Robyn Blumner<

I have a humble suggestion for a New Year's resolution: Join a book club. With this one step, your annual book-reading tally could shoot up. It helps make room for pleasure-reading in busy lives.

If there isn't a book club that meets conveniently near you (check your local library), then consider forming one yourself. I will help you with a foolproof formula. The book club I started in Miami is 20 years old and still humming. The one in Tampa is nearly 12 years old. It's filled with fabulous women I look forward to seeing every month.

Now, I'm guessing that many, if not most, of the savvy, worldly women reading this are already in a book club. (For some reason, men aren't as likely to join reading groups. My husband suggests that men view get-togethers to discuss books as one of those obligatory duties that men do for wives if they must. Really?) But for those who have dipped a toe in only to have a club dissolve, and for those who have never tried, let me share the secrets of creating a book club with staying power.

Book Club Rule No. 1

Meet at a regular time every month. Groups that try to arrange meetings when it's convenient for everyone never get into a rhythm. My book club meets at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of the month. This allows members to mark their calendars for the year and plan around those meetings.

Book Club Rule No. 2

Limit the number of members and keep a roster. If you're looking for group cohesion, cap the number of members; otherwise, people won't feel that their presence will be missed and they will drift away. We try to hold membership to 12 -- 12 meetings per year allows each member to host, and people tend to own 12 sets of flatware and 12 wine glasses (especially that last bit).

Book Club Rule No. 3

Let each member pick a book as opposed to making a consensus list. Give each member a chance to impose their literary taste on the club. It makes for a more eclectic reading selection, gives members a direct stake in the choices (everyone wants to pick the most beloved book that year) and means that members with strong personalities won't dominate the list.

Book Club Rule No. 4

Talk about the book. This might sound obvious. It's a book club, so what else are you going to do? But members of long-standing book clubs will describe the danger of devolving into chat-fests, with relatively few members bothering with the assigned reading. This is a slow death -- the serious readers will leave and take their intellectual heft with them. In my club, the evening's host leads the discussion. It's their book; they have an incentive to make it an engaging choice.

Book Club Rule No. 5

Have a nice, gentle enforcer. At least informally, someone has to make sure that members remain active. A friendly phone call will often do the trick and convince a member either to re-engage or to decide that the book-per-month commitment is too much and resign. As sad as it is to see a friend step out, this makes room for someone more interested in the "book" part of book club.

How to Start a Book Club

How does one start a book club?

Ask a few friends to join and have each of them bring along another friend. That gets a core group together. I've asked women into the club whom I barely knew but felt had great depth, or a spark of humor or curiosity. I wanted to know what they thought. Many are now lifelong friends.

This all sounds business-y, but being part of a book club is one of my life's gifts. I've read hundreds of books this way. It could be the most delightful New Year's resolution you ever make -- much easier than losing 10 pounds. Now, let the reading, discussing and wine-drinking begin.