June 26, 2022

Book Club Reboot: Emma Watson, Florence Welch and the Best New Online Book Groups | Books

I have a theory: it’s harder to move into a house with people you know than with people you don’t know. Why? Expectations. The same can be said for a book club: better to be in a book club with people you don’t know than people you know.

We don’t expect to talk about the things in life – home, work, whatever. You form relationships as you get to know each other, and a charming bond develops. There is no expectation of what you will think of the text. As different people pick it out, you can discover a diversity of perspectives that probably wouldn’t come from your tribe.

But how do you go about joining a book club where you don’t know anyone? Simple: ask Siri!

There’s a whole range of digital book clubs, hosted on Goodreads, Google Groups, Facebook, Tumblr, apps and more. Digital book clubs also avoid time management expectations – text can be properly deconstructed on the bus, in bed or at the coffee shop. All you have to do is log in, buy your book, and start commenting.

Our shared shelf

Last week, Emma Watson scattered copies of her book club’s latest reading around the London Underground. UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, the Harry Potter starlet, left notes in each one to be found by 100 wide-eyed Wi-Filess tube riders. “When you’re done, please leave it on the tube again for someone else to find,” they read. She’s annoyingly perfect, isn’t she?

The initiative was part of Books on the Underground’s project to bring new and used books to commuters, and served as a handy bait for readers to join its online book club, Our Shared Shelf, which can be found among other online clubs on Goodreads. . Her picks are “funny, inspirational, thought-provoking and uplifting” reads, ranging from feminist Gloria Steinem to riot rocker Carrie Brownstein.

Example playlist: Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Around the World by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn; Hunger makes me a modern Carrie Brownstein girl; The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi; The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson; Alice Walker’s color purple.

Book Club Tumblr Reblog

While bloggers have held book clubs on Tumblr before, the Reblog book club is the first to be founded and moderated by staff. Led by Tumblr’s Director of Literary Outreach, Rachel Fershleiser, the picks are suitable for people ages 13 and older, chosen primarily to represent the Tumblr community, which Fershleiser says “is a bit nerdy, a bit progressive, and a bit fandom”.

Example playlist: Rainbow Rowell Fangirl; The Impossible Knife from Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson; California by Edan Lepucki; Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson; Sea salt from Ruta Sepetys.

between two books

Four years ago, Florence + the Machine fans, singer Florence Welch, started a book club in her honor. When the singer learned about it via Twitter, she jumped in with encouragement and suggested their first book (Opposed Positions by Gwendoline Riley). She has since supported the Facebook-based club with takes at concerts and by answering readers’ questions when, for example, she interviewed Donna Tartt. Welch also facilitated guest recommendations from poet Nayyirah Waheed and model activist Adwoa Aboah.

Example playlist: Kirsten Reed’s Ice Age; Their Eyes Beheld God by Zora Neale Hurston; A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole; Birthday letters from Ted Hughes; Just children of Patti Smith.

Women’s Life Book Club

New York-based writer and editor Rachel Syme was fascinated by the lives of women. (She used to spend nights browsing Wikipedia pages reading ancient matriarchs.) In an effort to get others to pay attention to those lives, she started her book club Women’s Lives, dedicated to reading more books (mainly non-fiction) about women and by women. On the day of its launch, 175 people signed up through Google groups. Since then, he’s gained endorsement from Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls organization and plenty of momentum under the #wlclub hashtag.

Example playlist: The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes by Janet Malcolm; Wrapped in Rainbows by Zora Neale Hurston; Writing a Woman’s Life by Carolyn Heilbrun; The Witches: Salem, 1962 by Stacy Schiff; Jessa Crispin’s Dead Ladies Project.

Zoelle book club

British vlogger Zoella confesses that reading is one of the only things she does that doesn’t require a Wi-Fi connection. Her book club does though. The YouTube star and now best-selling author has teamed up with bookseller WH Smith to provide his millions of teenage fans with reviews and interviews from young adult fiction authors – what The Guardian’s Amelia Tait wrote tends toward “cute and sparkly” fiction about beautiful white girls who fall for manic pixie dream boys.

Example playlist: Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher; Rainbow Rowell Fangirl; We Were Liars by E Lockhart; The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson; Everything, everything by Nicola Yoon; Beautiful things broken by Sara Barnard.

— Zoë (@Zoella) October 19, 2016n","url":"https://twitter.com/zoella/status/788821687592710145","id":"788821687592710145","hasMedia":false,"role":"inline","isThirdPartyTracking":false,"source":"Twitter","elementId":"58704b02-d51c-4c7d-b592-a60e3c951896"}}'>

In fact, I’m glad so many of you like my book club picks or are excited to read them ☺️📚

— Zoe (@Zoella) October 19, 2016

Lively book club

Nine months ago, US millennial women’s website Bustle teamed up with Alloy Entertainment Group and launched its own book club and app. The club is all about nostalgia – reading books that were meaningful to the Bustle staff during their teenage years. It might be an odd choice for 18-35 year olds, but in 2013 site founder Bryan Goldberg said he wanted the content to be accessible. And with Bustle’s shared editorial direction, the digital book club comes into its own: easy-to-read ideas for everyone.

Example playlist: Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume; The Witches by Roald Dahl; Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes.

Andrew Luck’s Book Club

Female celebrities aren’t the only ones playing the book club influence game. Enter American football quarterback Andrew Luck, also known as Indiana Colt’s unofficial librarian. When announcing the club’s launch in April 2016, he admitted the moniker was “a bit corny…but the truth is I love reading both fiction and non-fiction and I strongly feel the power of reading”. He has selections for “rookie” and “veteran” level readers – made up mostly of books he’s read and loved over the years.

Example playlist: The Boat Boys by Daniel James Brown; Jerry Spinelli’s Maniac Magee; Hatchet by Gary Paulsen; The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis.

The monthly book club

Australian news magazine The Monthly is part of the Schwartz Media group, which publishes Black Inc books and the Saturday Paper. They have plenty of writers – and readers – under their belt. It’s the perfect setup for a book club. It’s hosted (you guessed it) monthly by journalist Ramona Koval, and the reading list is packed with Australian writers, from Helen Garner to David Malouf and Richard Flanagan.

Example playlist: The Book of Strange and New Things by Michel Faber; This House of Sorrow by Helen Garner; Claimant by Janette Turner Hospital; Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose; A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride; Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas.

Wired book club

In early 2016, US tech magazine Wired renamed its entertainment section “culture” and decided to ramp up its lit coverage. With a nod to science and technology, its digital book club covers all things science fiction and fantasy. Hosted on the site weekly, staff ask leading questions (“so how about that tone in Too Like the Lightning?”) with readers who respond in comment threads.

Example playlist: The fifth season of NK Jemisin; Auxiliary Justice by Ann Leckie; The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss; The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer.

My Awesome Book Club

The Melbourne-based Emerging Writers’ Festival has for the past three years ventured outside of the UNESCO Literary City through its digital component, the Digital Writers’ Festival. This year it hosted My Brilliant Bookclub with My Brilliant Career by Stella Miles Franklin as the central text. Using the Genius app, readers can doodle, speak and unzip the online version, bringing the 100-year-old text into the 21st century.

Reading list: My Brilliant Career by Stella Miles Franklin.

This story was edited on November 16 to clarify that the books chosen by Zoella’s book club are more varied than originally implied.