How to Run a Successful Online Book Club

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Lockdown has given the bog-standard book club format a modern renaissance, with a digital makeover allowing them to be seen as cool again.

Online book clubs hosted on zoom or social media offer a new way for people to virtually connect over a shared hobby.

Continued uncertainty over coronavirus restrictions and an increase in people isolating themselves at home make this a great time to join or start a book club. Alice Porter ran a locked book club through her Instagram page and blog. I asked Alice for her advice on how to start a book club.

Alice’s top six tips for creating a successful book club:

1. Be flexible. Book clubs can seem like a pretty big commitment. You don’t have to make any rules to start with, and I encourage you to allow it to grow as a collaborative effort with everyone. You can focus on reading one book or discuss a range of different books.

2. Contact us on social networks. Instagram stories are a useful way to connect, so you can run a poll to register people’s interest. Online book clubs provide space to chat with friends, as well as people you’ve never met before, so make the most of social media.

3. Keep an eye out for opportunities. Book clubs can be an expensive commitment. My book club was able to keep costs low because we got involved in the Book Agency’s collaboration with the Women’s Prize. The #ReadingWomen initiative has released three previous women’s award winners in book clubs across the UK. It was a really cool collaboration to be involved in, and it meant no one had to worry about how they would pay for the books.

4. Democracy is the key. The #ReadingWomen initiative saved us the stress of choosing the books ourselves. It can be difficult to make democratic decisions about books if everyone has different reading tastes. I think it’s important to allow everyone in the book club to be part of the decision-making process. If you’re struggling to come up with that initial list, try picking a topic like women’s books or previous Man Booker Prize winners. Focus on something that unites the groups reading tastes.

5. Make sure there is no pressure. I already studied English literature at university, so I know the stress that can come from having to read books. I never wanted my book club to feel like an obligation. It’s important to make sure people feel comfortable attending the book club even if they haven’t read anything that week.

6. Be prepared but ready to deviate from your course. I think it’s good to have a list of questions to ask at the book club, especially during the first meetings where everyone can be a little shy. But don’t be afraid to ignore them when the discussion starts to take shape. You can always come back to them if it falls flat again!

Online book clubs to discover:

Facebook groups including Gals Who Graduate have founded locked-out book clubs that continue to thrive. Check out their Facebook page and join the private group for reading inspiration.

The Feminist Collective at the University of Manchester set up a successful book club on Instagram in conjunction with the Literacy Peak Project. This month they are focusing on Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman. Click on their Instagram to see how you can get involved.

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