There are many ways you can connect virtually with friends and family during quarantine, but virtual book clubs are one of our favorites. A great book can provide you with an escape while inspiring a need to reach out and connect, and virtual book clubs are an accessible and flexible way to communicate with other readers. Whether you’re interested in joining an online book club or starting your own, here are some tips to help guide you.
Choose a genre
Like a traditional book club, online book clubs will need some structure in order to function successfully. To begin, start by deciding what type of books your book club will read. Will you add a variety of books to your reading list or stick to a certain theme? This will help you and eventually other members of your book club select titles.
Who’s in the club?
Next, think about who you would like to invite to join your book club. One of the greatest benefits of an online book club is the ability to connect with friends who live in different cities. This is also a great time to think about the number of people you want to join your book club. Online discussions take away the stress of hosting in your house or finding a space for a discussion so you may feel comfortable having a larger group.
Figure out your schedule
Once you have an idea about who will join your online book club, you can begin to think about how often your group will meet for online discussions and how your group will decide which books to read. Often, book clubs will put together a reading list and have members vote on titles to read and discuss throughout the year. Online survey tools like Survey Monkey can be a great resource when voting on titles.
Pick your platform
Lastly, decide how your online book club will meet for discussions. Luckily, technology has many fantastic options for your book club to interact online. Video chats; recorded videos, live discussion posts or blogs are just some of the best ways to communicate. Facebook messenger, Google Hangouts and Zoom are popular options to set-up both video chats and live discussion posts. Feel free to try a few options and decide what works best for your group.
Stay in touch
With the basics set-up for your online book club, think about how you will communicate with your members about the schedule and upcoming discussions. Email, Facebook groups or Goodreads are great resources for staying in touch with your book club between discussions. Goodreads has resources geared towards book clubs with tools to help keep track of books your group has read or wants to read, plus reviews, discussion questions, and more. Reaching out in between online discussions can be a great way to stay connected.
Check out these popular online book clubs that are open to everyone:
Within Reese Witherspoon’s powerhouse media company, Hello Sunshine, she runs a great online community for readers. Each month, Reese selects a book with a story that centers on women and shares her thoughts about the book with her audience.
Goodreads has a variety of book club genres to join, from science fiction to memoirs to historical fiction; there is a group for every type of reader. Notably, actress Emma Watson started an online book club called Our Shared Shelf as part of her work with UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. Currently, Emma Watson does not manage the group but it is still active. The History Book Club is a thriving online book club focused on discussing history and nonfiction titles with members from all over the world.
Oprah continues to be an influential force in the book club community and her upgraded Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 features monthly books selections with interactive book trailers and interviews with authors.
Founded by actress Emma Roberts and Karah Preiss, the Belletrist book club selects one book each month for the community to read and enhances the experience with interviews or videos with the authors. Currently, the club is working on organizing virtual book tours with authors on Instagram!
For more inspiration, here are some local Chicago resources that offer virtual offerings and great lists of books to read:
Check out what the staff of the American Writers Museum is reading each month! From classics to new releases, it’s always fun to see what staff is loving these days.
Did you know that the Book Bin in Northbrook offers 20% off book club books? Browse their large online selection here.
The Chicago Humanities Festival has created and supported a variety of events for almost 30 years. Here are 5 must-read books by last year’s festival speakers.
Want to know what everyone in Chicago is reading right now? The Chicago Public Library has taken notice, and have listed the most popular books that are trending right now. They also keep a running list of book club recommendations.
Twice a year, the One Book program offers Chicagoans the opportunity to come together around a thought-provoking book. While we may not be able to attend any spring events (for now), their book selections are always spot on.
Chicago’s Poetry Foundation is one of our favorite sources of inspiration. Browse their collection of poems, poets and collections.
Chicago is home to the midwest’s largest free outdoor library festival, which includes some of the most popular and award-winning authors. If you need inspiration for your next book pick, check out their list of speakers.
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Meghan Odegard is a librarian living in Wisconsin. She proudly supports Barn Sanctuary, a nonprofit dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating, and caring for farm animals in need.