Perhaps the last place in the world you’d expect any kind of stress or drama would be at your book club.

Chances are the typical visitor to the BookTrib website belongs to a book club – statistics indicate more than five million Americans belong to one. People join for many reasons: discuss books, socialize, get introduced to new authors and genres, escape household chores, eat, drink, assess neighbors’ design tastes, improve your quality of life, you name it. The atmosphere is always relaxed and low-key. It’s a relatively inexpensive way to get out and socialize.

A wise man once stated, “My drinking club has a book problem.”

But when you think about your book club – the interpersonal dynamics, the level of organization, the quality of discussions–would you say that your group is happy? Do you consider your book club to be healthy?  According to researchers at BookBrowse, even in the strongest book clubs, issues are likely to emerge at some point. But, as it turns out, how your group proactively deals with them is important to the long-term harmony of the club.

In a recent research report, “The Inner Lives of Book Clubs: Who Joins Them and Why, What Makes Them Succeed, and How They Resolve Problems,” BookBrowse found that when issues arise, some people choose not to address them directly and, instead, opt to look the other way. After all, book clubs are often comprised of friends, neighbors or co-workers, so a confrontational situation could potentially affect other aspects of the members’ lives.

But while sometimes problems resolve themselves, they often do not. The tension that builds around unresolved issues can fester and lead to members leaving the group or, worse, the dissolution of the book club, according to the BookBrowse report.

Luckily, says BookBrowse, there are things book clubs can do to manage conflict. Just as many of us have an annual checkup at the doctor, BookBrowse says an annual book club “health check” can help prevent a group from stagnating or prevent unexpressed tensions from reaching a breaking point.

The BookBrowse report recommends that clubs set aside regular time to discuss how things are running, and provide a forum to raise issues and new ideas. It also suggests that club facilitators lay out clear expectations to prevent problems.

BookBrowse presents some topics worth discussing to maintain a club’s well-being:

  • What is the first word you would use to describe your group? This can be useful as a quick calibration of the group’s feelings and as an ice-breaker so that everyone has a chance to speak.
  • Are the meeting frequency, time and location(s) working well for members?
  • Is the group happy about the types of books being discussed and the process for selecting them?
  • Is the size of the group working well?
  • Is there a good balance between discussion time and social aspects?
  • Is the group’s overall organization and communication working well?

BookBrowse encourages book clubs to be proactive about taking the temperature of members. To find the best way to manage your unique book group, they say, it’s important that you communicate honestly with one another, treat each other with respect, and be willing to compromise when problems arise.

For more information on the BookBrowse report, visit their website.