Here’s something you can still do very well while staying at home to avoid the omicron variant of Covid-19: Read a book.
Another thing you can do effectively while isolating yourself? Join a book club.
Of course, it will be different without everyone crowding on the same couch or meeting at a favorite cafe. But according to three book clubbers (longtime host Barbara VanDenburgh, regular reader Mary Cadden and newbie Carly Mallenbaum all collaborated on this story), the virtual book club has the potential to be a rewarding get-together. and intimate that serves as a schedule engagement that you’re actually excited for.
Plus, you can invite people who don’t live in your city or even your time zone!
So how do you start a successful book club during lockdown? We have some tips:
Stay away, together:A newsletter on how to deal with the coronavirus pandemic
Start with a small guest list
If you’re a book club newbie, 10 guests is a great place to start. Chances are only half of those people will show up, and then only half of those people will have read the book in time (more on that later); two or three actively engaged discussion participants is a lot! When deciding book chat times, be aware of time zones to create a gathering time that works for everyone, and it’s not a bad idea to make calendar invites for that time. (Carly’s bicoastal book club meets around 5:00 p.m. PDT / 8:00 p.m. EDT.)
Prepare for a video chat on Zoom
At this point, chances are you’ve been using the Zoom video conferencing app for business meetings, happy hours, or even Passover seders. We also recommend Zoom for book clubs!
If you’re new to Zoom: You need a computer, smartphone, or tablet with a camera. Start by going to the Zoom website or downloading the app and registering your account. From there, once registered, click on “Host a meeting” and send the invitation URL to other people to join. (Learn more about privacy precautions when using Zoom here.)
Consider using virtual meeting features
You can’t meet in person, so why not add a bit of fantasy to the meeting and have members create a virtual background based on the book? Upload an image of where the book is located geographically or historically, or find a virtual background that represents what you think of the book. This will certainly spark a discussion.
If you’re worried about everyone talking to each other, choose a moderator and ask people to give their opinion using the raise of hands feature, with the moderator calling out each individual. However, Barbara hosted virtual book clubs with over 40 participants without using this feature and instead let the conversation flow organically. So riding it, even with a larger group, is perfectly fine.
Anticipate awkward breaks
We’re not saying you and your friends are clumsy. You are not clumsy! OK, we’re all a little clumsy on video chats, but don’t worry! If the connections are uneven and not everyone knows each other, you run the risk of a lull in the conversation. Prepare for that with these two words: Discussion. Instructions.
Some books have reading group guides, which are helpful. But sometimes the suggested questions can be dense, with questions about theme and structure that can make the book club feel more like an English lesson than a fun time with friends. Here are some backup prompts you can refer to if you need to shift gears in conversation on any book:
- How would you cast the film version of the book?
- Which character did you hate/love the most in the book and why?
- How did you feel when you finished the book? Sad? Satisfied? Research?
- Was there a part of the book that you would have liked to write? Do you have any favorite lines?
- What outcome did you anticipate that has not been revealed?
- Did this book remind you of others you’ve read?
- If you could talk to the author, what question would you most like to ask?
- Did you learn anything?
- Have you read similar books and how does this one compare?
- Would you recommend this book to others?
What to eat? It’s BYOB, of course
Some books naturally lend themselves to specific menus – scones and tea for everything Agatha Christie, homemade butterbeer (that’s a gimmick) for “Harry Potter” – but even if the pairing isn’t obvious, it’s nice to do get creative with cultural drinks and dishes. to go with a transporting read. Mary’s favorite deal was when her club was enjoying a Cuban meal and drinking mojitos while discussing Oscar Hijuelos’ “The Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love.” But not being able to meet in person is pretty good news right now: you don’t have to serve everyone, so there’s less pressure on the meal.
Limit background noise
The book club is a time to talk about the book, not to overhear a call to work from a friend’s spouse. Be aware of noise in your home when joining a book club and try to call from a private room and wear headphones so other readers feel they can openly discuss the book, or even their personal lives, without worry about the judgment of people who aren’t in the club (and keep your microphone muted when you’re not speaking). Carly makes an exception for her partner, though: He can come into the office during book club to pour her more wine in silence.
Don’t worry about the “book” in book club
The main purpose of a reading group is to have a meaningful discussion. Often the conversation veers away from the book actually read (or unread) before the meeting. It’s more than correct. Really, a book club is a ruse to get people to connect and to give you a deadline to finish a book you might never have had time to read otherwise. But if you don’t meet that deadline, that’s perfectly OK.
Choose an accessible book, literally and figuratively
Since many people are still choosing to stay home and book shortages are due to supply chain issues, it’s a good idea to choose a title that club members can download to e-readers, at the if a physical copy is not available. But the inability to get and finish a book shouldn’t stop people from joining your club! A rule for Mary’s group: You don’t have to read the book; you just need to be willing to talk.
Consider how questionable the book is when selecting
Some books naturally lend themselves to more meaningful discussions. Barbara has found that books that deal with social issues (racism, inequality, class, etc.) allow for more passionate conversations and juicy stories with plot-driven twists that have some of the aforementioned depth (Celeste Ng’s ” Little Fires Everywhere,” for example) practically discuss themselves. Don’t shy away from unconventional or challenging selections, either. Disagreement is a key ingredient to interesting book club conversations, so don’t be afraid to choose something that isn’t a guaranteed crowd favorite.
You do not know where to start ? Try one of these books
- “The Sentence”, by Louise Erdrich. From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author comes the story of a bookstore in Minneapolis that is haunted by its most annoying customer, Flora, who refuses to leave even in death.
- “The Lincoln Highway”, by Amor Towles. Following Towles’ latest novel, ‘A Gentleman in Moscow,’ comes the story of Emmett Watson, who has just emerged from a juvenile work farm and hits the road on a tour through 1950s America. .
“How beautiful we were”, by Imbolo Mbue. From the bestselling author of “Behold the Dreamers” comes the radical story of an African village on a collision course with an American oil company and those who take a stand and fight against colonialism and capitalism.
“Klara and the Sun”, by Kazuo Ishiguro. From the Nobel Prize-winning author of ‘Never Let Me Go’ and ‘The Remains of the Day’ comes a new story told from the perspective of Klara, an artificial friend who watches the world from her place in the store, hoping someone will choose it.
“One Got Away”, by SA Lelchuk. Private detective (and bookseller) Nikki Griffin returns for a new case when a con man swindles the matriarch of one of San Francisco’s wealthiest families.
Films of Affection, by Michael Koresky. Film writer Koresky credits his mother for nurturing his love of filmmaking, and in this tender memoir through film, revisits with her the female-focused films that impacted them both.
“The Four Winds” by Kristin Hannah. From the author of “The Great Alone” comes an epic romance of hope and sacrifice against the backdrop of the Great Depression. In 1934 Texas, Elsa Martinelli must travel west in search of an ever-elusive better future.
“The Prophets”, by Robert Jones Jr. This powerful first novel centers on a forbidden love between Isaiah and Samuel, two enslaved homosexuals who manage to maintain a romantic relationship on a plantation in Mississippi.