November 17, 2016
The rise of the online book club in a digital age
by Nikki Griffiths
The idea of joining a book club can be appealing to us bookworms, but there is so much organizing… you have to get a group of likeminded people together, you have to find a date and place you can all meet, someone might have to host (think of the endless snack/drink combinations), you’ve got to choose a book… Decisions decisions!
Which could explain why the online book club is experiencing a boost in popularity, as recently reported in the Guardian and Bustle. You can pick and choose when you want to take part and log on from the comfort of your own home, with the anonymity of being able to express your views freely. If you’re thinking of giving it a go, here is a selection of a few different book clubs to suit various tastes:
UN Women goodwill ambassador Emma Watson started a rather inspiring feminist book club in January, and we were very proud to have our own Melville House UK author Maggie Nelson featured in May with her book The Argonauts. Hosted on Goodreads, Watson’s message to readers says:
“As part of my work with UN Women, I have started reading as many books and essays about equality as I can get my hands on. There is so much amazing stuff out there! Funny, inspiring, sad, thought-provoking, empowering! I’ve been discovering so much that, at times, I’ve felt like my head was about to explode… I decided to start a Feminist book club, as I want to share what I’m learning and hear your thoughts too.”
At the beginning of this month Watson travelled the London Underground distributing 100 free copies of the latest book club selection, with a note inside saying, “When you are finished please leave it on the tube again for someone else to find.” Nice touch.
Current book selection: Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou
- Zoella book club
There seems to be no stopping vlogger Zoella, who has now teamed up with WHSmith in the UK to promote her new book club, focusing on light and feminine YA fiction.
Each season she selects eight books and hosts book reviews and author chats over on the WHSmith YouTube page. Unsurprisingly given her millions of followers, this is one popular book club.
Current Book selection: Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell
- Wired book club
Wired announced their own online book club in May with the following statement on their site:
BOOK CLUBS NEVER last — or if they do, it’s because people show up for drinks and idle chatter about anything other than the book. Well, it’s time to fix that. That’s why today we’re announcing the launch of WIRED Book Club, wherein each month we read and discuss a new or recent science-fiction/fantasy novel. This is an all-hands effort, led by members of our culture, science, and design teams — and you. After all, speculative fiction demands some speculation.
Hosted on the magazine’s site, the club features questions posted by staff and encourages readers to participate on a weekly basis, often with an author chat at the end of the month. And very interestingly, they have decided to try a trilogy this month!
Now, that normally wouldn’t be possible with a dense, protracted, GRRM-style saga, but Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy is different. On the recommendation of his publisher, FSG Originals, VanderMeer released all three volumes in the same year. The idea was to do for book reading what Netflix did for TV: make it binge-able.
Get binging, readers.
Current book selections: Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer
- Reese Witherspoon’s book club
Yup, Reese Witherspoon has jumped on the book club bandwagon. Starting simply by posting on Instagram books Witherspoon was reading, the book club blossomed and now has a large following and a Facebook group. And saavy Ms. Witherspoon has certainly used her literary prowess to her advantage by turning two of her favourite books into films — she acted as producer on Gone Girl and Wild.
Current book selection: In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
- Good Housekeeping Book Room
The UK’s biggest-selling lifestyle magazine announced the launch of a new online book club last month. It will no doubt prove popular, as Good Housekeeping has long featured books both on- and offline. Expect an array of women’s fiction, although—refreshingly—the first book choice is something a little different. Follow them on Facebook.
Current book selection: Holding by Graham Norton
- The Literary Classics Online Book Club
If classics are more your thing then this is the book club for you! The club can be followed via their blog, as well as on Facebook.
The Literary Classics Online Book Club is specially tailored for people who enjoy reading and talking about classic literature. Each year, we will select six classic books to read and discuss. Throughout each book’s first month, participants can read the book and we will also post fun and interesting facts about that literary classic on the club’s social-media outlets. The second month we will post discussion questions for participants to read and comment on.
Current book selection: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Nikki Griffiths is the managing director of Melville House UK.