8 Steps To Start a Virtual Book Club
If “read more” is one of your New Year’s resolutions for 2021, then you’re in luck. Now that you’re stuck at home, what better time to crack open the novel that’s been sitting on your nightstand? In addition to the incredible benefits of reading — including stress reduction, better sleep, brain strengthening, and an increased lifespan — you have the opportunity to make reading a social experience this year by creating your very own virtual book club. With Zoom and eBooks at your fingertips, forming a tight-knit reading circle can be an excellent (and easy) way to connect with people in other geographies and time zones. Best of all, you can do it from the comfort of your own home. Read on to learn our tips on how to start a book club — virtually.
1. Decide What Kind of Book Club You Want to Start
Before you invite your members, think about the kind of book club you want to start. What are you interested in reading? Do you have a penchant for commercial bestsellers, or are you drawn to literary classics? Is your reading list full of sci-fi hits or romance paperbacks? What about memoirs or short story collections? Do you dabble in a bit of everything? Having an idea of what you hope to read can help you determine whether you want your book club to be themed or open-ended, as well as who to invite.
2. Invite Your Members
Though Zoom makes it possible for your book club to have dozens of members, keeping it small-scale — between six and 10 people — will still give everyone a chance to participate in group discussions without the risk of the meeting running over. If you don’t know six to 10 people to include, consider extending an invite to a few friends and asking them to reach out to a few of theirs.
3. Set Up a Recurring Date and Time for Your Meetings
Once your members have confirmed that they’re in, get everyone together digitally in a Facebook group or email chain. In your intro message, send out a poll with a tool like Facebook polls (if everyone is on Facebook), Google Forms or Doodle with questions such as:
What day of the week works best for you?
What time of day works best for you?
How often would you like to meet?
Review the responses (taking special care to account for time zones). If there’s a unanimous agreement, you can go ahead and set up a calendar invite. If not, narrow down your options and move to a second round of polling.
5. Vote on a Book
To make the book club fun, it’s key that everyone gets a chance to provide input on the book choice. You can opt for a rotating model, where each person eventually decides on a book. (Instead of going in alphabetical order, make it fun by coming up with a game — like guessing a random number or trivia — to decide who’s up next.) You can also check out a book list such as Goodread’s Best Books of 2020 or Buzzfeed’s 21 Books by POC Writers and send out a poll to members. Alternatively, make it easy for everyone by simply tagging along with another book club’s picks, such as Reese’s Book Club, Roxane Gay’s Book Club, or Oprah’s Book Club.
5. Pick a Moderator
“Going with the flow” or “keeping things organic” is nice in theory, but in practice, they can steer a book club off the rails. A designated moderator can help reschedule meetings when necessary, send out Zoom links and reminders, and even facilitate discussions. It’s up to the group to hash out the exact responsibilities of the moderator, but if it already sounds like too much responsibility, don’t fret — each member (or a select group of members) can take turns at the helm.
6. Make the Reading and Meeting Experience Fun
Remember, even though the book is bringing the group together, it’s not the end all be all. Keeping the energy lively can be challenging over Zoom, but there are plenty of ways to make the virtual experience fun. Have dinner discussions where everyone prepares or orders a specific type of food (it can be a dish from the book you’re reading or a theme as general as Mediterranean March) as well as meetings where everyone matches Zoom backgrounds. Leave room for at least 15 minutes before the meeting for people to settle in and catch up about life.
7. Use Discussion Guides to Get the Conversation Going
Awkward pauses and shyness are natural in any book club, so having a list of conversation-starting questions is bound to come in handy. Encourage members to bring in their favorite quotes to share, or share a few sentences from positive and negative critics’ reviews with the group to stoke discussion. Sites like ReadingGroupGuides have free in-depth discussion guides for a wide range of books, but if you can’t find one for your specific read, pick from these 40 questions from Book Riot.