The Firewood Book Club: Where Business and Murder Occasionally Meet

A reading club based in the workplace has a unique set of parameters. Outrageous socializing? Nah. Mind-expanding conversation? Hopefully. An office book club is a chance to surround yourself with colleagues ready to improve their professional output by reading comprehensive treatises on business theories.

Or not. Because that’s not what happens here. Sure, Firewoodians think work-related books are a great choice, but so are blood-splashed murder mysteries.

We sat down with Meghan Feinstein, VP and Group Account Director, and unofficial president of the Firewood Book Club. After three meetings (and three and a half books, pictured here), she shares her thoughts on a book club—the Firewood way.

The Don’ts

Don’t make it a chore (or job requirement)
Required reading is a huge turn off. “At a certain point, business-only books feel like homework,” says Meghan, who’s been in an office book club where participation was mandatory. “Instead, we ask people to nominate a book they’re interested in, and then we put it to a vote.” This tends to make everyone happy (or happier) about the winning selection.

Don’t judge a person by their role
Some art directors and data analysts love to read, while certain writers want nothing to do with a book club. So invite everyone, and welcome anyone who’s interested in joining.

Don’t select 800+ page hardcover books
No one wants to lug that around! If the latest literary door-stopper wins the vote (as it did for our current selection), offer an online version. It’s also ideal if your employer supplies the books, as Firewood does. It’s a wonderful incentive to join the club.

The Dos

Make it a democracy
A free and fair (book) election process is a cornerstone of Firewood’s philosophy. Meghan asks for recommendations at the conclusion of each meeting, and then puts it to a vote. The most votes wins (duh). Share the voting breakdown if you can, because transparency is essential.

Bring food and introduce yourself
The basics of any good meeting apply here, so scour the office kitchen for snacks and LaCroix cans. And even though we all work at the same place, it can be hard to remember names. So make introductions at every meeting.

Spread the word
Make sure to talk up how much fun the book club is, or how excited you are about the next selection. This way, you’ll help prime the discussion group—and might even convince certain overbooked creative directors to join in (hint hint).

What to Expect

Complaints, excuses, and disagreements
Not everyone is going to read the book. You’ll also hear plenty of excuses and suffer through titles that inspire lackluster participation. But if just a few people make time to share their post-book-reading thoughts, you’ll discover unexpected insights.

Good discussions take prep work
“A list of discussion questions is key,” Meghan says. “It gives structure to the conversation, and helps make sure everyone chimes in.” The more voices in the room, the better the conversation can go—but there’s always a risk that one or two overenthusiastic readers will derail the meeting. So keep things moving with a list of conversation topics (which can be easy to find online).

Scheduling will be a hassle
There’s never enough time and it’s always later than you think. It’s standard practice at this agency to have a calendar packed with meetings, and client work will always come first. However, Meghan says she’s had success putting a time on the calendar a month out, and then rescheduling only one time before locking down the date. The trick is to keep the momentum going.

It will be worth it

Books (and book clubs) are a great way to forge new alliances in the workplace. Come to swap theories on the most inspiring murder scene (it was Mrs. Peacock with the rope in the ballroom, IMHO). Stay to nod your head in agreement with fellow book lovers.

This month, the Firewood Book Club is reading Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and your blog author is thrilled. An award-winning, 400+ page literary epic! Love and heartbreak! War and (hopefully) peace! Want to join us?

Here’s the first line: “History has failed us, but no matter.”

Grab your copy and start reading.

Bonus Section: Firewood Book Club Book Picks

  • Bock, Laszlo. Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead, 2015.
  • Backman, Fredrik. A Man Called Ove, 2012.
  • Bradberry, Travis and Jean Greaves. Emotional Intelligence 2.0, 2009.
  • Lee, Min Jin. Pachinko, 2017.