How to Start an Online Book Club

Whether you’re already a voracious reader – or someone who’s working towards their annual reading goal – a book club can be an amazing motivator and a great space to meet new people. Book clubs are loads of fun and now easier than ever to organize in a virtual environment.

Less time commuting = more time to talk literature.

I recently paired up with a few friends to start an intimate online book club – and we’ve been loving it. So if you’re wanting to start a book club of your own, here are my rules of the road for a successful discussion.

Crush your reading goals by starting your own online book club! Follow these tips to make sure your book club goes off without a hitch.

Keep your member list small.

I know it’s tempting to invite all your friends to the book club party, but trust me – keep your member list exclusive. Book clubs thrive on diversity and unique perspectives. Some personalities tend to take up more space in a room, and often this is amplified in virtual environments. For an online book club to thrive, members need to be able to yield the floor, be okay with contemplative silence, and be willing to both speak and listen. A smaller group will feel safer to the quieter folks in the group, encouraging them to actively take part in the discussion.

Pick a reading cadence.

After you’ve got your member list locked and loaded, it’s time to pick how often you’ll met. Partner up with your new book club members and choose a reading cadence that works for everyone. Not only do we all have work and personal lives – but we also all have other books we’d like to read. I’m personally a big fan of a monthly cadence, giving everyone a chance to read the club selection along with a few other books that month.

Establish a theme – if you want one!

Not all book clubs have themes, but they can really make discussion and selection a ton of fun! Many book clubs choose a genre as their theme, always reading historical fiction books or nonfiction books.

I do think a theme can help streamline book selections and encourage members to really deep dive into a genre they love. I also think themes can really narrow the options, so personally I love book clubs that are a little more open with tons of variety.

Scour the internet for inspiration.

If it’s your turn to pick a book first, hit up online reading lists for a little inspiration to get you started!

Crush your reading goals by starting your own online book club! Follow these tips to make sure your book club goes off without a hitch.

Set the ground rules.

I’m a big believer that rules are what make for a successful book club – as stodgy as that sounds. Rules help keep the group focused on what matters: a meaty discussion about the book at hand. Here are some of the light ground rules we set in our own book club.

Discussion always starts on time.

I’m a stickler for timeliness IRL, even more so in a virtual environment. But even more than that – I’ve been a part of one too many book clubs where the actual discussion about the book was never prioritized. “Book club” is sometimes hidden code for “girls night.” And don’t get me wrong – I love a good girls night. But I’m a bookish book nerd who does actually want to read and discuss what I read. If you’re wanting to keep things casual and are okay with the book discussion not necessarily being the focus of your online book club – just ignore this rule! But if you are someone wanting to have robust discussions about what you read, I recommend gently reminding everyone what time the discussion starts and actually start the discussion on time, every time.

No books over 400 pages.

Some of my favorite books are well over the 400 page mark. Long books make for amazing reads – but not amazing book club book selections. People tend to only be invested in long books they chose themselves. Sticking to books under the 400 page mark gives members the best shot at finishing the book by each time you meet!

Which, speaking of…

Finish the book.

I know I’m sounding like I’m sucking all the fun out of the room. But to me, reading the book and having a discussion IS the fun! One of our rules is to finish the book club every time. Or like, at least make your best reasonable effort to do so. We all know life happens. We also know not everyone will love each and every book that is selected. But all members have a respect and understanding that another member made their selection for a reason, so we all try our hardest to finish each month even if we aren’t in love with the book.

Whoever picks the book moderates the discussion.

It’s always helpful in an online book club to have one moderator leading the charge. In our book club, we’ve given that role to the person who selected the book for that meeting. Moderation can look different to everyone, so no need to set a minimum number of questions – but like, come with some questions to stir up discussion.

Book your book club into your calendars.

One big benefit to a book club online? You can send a calendar invite to each and every member with a meeting link tucked neatly inside. If you follow me on Instagram you know I live and breathe by my calendar – so highly suggest sending out invites after you’ve landed on a time!

How to find a book club near me.

While it’s easy to follow along with generalized online book clubs like the Reese Witherspoon book club or Oprah’s book club, it’s always more fun to meet with friends or friends of friends to discuss. I’m a big fan of bonding with family, friends, and acquaintances over a good book. Or even a not so good book!

Ask around and see if any of your friends, family, or coworkers may be part of a book club that has some space. You can also check out your local library as many local library branches host their own book clubs. If push comes to shove – start your own! And follow these tips to make sure your book club is a raving success.

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