At BookClub, we believe that books can change the world by introducing readers to different perspectives. Collectively gathering to discuss a book is a great way to learn more about the book and your friends. With the rise of video conferencing in 2020, it’s become increasingly easy for groups to meet and socialize virtually about a book, no matter where they are, but sometimes it might feel tricky to engage due to digital exhaustion. If you’re looking for a few ways to make your online book club a little more lively, check out a few of our favorite tips and tricks!
For new book clubs
When forming a new book club, poll the members of the group to see which genres are of greatest interest. Are members interested in sticking to best sellers or lesser-known authors? Determine everyone’s preferences ahead of time and choose books around them so your club is more likely to stay engaged. When it comes time to purchase said books, we recommend doing so via Bookshop.org in order to support independent bookstores no matter where you’re shopping from.
It’s important to remember not to schedule books too far out, as this could rule out reading exciting new releases or books that correlate with current issues. Stay fluid and flexible with your picks, take turns choosing the next book, or choose one at random. At BookClub, we recommend keeping your to-read list in a shared Google doc (or something similar) so people can add to it as new books come out that interest them. Stay updated on news and events and suggest titles that will keep people informed on current issues in order to keep the conversation flowing online. You could even make it an event and pick the next book out of a hat at the end of every meeting!
If book club hosts are worried about keeping the conversation flowing (and who wouldn’t be— having discussions through Zoom can be intimidating, especially if the group is large!) consider sending out a few questions to the group ahead of time to think about different themes and ideas while reading. Be sure to avoid spoilers, but help guide members as they are reading the book.
Additionally, look up book club discussion questions online or even consider a book that provides guided reading questions if enough interaction remains to be an issue as you develop your club. Two reads that include guiding questions at the end of the book are Caste by Isabel Wilkerson and The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.
For established clubs that just need a little more excitement
If your online book club has been meeting for some time now but just needs a little excitement because things have gotten stale (Zoom exhaustion is a thing!) a great way to liven things up is to theme your meeting around the readings. Announce the theme ahead of time to give members adequate time to prepare and participate so that everyone feels involved. Dress up as characters, perfect for fantasy books such as The Lost Queen by Signe Pike. Plan or send out themed snack ideas for members to make and enjoy virtually together, such as potato peel pie from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer or a signature cocktail recipe that complements the discussion; check out a list of our ideas here.
To really liven things up, consider a fun game for the group! Have members choose a character from a book and give them a different backstory. Consider if this person lived in another period or if their relationship with another character was different and how/ if it would change the narrative? Another game idea is to extend the ending of the read and create an epilogue for the story. What ended up happening to the characters? What will have changed in five years or remain the same?
Another way to create a connection with your group if you feel yours has drifted apart is to take ten minutes at the beginning of the meeting to catch up and ask what everyone has going on in their lives. Book clubs are a great way to learn from and support one another while fostering relationships with other members and learning from their perspectives. Make sure to let the conversation flow naturally, and try not to be too rigid with your time frames!
At BookClub, we love online book clubs—so much so, in fact, that we’ve been developing a platform to make them even better. Launching later this Spring, BookClub is a space for authors and readers to connect with one another via video and live audio. Author-led, BookClub prioritizes giving authors the space to talk about their books and giving readers access to the authors they love and other readers who enjoy the same books. Our platform will be a great place for you to expand your book club and learn more about the books you’re reading from the authors themselves.
At a time when many of us are isolated and away from our loved ones a virtual book club is a great way to connect and learn from one another’s perspectives, regardless of geographic location. Are you a part of a virtual book club? What have you done to liven up virtual book club meetings? Let us know by tweeting us @bookclubdotcom!