How to Start a Virtual Book Club: 9 helpful tips
We all have so many calendar commitments - kids sports, work events, household maintenance, etc. How about adding something fun to look forward to? Maybe you live in a small town; maybe your friends/family are scattered over the country; or you might just be hungry for a group of like-minded people to talk books with you. In these days of the proliferation of options to connect remotely, it's easier than ever to start your own virtual book club.
Here are a few suggestions and things to consider to get your virtual book club started.
1 - Start with a small guest list of 10-12 people as you begin so it's easier to iron out any problems you may encounter. Also, figure not everyone will show up and that's okay. Allow the group to grow organically as guests invite their friends or you find online friends to join. As your group expands, be aware of time differences if you get people from around the country or world. (How cool would it be to have international participants to offer their different perspectives??)
2 - Set up for online - sign up for Zoom or your platform of choice and make sure to familiarize yourself with the basics of how to invite others, etc. so at least one person at meeting can answer techy questions.
3 - Maximize the fun of being virtual by encouraging people to put up fake a background that reflects something about the book read - the location, the era, the people, etc. Be creative! Also, don't worry about people talking over each other (they do that in person too!); people will get comfortable with the talking pace quickly enough.
4 - Anticipate pauses in the conversation and have some questions prepared to encourage conversation. Try some of these:
- How would you cast the movie for this book?
- What character did you love/hate and why?
- What emotion did you feel when finished? Sad, satisfied, searching, excited, confused, etc.
- Was there a part that you wish you'd written? Fave lines?
- What outcome did you expect that didn't happen?
- Did the book remind you of others you've read?
- What would you like to ask the author?
- What did you learn?
- How does it compare to similar books?
- Would you recommend the book to others? Why or why not?
5 - Since it's a remote activity, it's BYOB/snack. Suggest everyone make something that sort of fits the theme of the place or era of the book and share recipes for any snacks or drinks made.
6 - Encourage everyone to find a quiet corner of their home and limit background noises so the voices are front and center. Headphones help. Request people mute when they're not talking so privacy is preserved and it's easier to hear.
7 - Don't stress if people haven't read the whole book. The point is to have a lively discussion and enjoy the opportunity to connect with others.
8 - As with any book club, try to pick books that are readily available. That removes one of the hurdles in having everyone read the book! Here's some ideas on how to structure your book club adventure from an article I wrote earlier this year.
9 - Consider how the book can be discussed. Choose books that lend themselves to conversation - usually that means one that has a juicy familial plot with twists and turns or social issues like racism, inequality, class, etc. Those topics often make for more passionate discussions. Don't shy away from unconventional or challenging books. Disagreements about plotting, presentation, style, characters, etc. is the key to interesting discussions. Also, every pick doesn't have to be a guaranteed favorite - give participants a chance to branch out and experience different kinds of reading experiences.
If you have any other ideas to share, please leave a comment. If you've tried a virtual book club, let us know your successes and challenges. Looking forward to hearing from you.