Ms. Mont not only discusses some of her experiences with book clubs, but she is also is considering starting a Virtual Book Club on her blog! I am so excited about her ideas and possible selections, and I've already thought of some possibilities. Ms. Mont would love to hear what you think (and I would too!)
Virtual Book Club—Yes or No?
First of all, thank you so much to Julie for hosting me on Booking Mama’s Book Club Exchange. The community of bloggers is one of the nicest and most nurturing I’ve encountered. And they fulfill an amazing service—letting the reading public know about great books, and doing so in a surprisingly personal (given the online nature of them) and entertaining way!
This sense of community built around a shared love of reading is what I like about book clubs. I have been a member of several book clubs over the years, each with a completely different tone and intention. In some book clubs, it’s more about the chatting and camaraderie than the book itself—there are usually several members who haven’t finished the book (possibly one who hasn’t even started it yet) and often, it isn’t until two hours have gone by that the conversation actually turns to the book at hand. Some book clubs, let’s face it, are really about the food and drink. Members come armed with homemade baked goods, French roast coffee, and bottles of good wine, and maybe—once the food is out and the drinks are poured—someone might remember why we all came and start talking character and plot. Still other book clubs take themselves very seriously, reading only literary books and delving into grad school discussions about motifs and themes. Here the host has usually made twelve copies of the reader’s guide and keeps the group on task like a stern school mistress.
But whatever the reason people join them, book clubs seem to have filled a void in modern culture, giving people a chance to connect and talk, to share great books and wonderful reading suggestions. So I’m not sure if the idea I’m about to propose would actually work, and if so, would it perhaps fulfill a different kind of need? I'm thinking of launching a virtual book club from my blog. I am hoping it would still engender that same sense of community, allowing people to come together in a forum to discuss books, but it would do so in a flexible and risk-free environment that would require no travel whatsoever, just an internet connection and a love of books.
Every month would have a different theme. About a month in advance, we would post possible book selections for the next month’s theme and let everybody weigh in on their choices. On the first of the month, we would announce the book selected and give everyone a month to read. At the end of that month, we would open the floor to a virtual month-long book chat during which we would engage in fierce intellectual debate about the merits or failings of each book. (Really, we’d just have virtual coffee and chat about what we liked and didn’t like.) Each month’s best virtual book club member might win a prize related to that month’s theme just to keep things interesting. And, of course, members wouldn’t have to participate every month—only when they were interested in the book chosen and had the time to do so.
Here are some possible themes I was considering:
1. Jane Austen January (a little Austen to get us through the long, dreary winter)
2. Romance February (in honor of Valentine’s Day)
3. Spring classic (a great classic novel)
4. Animals in April (books with pet or animal themes in honor of the ASPCA’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month)
5. Mothers in May (novels with strong mother-child relationship themes)
6. Fathers in June (novels with strong father-child relationship themes)
7. Bestseller July (a book from the NY Times bestseller list)
8. Beach read August
9. Young Adult September (I’m thinking “back to school.”)
10. Gothic October
11. Nonfiction November
12. Holiday December
Of course, I’m open to suggestions. So what do you think? If there is enough of a positive response, I’ll start putting the wheels in motion. The inaugural month would probably be this August. Here are some contenders for Beach Read August:
Karen White’s On Folly Beach
Jennifer Ross’s The Icing on the Cupcake
Ellen Block’s The Language of Sand
Claire Cooke’s Seven Year Switch
Heidi Jon Schmidt’s The House on Oyster Creek
If a virtual book club sounds like something you might enjoy, leave me a comment below. Or if you see any stumbling blocks or have any advice for me, I’d love to hear from you. If you think you might want to participate, check out my website and blog in a few weeks, and I’ll post instructions there. I hope this works, and I hope to “see” you all there!
Please check out the giveaway contest on my website for a chance to win a Free to a Good Home book club package of eight signed copies and a Skype call-in to your book club. Also, if you’d like to read a sneak preview of Free to a Good Home, click here.
Eve Marie Mont lives with her husband, Ken, and her shelter dog, Maggie, in suburban Philadelphia, where she teaches high school English and creative writing. Free to a Good Home is her first novel.
I am so grateful to Ms. Mont for sharing her ideas about a virtual book club with us. Make sure you also check out her terrific book club contest! If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.