Are Online Book Clubs a Good Substitute for Traveling Bookworms?

Are Online Book Clubs a Good Substitute for Traveling Bookworms?

Why an online book club?

Are you traveling too often to make monthly book club meetings? Are you too busy to finish a book a month or get a group together every month? Are online book clubs the solution for those of us clubless bookworms? I’ve decided to find out.

From Elementary School through High School I was part of a mother-daughter book club which was a monthly institution in my life. The club disbanded when all of us daughters scattered for college, and for one reason or another I haven’t joined another one since. I tried one time. The library I worked at tried to start a book club, but it quickly fell apart when each of us librarians suggested 400+ page books and nobody could finish one in a month. More recently, however, my excuse has become a never-ending list of to-be-read books that often have deadlines based on travel dates and self-scheduled blog posts, and not making as much reading time as I really should. (I accept full responsibilities for my poor time-management skills, please don’t judge me! But also, instead of reading, I finally wrote a blog post for you! So, Yay, Go Me!)

Having noticed several online book clubs pop up lately, I thought they might just be the answer. With no monthly in-person gathering obligation, I can participate when and if I have time, and switch clubs based on the book that looks more interesting to read. In January I made a list of book clubs, researched how to participate in each one, chose one based on the book, and made it a priority to finish the book. Here are my thoughts on the experience:

Apparating Book Club Membership Card

With a $35 lifetime membership fee, the Harry Potter Alliance will send you your own library card for the Friends of the Apparating Library Book Club

First, I should note that I chose to participate in Reese’s Book Club Hello Sunshine because the January book selection was The Library Book by Susan Orlean. I chose this one because the book choice intrigued me, but also I liked the idea of reading along with Reese Witherspoon, everyone’s favorite Legally Blonde star. The book is 318 pages, or 12+ hours of listening via Audible. This book club promotes their partnership with Audible so I chose to listen to the audio version, which also helped ensure I finished the book within the month because I could multitask as I listened.

Just in case you’re wondering what I thought of the book… I would give the book a 3 out of 5. Overall the book was an ode to libraries and also a historical account of the 1986 arson case of the Los Angeles Public Library. The book contained a lot of interesting facts about libraries and reminded me why I love them. At the same time, as a librarian I was a little bored by the parts about internal workings of libraries. As a historian, I was fascinated by the stories of the various directors of the LA Public Library and the library’s role in the city’s community throughout its history. As a reader and perhaps as a librarian that likes organization, I was somewhat frustrated by the chapters jumping around chronologically. Now onto the pros and cons of online book clubs:

 

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Our January book pick (and the first one this year!) is #TheLibraryBook by @susanorlean. It’s a nonfiction story about the fire that destroyed the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986, and the mystery that surrounds the crime. You’ll meet an eclectic cast of characters: a feminist librarian who refused to surrender her position to a man, a “Human Encyclopedia,” and of course, the arsonist… or is he? Woven through these tales is a long love letter to libraries, which will make you remember why you love reading in the first place. It’s the perfect way to kick off this year—we can’t wait to have you read along with us and @reesewitherspoon!

A post shared by Reese’sBookClubxHelloSunshine (@reesesbookclubxhellosunshine) on

Pros & Cons of an Online Book Club

Pros

  • Discussing the book can be done on your own time and on the social media platform of your choice. Most online book clubs do some combination of Goodreads, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. You can read others’ responses to the books and add your own comment when you have time.
  • Online book clubs often choose newer books by authors trying to promote their book, so authors may make themselves available to the book club participants for Q and A’s via social media. In the case of The Library Book, not only was Susan Orlean on Instagram, but the LA Public Library also participated by sharing photos of the fire, its aftermath, and newspaper clippings via Instagram.
  • Some book clubs hold giveaways so you might be able to get a free copy of the book.
  • You’re free to participate or not each month or switch clubs if another is reading a more interesting looking book. Clubs also differ in the frequency they choose books.

Cons

  • With no in-person gathering as a deadline, you have to be self motivated to finish the book and engage in discussion. I managed to finish the book just past the end of the month, but didn’t make it a priority to leave a comment on the Goodreads group discussion board. I did, however, read comments left by others when I had spare time.
  • You might feel disconnected because you don’t have personal connections to the other participants. In the end I found myself wishing I lived in a city where the Girls Night In organizes in-person book club gatherings.

If you’re interested in trying an online book club, you might try one of these:

Girls Night In

Books chosen: monthly

Participation: Hashtag #GNIreads on Instagram or Twitter as you read along, or attend in-person gatherings (Currently in 9 cities: NYC, LA, SF, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston, Toronto, Austin, and Alexandria.)

 

Reese’s Book Club Hello Sunshine

Books chosen: monthly

Book giveaways: Yes.

Participation: Follow @reesesbookclubxhellosunshine on instagram. Participate in discussions on Goodreads in the Reese’s Book Club x Hello Sunshine Group.

 

Harry Potter Alliance: Apparating Library Book Club 

Books chosen: quarterly

Participation: $35 lifetime membership & library card. Follow @FotALBookClub on Twitter, join the Friends of the Apparating Library Book Club on Facebook, join the discussions in the Friends of the Apparating Library Book Club group on Goodreads.

 

Trip Fiction Book Club

Book chosen: every 2 months

Book giveaways: Yes. Paperback copies (UK only), digital copy available and to those outside the UK

Participation: Add your thoughts to the discussion via Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram @TripFiction and Hashtag #TFBookClub. Also follow the Youtube and Pinterest accounts at the same @. Add your thoughts about the book in the comments of the dedicated blog post on the website.

Let’s Talk!

Are you in a book club? Do you participate in an online book club? Tell us about it! What are your thoughts on in-person vs. online book discussions? Let’s discuss in the comments below!

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