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For years, I wanted to join a book club, but living in a small town in a foreign country when I didn’t yet master the language made it difficult for me to find the book club that worked for me.
Last August I moved to Rotterdam, by far the most international city I have lived in. Once here, it was easy to find an English-speaking book club, and once I settled into town, I wasted no time signing up for one.
Book club bored to death is known for two main things: they only read books in English, and they try as much as possible to choose books that are a bit under the mainstream radar.
In January of this year, I finally attended my first session, and had a blast talking about Drive your plow over the bones of the dead by Olga Tokarczuk. At the end of the session, I concluded that it was even more than I had hoped for and I was delighted to be part of this group of readers to discuss a different book each month. But then, just as the April session was about to take place, COVID-19 arrived. We still meet online and continue our monthly sessions, but reading was a bit difficult for me later on, and I went through a bit of a slump. Even though I have more free time and stay home most of the time, my mind refuses to read anything. So, I jumped from book to book, trying to find the ones I can sort out in these times.
So if at book club we discuss a book once a month, but I’m having trouble finishing my assigned books, how do I discuss which books I can read right now? moment – the quick, easy, straight-forward stories that my brain doesn’t reject? A book club app, called Byzans.
I discovered the app last year and it has been incredibly useful to me, especially during this time. But what are Byzans, you ask? The creators call it the book chat app, which pretty much sums up what you can do with it. Personally, I consider it a book club in my pocket. Simply put, it is an app used to connect with other book lovers to talk about the books you are reading.
In some ways, it’s similar to Goodreads, if you use Goodreads more to keep track of your books, and your “book friends” are anyone who reads the same book as you.
Once you download the app you can search for a book – you can also just scan a book – and once you choose an action (want to read, currently reading or reading) the app will immediately add the book to your personal account. account, and welcomes you to a group where you can start a conversation with anyone who is in the same place as you: either wanting to read it, reading it, or who has read it. Also, the app was created to avoid spoilers as much as possible. Once in the group, you can discuss the book in two ways: The Café allows you to discuss more generally; The Living Room allows you to start conversation topics related to different chapters. So, if you want to delve deeper into a section of the book, you can simply post a new topic in Le Salon, mentioning the chapter or section you are in. This way, anyone who has read this chapter can come join the conversation without fear of getting the book spoiled! In addition to that, they also have the option to mark text as a spoiler directly when you tap on the app.
And if you’re done with the book discussion, you can leave the group while keeping the book in your personal profile. So no unnecessary posts on your timeline.
The app is super simple, which makes it quite intuitive, and that’s one of the main reasons why I prefer it over other similar platforms. You don’t have to try to figure things out, what you see is what you get. All the questions and doubts I had about the app were answered on their small FAQ page.
4 ways to use Byzans this quarantine (and, certainly, beyond)
To keep track of what you read or want to read
As mentioned above, the platform works much like Goodreads, so you can use it to keep your books under control.
Connect with other book lovers
It’s so easy to start a discussion and find other people who love books and read the same as you, that you’ll end up feeling even more connected to the book community. Sometimes we really need someone to talk to about a book, and Byzans provides that without having to leave the house.
Organize silent readings
Over the past few months, I’ve had such a hard time concentrating on my reading that the only way to overcome difficult books seems to be to organize silent book clubs. There’s something about being held accountable that surely works for me. I could easily take an hour out of my day and read, but with no one to share the experience with, I’ll probably be staring at my phone with an open book in my hand, untouched, after 20 minutes. When you organize a silent reading, you and the other person owe each other something, and it becomes easier to spend that hour reading, without giving in to distractions.
Every once in a while I pop into Byzans and ask if anyone is willing to do a silent reading. We then set a time, chat a bit in The Salon under a new thread before we get started, and an hour later we come back to talk – spoiler-free – about the progress we’ve made during that time. Works every time and I’ve finished more than one book this way.
In all honesty, to organize them, you don’t even have to read the same book. The app is just a good way to connect.
Feeling less alone while being able to regain limits
Social isolation can be difficult, and having an app that lets us connect with like-minded people is helpful. But, a lot of times, it’s also nice to be able to take a step back when sharing information gets a bit too much.
Although reading is very often a solitary pastime, it doesn’t always have to be. Currently, some are reading less, others are reading more, and the app is a great way to keep conversations going without any strings attached. Users are just readers, ready to talk about the books they love or hate, without the pressure to stay in touch.
I hope you are being kind to yourself during this time. Time and mental space aren’t always in sync, and while many seem to believe that more time should mean more work, these aren’t ordinary times.
Read for fun, at your own pace, and I hope you manage to get good debates out of everything you read. All this, from the safety of your home.