Tips for Running a WaniKani Book Club

A few more changes after feedback and sleeping on it:

Ch ch ch ch ch ch chaaaanges!
  • Wrote a sentence synopsis of Discussion Guidelines and hid text walls behind details tags. Added the full Discussion Guidelines section to the Home Thread template without the details tags.

  • Changed “Additional Elements” to “Additional Sections” for consistent wording

  • Removed WIP tags from Weekly Thread and Vocab Sheet templates (not to say we shouldn’t keep working them, but I feel they’re getting to be in pretty good shape!)

  • Removed highlighting from vocab sheet template (since it’s not really a copy/paste template)

  • Changed poll options to Nicole’s, but kept the “I’m reading this book after the club has finished”

After giving it some thought I’m happy with the poll options that exist–they’re really not as ambiguous as I thought. They felt a little strangely worded because I had never considered that some people update the polls as they read (which is totally fine). Also to quote myself:

The purpose of this whole exercise isn’t to change a system that for the most part works great, it’s just to make it easier for people who want to get involved.

I would like to consider adding this poll option though:

  • I’ve read this book before but I’m here for discussion

I know a lot of engaged members are great about joining discussion and answering questions about books they’ve read before outside of the book club, and it’s fun to see who’s following along. It’s kind of the opposite of “I’m reading this book after the club has finished”.

I would definitely appreciate this. Perhaps the FAQ should be titled “Where can club members purchase Japanese books?” and go underneath the Natively question.

Also in the vocab sheet, would you mind coloring the word “red” red and “yellow” yellow? Nitpicky but I kind of like how that looks.


Oftentimes, there’s a note included underneath the poll (and this is my bad for not including it in the template because I spaced it) that says something along the lines of:

If you’ve already read this book but are still going to join the discussion, please select “I have read this part.”

It keeps the poll a little cleaner and still involves those who join purely for discussion and answering questions.

Thanks for the reminder! I’ll get this done today, and I like that phrasing, so I’ll nick it. :wink:

Sure thing!


Change List
  • Added the line I mentioned below the poll. If you would still rather a separate poll option, feel free to change that! I have zero investment in the way the polls are phrased as it stands :laughing:

  • Bolded some text in the Vocabulary Template description

  • Updated the Vocabulary Template with the recommended font color changes

  • Added the “Where can club members purchase Japanese books?” FAQ. I put in the most common vendors, but of course, if anybody else has others they wish to add, feel free. I divided it into physical/digital vendors and added some extra information regarding ordering from Amazon to try and prevent some issues that I’ve seen crop up with the links


(Sorry for the consecutive post, but I want this one to ping people. :stuck_out_tongue:)

Do we think this is ready to be pinned again now that we have the templates all up in a functional order?

Oh, other than I do have one question remaining on the vocab sheet; does it let y’all make a copy of it to be saved to your own drives if it’s not currently available to be edited?

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The last thing is the schedule. The template is good but I wanted to add some extra info. Here’s (basically) what I originally wrote before we changed to the template format. I’d like to include all the info here but I probably want to reword/reorganize it a bit when I get back to a computer on Monday:

Creating a Schedule

Making a schedule can be mildly time consuming, and the schedule does not need to be fully determined at the time of the home thread post. In fact, it is typical to get feedback from participants before finalizing a schedule.

Some things to keep in mind when making a schedule:

  • Natural breaks between weeks. Ideally these are chapter or at least large paragraph breaks. If breaks are not clean, be sure to annotate this on the schedule.

  • End phrases. If weeks don’t stop at clean chapter breaks, add a column to the schedule with the last few words from that week’s section.

  • Alternate versions. Include page numbers for alternate versions. Ask club members who own other versions to help with this.

  • Week-to-week consistency. Try not to have wild fluctuations in workload from week-to-week.

  • Club consistency. Try to make the pace consistent with previous club picks. Take expected difficulty into account when determining pages per week.

  • Ramp up time. For many bookclubs, it may be worthwhile to start out at a slower pace to give people the chance to adjust to a new style. This can help prevent some people from leaving the club after just a week or two of trying.

  • Special considerations (e.g. holiday breaks, shuffling or omitting short stories from a collection, etc.)

Remember to link each week in the schedule table when that week’s thread gets posted!


I am sorry, but when reading this I am still very confused regarding the absence of a clear separation between the thing that means “leading a group of readers who want to read a given book” and the thing that means “maintaining an overarching thing that will repeatedly produce the opportunity to do the aforementioned”.

The OP starts by briefly touching upon both these things, but then neither clearly explains what those two things are, nor does it split the FAQ into those two groups. That would be the minimal requirement for me to get it pinned, because as it is right now, I don’t want to point anybody to it because I’m afraid that it will cause more confusion (and also fear!) than benefit.

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I have to admit, the distinction seems quite clear to me, after reading the first FAQ… I hesitate to add any more arbitrarily defined terms (ala “reading club” vs “book club”) because it just introduces more jargon for people to learn, which makes things more cloudy, imo. (While before I was mostly ambivalent, my position has shifted after I thought on it more.)

The former definition you list is just the basic definition for what a book club is, so it shouldn’t require being defined specifically in the thread, imo. If one is in the Book Club section of a forum, one presumably knows what a book club is.

Maybe tweaking the wording a bit for the first FAQ would solve your concerns?

Something like:

“These stand for Absolute Beginner Book Club, Beginner Book Club, Intermediate Book Club, and Advanced Book Club. Each is an organizational club for the purposes of grouping potential books to read by approximate difficulty, with those books being voted on by each group. After this voting is complete, a book club is formed for the selected book using templates similar to the ones provided below. When the reading for that book is about to end, members return to their respective organizational club to vote for the next book selection.”

Does that split the definition well enough for you? This should make it clear that the book club we are providing guidance for is for individual books, and the other clubs are strictly for organizational purposes.

I do agree that the bottom question, which touches on how to run the organizational threads, should probably just be given its own section of the FAQ, away from all the other questions that pertain specifically to running the actual book club threads because it could possibly lead to the two being incorrectly conflated.

Also, happy cake day. :grin:


I don’t agree.

For one, I think it is pretty clear in both the introduction text and the first couple of FAQ. I will admit I didn’t reread the whole thing from start to finish again.

And secondly, the best way to learn what is and isn’t confusion to people is to have people who haven’t run a book club read the OP and ask questions if they are confused.

Just a couple of posts ago, we had someone ask about something and it lead to a new FAQ question. So we know that part is working.

I don’t see why we should try and fix a problem we aren’t even sure is a problem. Also, we will never be able to make it perfectly clear, without any confusion or possible confusion. It is impossible because people are different, comes from different cultures, has English as a second, third, etc., language. And if we tried, we’d make it a lot longer, and if it becomes too long, people might get intimidated due to the length.

I think it is time to make it visible to those people who need it, and let them guide us in further edits from what confusions they express.

If I hadn’t seen this thread, and gotten the home thread template, I would never have started Orange. I was too intimidated. There was nowhere I could go to find knowledge (before seeing this thread), and I didn’t want to bother people by asking how to run a book club when I didn’t even have a club in mind to start. And I might have never gotten over my intimidation.

Instead I saw this thread and it took away my intimidation. Even in its unfinished state. And then later (a few days? a couple of weeks? I don’t know), when I saw how much interest people had in reading Orange, I felt confident enough to just start a book club. Confident enough that I went looking for weekly thread examples and put one together, because that template wasn’t done yet.

Even in an unfinished state, this helped at least one person start a book club. And now we have all the bones done, so I don’t see a reason to not have it pinned.


I also disagree :sweat_smile: even just reading the introduction and the first few dropdowns makes it pretty clear that the FAQ is all about running a singular book club (either unrelated to the recurring book clubs, or running/setting up the threads for your pick from the recurring clubs). It doesn’t touch on running the big threads at all, only in the last question, and at that point the structure of how book clubs work should be pretty clear in the reader‘s mind.

Setting up an additional split and making „running one of the big threads“ 50% of this FAQ wouldn’t be a good idea imo. Most people will probably only want to find out how to read a book with a group / what to do if their nomination got picked. People volunteering for running a BBC/IBC etc. thread probably already have some experience participating in a book club and might not need as much explaining. By catering more to those (quite rare) cases, it in turn gets more confusing for people only trying to figure out how to get started in running a singular book club.


Let’s start with the easy part:

Thank you :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

Now on to the more tricky bits :sweat_smile:

I know that y’all oppose to introducing new terms, and I got that and tried hard not to introduce terms in my post. (It’s just that my day job partly consists of teaching others to introduce clear, unique terms because it is so helpful for good communication, so it’s a bit counter-intuitive for me to let go of that.)

That’s what I was aiming at with my remark of splitting them. Maybe turn this into its own section at the bottom, even below the templates? The headline can stay the same, and then the contents of the folded question would be the contents of that section (without top-level fold), or something like that.

All I’m saying is: It’s not clear to me :disappointed_relieved: Maybe it helps if I take you on a tour of what I think when reading the OP, and maybe it gives you new insights into how things can be changed, or not. I promise I will not interfere any more after this :sweat_smile:

Breakdown of my thought process

I was actually thinking of using the title “mental breakdown” but then I figured that I’m not there … yet :rofl:

It’s all about the first sentence, really, as it sets the context for me:

This is an informal guide that contains all the information one may need to start a book club here on the WaniKani forums, or to run the club for a specific pick from the ABBC, BBC, IBC, or ABC.

I’ll show you how I read this:

This is an informal guide that contains all the information one may need to start a book club here on the WaniKani forums,

OK, so we’re talking about a book club and how to start it.


Oh, and also about something else. We’re contrasting two things here.

to run the club

Aha, this is this other thing. “start a book club” is one thing, “run the club” is the other thing.

(And as much as you want to avoid to coin terminology, it already happened here.)

for a specific pick

OK I must confess I totally overlooked this part (which really annoys me because I’m usually a very meticulous reader, so this is an annoying slippage to me. Nonetheless it happened. Now I’m curious to find out why.)

from the ABBC, BBC, IBC, or ABC.

Oh, these are the “clubs” - that’s what “running the club” means!

(I guess it happened because I was so set on “we have a contrast here” already that my mind directly jumped to this list, and I connected “running a club” to these clubs.)

Suggestion: I can now see that you want to contrast the two possible origins of a book club, but I read it as if you want to contrast two different actions. Therefore, I would rather push the contrast further towards the thing you actually want to contrast. Maybe something like this:

This is an informal guide that contains all the information one may need to start a book club here on the WaniKani forums, either because a number of people decided to read a given book together, or because a book was picked in the ABBC, BBC, IBC, or ABC.

I’m not tied to this exact wording, but I would like it to be phrased like “start a book club due to A or B” and not “start a book club or B”.

I think my remaining misunderstandings stem from the fact that I latched onto “running a club … ABBC, BBC, IBC, or ABC”, and I took this to be the context in which I was reading the FAQ. Some entries sound really weird with this context in mind, but some still seem to match, so that really got me pretty confused :sweat_smile:

Anyways, thanks to you @MrGeneric @MissDagger @Myria for objecting to me :bowing_woman: It helped me better understand what I was having issues with, and maybe it can even help improve this guide.
With that, I’m ok with having this post pinned! :+1:

  • Revised and added tips for writing a schedule under the schedule template details page, above the template itself.

  • Added bars above and below schedule template so it’s easy to find when copying plain text.

  • Removed WIP from schedule template.

  • Added “Please remember to set this thread to Watching in order to stay abreast of discussion” at the end of the weekly template.

  • Bolded the reminders to set thread to watching in home and weekly templates.

  • Edited vocabulary sheet template instructions to be in line with Google Docs’ new sharing UI

Just tested, works fine!

Alright I think we finally have what’s pretty close to a finished product! Give me any feedback you have on this last round of changes or any feedback on any other section , then I’ll plan to post a poll on Wednesday as to whether we want it stickied.



Vocabulary Sheet Conditional Formatting

We were talking about trying out some conditional formatting that would allow automatic cell highlights instead of asking folks to highlight cells manually. I may have something that works. I tested it by adding and deleting columns, and my conditional formatting automatically updated, so I’m going to post a copy here and I want you to see if there’s anything that you think would make it work a little better. (Or see how easy it is to break, because I may have missed something!)

Things I feel could be improved (and I might come back and play with it more when I have more time):

  • I have a hidden column (G) which is basically just servicing as the backbone for the conditional formatting formula. There is probably a better way to go about this (and if there is, please make that change), but it was the slap-dash solution that worked without too much fuss (I imagine we could just try and shoehorn the formula into the conditional formatting itself somewhere instead, similar to that initial temporary one you posted, though I don’t know if sticking it in there is the reason the conditional formatting breaks when you add/remove columns). If you want to see the ugly formula, you can just unhide that column.

  • That formula in the G column is dependent on the kana column being input. I couldn’t get the OR function to do what I wanted it to in Sheets like I can with Excel (it should be the same, so I feel like I’m just botching it somewhere in my tiredness), but decided that all vocabulary, even if it has kanji, will have a kana entry, so it should be fine to depend solely on the kana column having text to trigger the formula.

  • For some reason, even when I applied the formatting to all cells in range, it only wants to apply the highlight to the first cell instead of the entire row. I suspect this is because I have intentionally not locked any of the columns with the $ symbol (because doing so means that adding or removing columns breaks the formatting). I have, for now, decided to just allow it highlight only the English translation cell (since that is the cell which would require attention, anyway). If you have a fix for this that doesn’t also require locking columns, please apply it! :grin:

How it works:

  • If the kana column has text, but the English Translation column has been left blank, it will automatically highlight the cell red. Putting text into the English translation column removes the red highlight automatically.

  • If somebody is unsure about the definition, they just have to type unsure (or a different word, if we so choose) into the Notes section, and it will then highlight the cell yellow.

Book Club Vocab Template Conditional Formatting Test - Google Sheets

Let me know what you think!

Also, to note, if this is the route we end up taking, I would lock the G-column from editing. I’ve left it open for editing now because I want you to be able to play around with it, and it may end up just being removed and hidden inside conditional formatting anyway. :stuck_out_tongue:

Vocabulary Sheet Comments

The issue here is inserting a row doesn’t copy a formula over.

I figure it is.

Although, I forget where this was breaking with a formula, because I can’t get deleting an unnecessary column to break it when I put the formula into the conditional formatting now!

We can fix this. Consider the following:

You can see here, putting changing the formula’s G4 to $G4 made it apply to the whole row.

Keep in mind, the range is set to C4:G102. Changing it to A4:G102 gets the missing columns:

You can see what I came up with on the “Fritz Testing” tab, just changing the conditional formatting and removing the formula column.

Vocabulary Sheet

Ah, that is bizarre… Usually inserting a row should include the formula, but pushing it into conditional formatting resolves that issue, anyway, so no biggie.

Well, that’s what’s throwing me off here too, because:

Usually this locks the column so that when you add or delete columns, that won’t automatically update (it would stay G, even if what you wanted it to be reading was now F or H, for example), but…it’s not doing that here. So I’m not totally sure why it’s behaving that way. (Edit: Actually, no, I do get why it’s behaving that way, I think, after more thought. It’s probably because the column only locks when it’s in a formula that’s plugged into a specific cell, as opposed to something that forces it to vary, like the conditional formatting.)

It does look to be working fine now, though, and it’s not breaking after some playing around with it.

I didn’t test deleting or adding columns to your initial sheet before starting, though. Maybe I should have done and saved myself the time. :stuck_out_tongue: Is it working fine on that one now too? If not, the only thing I can think of that we did differently, is I’m pretty sure I used a slightly different formula than you as far as what it was checking.

Either way, I’m happy with rolling that out, just changing the guidelines to read:

“If you are unsure of a word’s definition, feel free to add it to the vocab sheet, but type “Unsure” into the Notes column. This will automatically highlight the row in yellow to alert people that this word may need extra attention. Similarly, if you just can’t find the definition of a word, feel free to add it to the sheet, and just leave the English translation blank. This will automatically highlight the row in red.”

@jhol (or anybody else!), thoughts on these changes before we officially implement them to the template?


I think the “trick” here is that I changed it to $A for the conditional formatting formula. Adding/removing anything within the range won’t break it so long as it’s to the right of column A.

Edit: No, wait, I’m wrong. Never mind. It was the range that I changed, not the formula’s column (as that would break the formula).

I probably didn’t have things set up correctly for selecting the whole row, as I know that removing a column broke my earlier test.


Ah, I found what the problem was before.

When adding in the kana field, the row goes red until you add in the English word.

Rather than having every row go red for a few seconds between adding in the kana then the English, my solution was to also require there also be a page number. That way the red doesn’t appear until after the English field has been intentionally skipped over.

Problem was, deleting a page number column broke my prior attempt.

However, with what I just edited in now, deleting a column doesn’t break it. The column reference does become #REF in the formula, but the formula is designed this time so it still works.


Awesome! Works great. :grin:

Although, by having that, we’ll probably want to update the wording in the guideline to mention that it requires a page number to be included as well. (This should be done by default, anyway, but you know, sometimes best just to be explicit)


On the one hand adding more functionality makes the sheets harder to modify, but on the other hand I’m also a big nerd for cool spreadsheet functionality, and it does seem to be decently robust so I’m fine with it.

I would just say that the row should be red-highlighted if there’s writing in the kanji column and nothing in the kana column (i.e. somebody couldn’t find the reading).

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Well here we are nearly eight months later and I think this guide has finally reached a point where it can serve the community in the way I originally intended! Keep in mind that even though this is no longer a “work in progress”, it is still a living document that can and should be updated based on suggestions and feedback.

Thank you to @NicoleIsEnough, @MrGeneric, @MissDagger, @seanblue and @ChristopherFritz for all of your contributions. Also thank you to everybody who chimed in during discussions to help make this the most useful resource it can be for the community.

I’ll also ping @Micki, @Shadowlauch, @Phryne, @omk3, and @Naphthalene.

I encourage anybody else who sees this to also cast a vote.

Should this topic be pinned in the book clubs category?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Eventually, but it still needs work (please explain in a comment)

0 voters


Okay! That change has been added, and everything has been added to actual template. If, after more people start playing with it, we find that something is broken, we can fix it at that time (or remove the feature entirely if it proves too problematic to deal with).

I have also updated the Guidelines sheet to reflect the correct actions. (Type “unsure” into notes column for yellow; leave either reading or English translation blank while still inputting page number to highlight the cell in red).

I included both a formatted and unformatted sheet in the template, with a note in the guidelines that if someone doesn’t want the automatic cell highlights, they can duplicate the unformatted sheet instead to allow for more flexibility.


I would say that settles it, but I’ll give it a day or two before pinging the mods in case @ChristopherFritz, @Micki or @seanblue hasn’t seen this yet and wants to vote or chime in.