For your next girls' night in, try an impromptu book club. Set a date a few weeks in advance, choose a recommended book and start planning your menu and decor to complement your read.

Why themed book club nights work

Women start book clubs all the time. Reading is a popular pastime, and it makes people happy to combine their favorite things to do with their favorite people. Unfortunately, many book clubs fade out after a brilliant beginning, and organizers can be left wondering what happened to the passionate group of readers they recruited for the club.

Life happened.

Maybe one member didn't read the book because she never picked it up from the library after preschool drop-off, like she promised herself she would every Tuesday. Another one started the book and stopped around the time two of her three children came down with some sort of virus that left her home in a Lysol haze. Another woman simply couldn't juggle work meetings, this month's book and her new gym schedule.

Readers who want to keep their book clubs intact should consider tying the book club meetings together with a themed girls' night in. Balancing the book with menu selections or other activities helps make everyone feel welcome and like a part of the group — even people who didn't make it past the title page. Try one of these five ideas, complete with book recommendations, to make your next book club meeting a success.

Choose a book with a movie tie-in

Dark Places by Gillian FlynnSelect a book with a corresponding movie, giving yourself enough time to read the book before the movie comes to theaters. 2014 is a perfect year for this — a slew of highly rated books and bestsellers are coming to theaters this year. Choosing a book with a movie tie-in and then going to see the movie makes your girls' night accessible to all your friends, not only the ones who managed to finish the book. Be sure to pencil in time to catch coffee and dessert or a glass of wine after the movie so you can discuss similarities, differences and why-oh-why they cast it the way they did.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn is coming to theaters in September (Amazon, $9). Dark Places was actually written before Gone Girl, Flynn's other soon-to-be-movie. Libby Day survived a childhood attack that left the rest of her family dead, and a strange cult borderline-obsessed with solving horrific crimes coaxes her toward facing the truth about her past. The movie promises eerie suspense, and the book oozes with Flynn's gritty reality.

^ Recommended by Mary Fetzer

Girls' night dress up party

The Night Circus by Erin MorgensternJust because you're hanging out at a girlfriend's house doesn't mean you have to default to your most casual clothes. Look to your book selection for dress up ideas — stressing that the theme is meant to be fun and not something book club members need to make overly complicated. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is a dream-like tale of a traveling circus, one rife with magicians' challenges, ominous consequences and a love story (Amazon, $12). The stark color scheme of black and white with splashes of red flows through the book, making The Night Circus the perfect book for a themed dress girls' night. Go simple and ask people to wear any combination of black, white and red or get closer to costumes with a novelty gift given for best red accessory.

^Recommended by Jessica Torres

Let the book dictate your menu

Richard C. Morais' The Hundred-Foot JourneyBring a book to life by recreating the food found within the pages, especially when the culinary aspects of the novel are integral to character and plot development. Richard C. Morais' The Hundred-Foot Journey tells the tale of the complicated relationship between a self-taught Indian chef and an esteemed French gourmand (Amazon, $14). Infused with the sensory opulence of two different cuisines, the poignant title refers to the physical space between an Indian and French restaurant in a small town — and the emotional and cultural gap between their proprietors. Choose one of the cuisines for your evening's menu or divide the group in half and offer both.

^Recommended by me — it's my book club's selection for February!

Relive the past with music and decor

The Interestings by Meg WolitzerPeriod books offer a fun opportunity to use decor from the past and to dabble in music playlists from the eras of the books. Use music and decor to set the tone for your book club's discussion of The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (Amazon, $14). The book opens during the summer of 1974 and spans decades in the lives of Wolitzer's characters — friends who chased their teenaged dreams and those who didn't, with varying measures of success. Set out a few lava lamps or disco balls, cue the '70s music and let the discussion wander toward the way your aspirations have waxed and waned through the years — and what you would do if nothing could stand in the way of your dreams.

^Recommended by Katie Kavulla

Arrange for a field trip

The Goldfinch by Donna TarttArt plays a large role in The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (Amazon, $14). The Goldfinch is a visceral read that connects the written word with the visual, tangible world of art. Leave the kids at home and stroll through the nearest art museum with your book club, even if the closest art museum is the coffee table book section of Barnes and Noble. After discussing the — heavy, soul-searching — themes in The Goldfinch, talk about the art that snags your eye. What about it interests you? Does it remind you of your past in some way or perhaps represent someone you dream of being? Discovering what your friends appreciate artistically is another way to get to know them better.

^Recommended by Molly Smith

More about book clubs

Best book club reads
How to start a book club

Shift your book choices from nice to naughty

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