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Beyond Oprah, Reese, and Emma: More Online Book Clubs and Challenges

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Ashlie Swicker


Ashlie (she/her) is an educator, librarian, and writer. She is committed to diversifying the reading lives of her students and supporting fat acceptance as it intersects with other women’s issues. She's also perpetually striving to learn more about how she can use her many privileges to support marginalized groups. Interests include learning how to roller skate with her local roller derby team, buying more books than she'll ever read, hiking with her husband and sons, and making lists to avoid real work. You can find her on Instagram (@ashlieelizabeth), Twitter (@mygirlsimple) or at her website,

If you’re desperate to gush about your favorite books but despise occasions that require pants, we should be friends. After a childhood of voracious book consumption, I’ve recently returned to the bookish world as an adult, and I basically want to sing it from the rooftops, but without making any eye contact. I’m an extroverted introvert, and I use up most of my available social energy teaching in public school and taking my kids to their T ball practices. Enter the internet. You mean I can finish a book at midnight and start screaming to the void immediately? It’s possible to search the name of an adored author and get access to their political leanings (Twitter) and breakfast pictures (Instagram) without ever speaking to an actual human? The bookish internet has made it possible for me to connect with book lovers around the world from the comfort of my bathroom, and one of my favorite forms of interaction is online book clubs and reading challenges..

One quick Google search about online book clubs will remind you that Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, and Emma Watson have online platforms where they suggest and promote great reads, often highlighting books by women or with specific feminist themes. While it is plainly awesome to see celebrities with large influence spreading the bookish love, I have been curious about what else is available, especially on a smaller scale.  I’ve been running an online book club through my personal blog for awhile, and I’ve never really been able to nail the formula for success. How does the average book club hook readers, share commentary, and include their patrons in the conversation? In my research, I’ve come across a few different clubs and challenges that tackle this in different ways, and these are a few that I can’t keep to myself.

Lady Project Reads

The Lady Project is a women’s organization with chapters all around the country. While much of what The Lady Project does brings women together IRL, their book club, Lady Project Reads, gives women a chance to chat it up without foraying into the public sphere. Part of the success of Lady Project Reads is their private Facebook group, which allows people to post questions and share their thoughts without anything getting lost in a larger forum (which often happens when you use hashtags to keep things together), and they also stagger their selections quarterly, announcing a year’s worth of reading all at once. Right now, they’re reading The Big Life by Ann Shockett, who was a speaker at their annual Summit in March, and members can join an online conversation with the author at a set date. High quality organization, low commitment level- Lady Project Reads is aces.

Well Read Black Girl

The brainchild of “the future of reading,” Glory Edim, Well-Read Black Girl is a book club operating both online and in real life in Brooklyn. The club focuses on literature written by black women authors and operates as a place for black women to discuss not only terrific books but also the ways in which the themes and issues raised relate to their personal experiences. They feature an impressive list of book club guests, but the icing on the cake is that you are always free to read along from home! You can use the hashtag #wellreadblackgirl to connect with the club, the Instagram account is always sharing pictures from their events, and the YouTube page is stocked with Well-Read Black Girl Presents author videos. A wealth of bookish goodness at your fingertips- don’t miss Well-Read Black Girl.

Modern Mrs. Darcy

Modern Mrs. Darcy is a blog I’ve been following for years. Even as I’ve shed most of the mother/home/household blogs I followed right after having kids, I’ve always stuck with Anne, largely because interspersed among her thoughtful posts about streamlining schedules and adjusting to the changing seasons of family life is some seriously good bookish content. For years I’ve appreciated her popular summer reading lists, this year she created a choose-your-own-adventure style challenge, where you can pick tasks that lead you to Read for Fun or Read for Personal Growth. You can meet up with other readers using the hashtags #MMDchallenge or #MMDreads, and be sure to check out her post of recommendations for books that meet the challenge tasks. I find Modern Mrs. Darcy to be one of the last blogs with a truly active comment section, and there is a wealth of readerly gold to be found among the comments. Modern Mrs. Darcy also has a paid book club option, which I can’t speak to because I’ve never tried it, but there is so much to sift through that I suggest checking out the site and seeing what works for you.

Diversify the Verse

Diversify the Verse, an Instagram book club, is run by two young women who have a personal passion for diversity in literature. The books are all YA and so far have included All American Boys, The Secret of a Heart Note, and Challenger Deep. Beyond the organized read along schedules, discussion questions, and lovely photography, Alex and Belinda also pepper the account with diverse recommendations and lots of personal commentary about what the books mean to them. A suggested follow whether you plan on reading along or not, Diversify the Verse is an equally attractive and important project highlighting great YA literature.

Read Harder Challenge

So many excellent things have already been said about the Read Harder Challenge, but I’m going to say a few more. The biggest allure, for me, is the many different levels of interaction you can choose from when attempting this challenge. The basic concept is simple- choose a book that will fulfill one of the 24 reading tasks, and finish them all before the end of 2017. But there is so much more! You can choose to share when you’re reading on social media (and find others who are doing the same) using the hashtag #readharder. You can join the Goodreads group and get a more focused picture of who is reading what- this is another good place to expand your bookish internet circle. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even meet up IN PERSON with a group in your area. The Read Harder Challenge can shake up your reading life for sure, but feel free to use it as a tool to snatch up some new book-loving friends along the way.

If a challenge is what gets you going, check out this more comprehensive list of reading challenges from across the web. More interested in reaching out to like minded bookworms? Book Riot Insiders has a Slack channel (basically a magical set of themed book chat rooms) where BR editors and contributors chat about all things book with other hardcore readers. It’s been described as book Twitter without having to slog through actual Twitter, and it’s a pretty apt way to sum it up. Lots of gifs and no dress code? Check it out.

Here is where I turn to you and beg for more. Do you have a favorite bookish way of interacting in the digital world? Is there a bookstagram account that makes your TBR grow? A challenge hashtag that helps you find new titles and new friends? How do you wrangle the internet to meet your social/bookish needs?