Whether you call it social distancing, shelter in place, or hashtag Stay Home, your book club is probably not meeting at the coffee shop this month. There are, however, a number of virtual book club options, some well-established already and some cropping up now to meet the recent demand of people who wish to discuss books remotely. Why not give one a try?
Life’s Library is one of my favorite already-established digital book clubs. Under the auspices of DFTBA (Don’t Forget to be Awesome), “Life’s Library was created by John Green and Rosianna Halse Rojas to celebrate two of their favourite things: good books and good communities. With a list carefully selected by John and Rosianna, the book club will introduce you to great books you may not have heard of. We’ll read them closely and thoughtfully and discuss each book over the course of the six weeks on the Life’s Library Discord. Pull up your comfiest reading chair and join us.” As they say on their website.
For this book club, you get assigned a cohort based on which picture of a bookshelf you select from a list. I’ve been thrilled with mine so far, so I think it works. Life’s Library has tiered membership that benefits and proceeds go to Partners in Health, so that you can be a paying member and get perks, or merely participate in the group discussions on Discord for free. This time around, they’ve selected a book in the public domain so everyone has access to it for free, digitally and immediately.
Comix Experience is an independent comics shop in San Francisco that has a graphic novel of the month club, which will mail you a physical book each month and then send you the url for a live chat about that book with the creators. There is both a kids and a grownups version of this club. I wrote about joining this one as part of the WWAC comics resolutions round up earlier this year, and so far the selections are interesting and the virtual creator chats are, too. While this club is not focused on interaction, it’s nice to have a physical book arrive, and nice to observe the video chat.
When We Read Book Club is an Instagram book club that says, “When We Read is an all inclusive book club reading stories by writers of color. We read for self-care, wellness & agency of friendship.” It is led by Ebony of @bookedandrooted. I just … books and plants, you know? Books and plants. I just got started on this one, because I follow her plants account and Ebony had her followers vote to narrow down the book selection, which I liked. April’s read is the novel Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham, and I’m eager to see how an Instagram book club works.
The NYPL/WNYC Virtual Book Club was launched only recently, and while it is theoretically primarily for New Yorkers, I don’t think they’re checking. “The New York Public Library and WNYC — two indispensable New York institutions — are partnering to host a virtual book club to bring New Yorkers together and foster community during an unprecedented time of social separation,” they say. Through the month of April, there will be discussions of National Book Award Winner, Deacon King Kong by James McBride, culminating in “McBride, Stewart, and readers everywhere on Thursday, April 30 at 7 PM” engaging in “a live stream conversation and audience Q&A.”
Homegrown ad-hoc book clubs are also, as always, a thing, just digitally for now. In the span of a couple days, I got an email from my co-host about plans to reconfigure our one-off book club meeting for the new Murderbot novel in May to make it happen online instead of in his apartment; a Google form to fill out for another friend who is starting up a remote book club and gauging interest; and an email from a colleague suggesting that our department book club might have our once-a-semester meeting over Zoom this time, to discuss Station Eleven. Ideally, I’m in for all three. And all of the above options, too.
However much interaction you want, whatever you want to read, there’s a digital option! Explore yours.