepared to the bookclub with good ideas for new books. In our case, this group often comes with reviews from Amazon.com and the NY Times. For us, this group is made up of women. That fact is significant because it allows the guys in the group to regard each proposed book with great suspicion looking for even the slightest excuse to castigate it as a "chick book." Once a guy has done that, things are always fun because then all the other guys regard it as their sworn duty to back up the guy making the accusation even if a moment ago they thought the book sounded great. Unless you let more guys into your club, this dynamic may not work as well for you depending on how creative your Only One Guy is.

  3. Lately, it's been customary for the person recommending a book to have already read it. We used to specifically not allow this, but we had mixed results and found this worked better. You'll understand the logic of this even better when you get to the last step.

  4. Of the time you've allotted to choosing the book and the next meeting, spend 90% of that time deciding the date and place of the next meeting. We alternate our meetings among the households of the members. If you do it right, this is a much harder decision than the selection of what you're actually going to read. Subsequent to that decision, the members of the club are exhausted and are much more pliable to book suggestions.

  5. Choose one person by consensus whose book suggestions are never chosen. Oh sure, all the other members feign rapt attention while listening to the suggestions of the blighted member, but, in the end, those suggestions can never be heeded. This distinguished member must of course have a strong ego and must never give up bringing excellent suggestions to bookclub. It's hard to find someone fitting this bill, and you may find, as we did, that you may occasionally have to choose one of the poor member's suggestions to bolster his or her confidence. Believe me, though, there's nothing more amusing for the group than seeing the heroic research and presentaton by the one member once again coming to naught.

  6. Choose the book.

  7. After selecting the book, you must make sure you have someone to blame for its selection. This is the most important part of selecting the next book. Don't worry if you want to blame several members - there's always enough to go around. However, it's almost as important that it not be clear ahead of time who's going to get the blame. So, in particular, the assignment of blame shouldn't accord too closely with which member actually recommended the book. If you do the blaming right, everyone has to pay close attention to the book discussion to see which way the wind is blowing.

Oh, did I forget to mention the eating part? You have to do all the above while eating good food and drinking good wine..."