How To

How to Join a Book Club Online

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Alison Doherty

Senior Contributor

Alison Doherty is a writing teacher and part time assistant professor living in Brooklyn, New York. She has an MFA from The New School in writing for children and teenagers. She loves writing about books on the Internet, listening to audiobooks on the subway, and reading anything with a twisty plot or a happily ever after.

Even when there isn’t a global pandemic, joining an IRL bookclub can have plenty of obstacles. Introverts in particular might dread energy-draining social interaction. And in-person bookclubs can often be frustrating for other reasons as well. They often fizzle out or keep getting postponed when members can’t find a date to meet that works for everyone. Also, if you are a stickler for always reading the book (the way I am), forget about it. In all of the many book clubs I’ve been in, there have usually only been one or two other people who actually finished the book. The book club meetings can often turn into everyone just talking about themselves—which is totally fine. It’s just not fulfilling the literary needs that make a lot of readers seek out book clubs in the first place. The answer for some literature lovers is to move to an online group. Hence the question: How to join a book club online?

Online Book Clubs Versus In Person Book Clubs

Traditionally, book clubs have met in person. They usually meet once a month or a few times a year, although personally for IRL bookclubs I’m a big fan of the one-time book club approach. And they meet in bookstores, libraries, someone’s home, or coffee shops. Some are large with just a few people deciding the books and making up discussion questions. Others are smaller groups of friends who take turns choosing books and hosting or vote on book group decisions.

This might sound obvious, but online book clubs take place…online! This can, however, can mean a lot of different things. Some online book clubs mimic in-person ones, by members meeting at the same time over video chat platforms like Skype, Google Hangouts, and Zoom to discuss the chosen book. Others use message boards on sites like Reddit or Goodreads and social media hashtags for members to communicate with each other, which can be done on everyone’s own time. Online bookclubs also differ in their scope. The largest online book clubs often have tens of thousands of members. This is obviously a very different experience, with pros and cons, than a cozy IRL bookclub.

How to Join a Book Club Online

The first step in joining a book club online is thinking about what you want. Do you want the books to have a specific genre or theme? Does meeting via video chat appeal to you or is not talking to people the whole reason you want to join a bookclub online? Are you willing to pay a small fee for a more exclusive experience? These are all questions you should ask yourself before you decide on an online book club.

Each online book club may have slightly different methods for joining. For some you may need to officially register and perhaps pay a small fee. Other’s will just list the next book they are reading and how to participate, such as relevant hashtags or message boards.

Preparing for Your Online Book Club

The next step is reading the book! While in many in person book clubs reading the book is optional, when you join a book club online reading the book is essential. Otherwise you won’t get much out of the experience, because there isn’t the in-person socialization. While you are reading, take note of interesting points from the book that you might want to talk about. In particular, think about what moments, characters, issues from the book that people might disagree about. This will make for the liveliest discussion, whether via text or video chat. You might also want to do some research on the book or author to augment the experience. Reading one or two reviews or finding an author interview are two great ideas to provide more context.

One of the truly wonderful things about online book clubs is that you can participate as much, or as little, as you want. But I think the more you get involved the more you will get out of it. For social media based clubs, think about photos you can take to accompany your post. And if your club has a live chat aspect, have the book with you for the meeting so you can look up quotations!

Five Online Book Clubs You Can Join Right Now

Book Riot’s The Quarterly Group Read

The Quarterly Group Read is available to all Epic members of Book Riot Insiders. Every three months members will vote on what book to read from a list specially curated by Book Riot’s staff to meet one of the Read Harder 2020 goals, like reading a debut novel by a queer author or a mystery where the victim is not a woman. The online book club will feature a discounted copy of the book, group page goals, and online discussion questions. The quarterly read will culminate with a video chat meeting lead by a discussion leader from Book Riot’s staff, which will be taped for members who are unavailable to join. This is a wonderful option for readers who don’t want their TBR overwhelmed by a new book every month. Other benefits include the privacy of the group and the exciting hybrid of discussion boards and a video chat. Epic members pay a monthly fee of $7 or a yearly $69 fee. For this you will not only get access to The Quarterly Group Read, you’ll also receive exclusive newsletters and interactive podcasts, special book deals, access to the New Release Index, and more!

The Rumpus Book Club

If you are looking to join a book club online paired with a subscription service, The Rumpus Book Club does both! For $30 a month you will receive a book in the mail that hasn’t been released yet. Discussion opportunities will occur throughout the month as you read the book and then will culminate with a moderated discussion with the book’s author at the end of the month. Past books featured in the club have included An Untamed State by Roxane Gay and Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado. The Rumpus also has a Poetry Book Club that works the same way. And if you want, you can sign up for both for the discounted price of $50 a month. To join in, sign up by the 15th of the month to receive the following month’s book. For international readers, the Rumpus doesn’t offer subscriptions outside of the U.S. for now, but they hope to in the future.

Goodreads Choice Awards Book Club

Goodreads is the platform that many online book clubs big and small use to connect. It’s even primarily where the famous Our Shared Shelf feminist book club and Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 congregate. Goodreads Choice Awards Book Club is one of the most active. They dedicate themselves to reading through the books that won the previous years Goodreads Choice Awards. This is a great book club to join if you would like to read recently published books from a variety of categories. It also is a good option for readers who want to avoid a video chat. If you have a Goodreads account, the next step to joining is easy: just follow the link and click join group in the top left corner of the page. Then begin reading and responding to the threads that feel relevant to you. Along with monthly reads from the previous year’s winners, the group votes on additional nominee books to reads. All in all, a very easy book club to pick and choose what you read.

Black Girls With Magic

This is a brand new online book club community created to celebrate and amplify science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction written by Black women, nonbinary, trans, queer, and disabled authors. It launched this month from YA author Dhonielle Clayton, with help from agent, editor, and author Patrice Caldwell. It provides month choices, online discussions, and plans to expand into in-person meetings and writing retreats once it is safe to do so. To join the community sign up for the newsletter and begin by reading this month’s inaugural pick A Phoenix First Must Burn. You can also participate by following the group’s Instagram and using the hashtag #BlackGirlsWithMagicBooks.

Quarantine Book Club

Another new book club that’s arisen in these weird times is the Quarantine Book Club. This group operates quite differently than the others. Twice every weekday members can login to Zoom video chats with authors for a fee of $5 per event. After buying a ticket you will be sent a Zoom link two hours before the event. And for those in need, the code ALLAREWELCOME gets you into into events for free. It’s not always easy to plan ahead for these meetings. But it’s a good resource to browse through and find authors you’ve read and loved to connect with. In the last month, since the Quarantine Book Club started, many different genres have been represented. They include design, nonfiction, YA, literary fiction, picture books, science writing, true crime, and more.

For more ideas for how to join a book club online, here is a list of 15 of the best online book clubs to join in 2020 and a guide on how to start your own book club online. Happy reading and connecting with other literature lovers!