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It’s 2021! Time has not yet returned to its linear progression, so I’m not really sure what that means, but we aren’t yet getting together in person so I can tell you definitively that it’s time to round up the best online book clubs. All the books, all the conversation, and none of the having to decide which literary-themed mask you are going to wear. Everyone wins. Here are 15 of our favorite online book clubs to check out.
Epic-level Insiders vote on a book to read quarterly, fulfilling both a Read Harder 2021 prompt and the desire to talk about books with some of the best book people around. Come chat with us! We think it’s one of the best online book clubs to join!
Founded in 1991, Go On Girl! has been promoting books by the diverse authors of the Black diaspora for 30 years. The club chooses a book every month, and localized 12-person chapters discuss — previously in person, and now via video chat. The organization also offers scholarships for Black writers, a Junior (YA) club, and hosts an award ceremony every year.
Books & Boba is a podcast and a book club in one, dedicated to Asian and Asian American authors. They’ve read an impressive array of books so far, including some of my own favorites from the last couple of years. Each book gets its own discussion podcast, with separate extras like book news and author interviews.
Sparkle Nation was founded in 2018 and aims to “directly challenge traditional academic notions of how to properly obtain, share, and utilize knowledge by promoting self-discipline and community-based autodidacticism.” That is, help all of us learn more, and better, and in fresh ways. Who doesn’t love that?!? The link above will take you to their Instagram page — well worth checking out to get a feel for the kinds of books recommended — where they announced on February 4 that they are moving to a newsletter. The email address is listed for signup.
WNYC and the New York Public Library teamed up to create a virtual book club with a monthly livestream. Members of the NYPL can access the ebook at the NYPL site, and anyone can access the livestream at the link above. February’s book is Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour; previous picks include The Glass Hotel and The Nickel Boys.
Originally an in-person feminist book club founded by Sheree Milli, the Ladies Lit Squad is running a “21 in ’21” reading challenge with prompts and discussions on Instagram. Posts include reviews, suggestions, and conversations among members, and all recommended books are written by either women or authors of color.
Shelterbox is an emergency relief organization the provides emergency tools and shelter to families who have been victims of disaster. In the UK, they have a book club to further highlight the stories of the people that Shelterboxes have helped. For a monthly donation, members get to vote on one of three picks, which are then mailed out to members (UK only). Six weeks later, readers attend scheduled online discussions, often with the authors. I love this idea, and I hope that a U.S. version of the club is in the works!
When the frankly adorable Reese Witherspoon started her book club, I admit I thought it would be a lot of fluff, similar to my favorite movies of hers. Instead, she has focused on raising up the authorial voices of women and authors of color, diversifying subject matter, supporting local book stores, and expanding access to books. Plus, she has good taste in reading, if I do say so myself. She’s recently launched a free book club app, so to join her book club all you need to do is download and register.
For something a little different, try the Silent Book Club. In the Before Times, I attended sessions fairly regularly in San Francisco and enjoyed it thoroughly. There is no assigned/suggested reading; members simply congregate and read quietly, with no phones or chitchat, for an hour. Then people are welcome to converse about what they’re reading. During the pandemic, people are meeting via video chat and keeping up in Facebook groups. In warmer climes, some groups (like my local Oakland chapter) are considering meeting at a park to read.
There are approximately a zillion book clubs on Goodreads, and it can be hard to sort through them to choose one (or five) that might speak to you. The GR Choice Awards Book Club is dedicated to reading through the previous year’s winners, along with nominees, “awesome series,” and new bestsellers. The club isn’t affiliated with Goodreads, but it is well-curated and there are some great conversations being had in the discussion boards.
Oprah is the grande dame of celebrity book clubs, and there was a 0% chance I wouldn’t include her in my list. Her picks have covered everything from Anna Karenina to Caste: The Origins of our Discontents. Her website has a printable list of all 86 books she has curated. Is there much more I can say about Mme. Oprah? Probably not.
Dr. Eric Cervini is the author of The Deviant’s War: The Homosexual vs. The United States of America. He is also the founder of Quarantini, a 30-day book club from March/April 2020 that is a bit more like a class than a book club, featuring daily assignments and YouTube discussions about LGBTQ+ history in the United States. His Instagram (@ericcervini) continues this work with reading recommendations and videos discussing the history of LGBTQ+ people going back to Mesopotamia (3000 BCE)! Considering the periodic and systematic erasure of anyone who who didn’t fit a contemporary gender/sexual preference ideal, his work is both fascinating and eye-opening.
The Literary Hub is a dangerous rabbit hole to venture into, especially if you enjoy a wide range of reading material and discussion. The Virtual Book Channel is a good place to start, offering hours of conversations with authors and academics about their various works.
QBC kicked off in March 2020 with a Zoom conversation between Arjun Basu, author of Waiting for the Man, and whoever showed up to said conversation. Since then, it has hosted a wide variety of author talks several times per month for $5 each.
The Rumpus’s book club is a little different than most of the ones listed here. It is $35/month, which is steeper than free, but it also gets the book of the month, which will not yet have been published. Considering the immense joy I get from getting advance reader copies as a Book Riot contributor, the price is well worth the cache of being able to tell you friends that you read a book before it came out. In addition, the monthly fee gets you admission to a moderated discussion with the author, some of whom have included Roxane Gay and Carmen Maria Machado. The Rumpus also has a poetry book club, and offers a discount if you wish to join both.
And there you go: enough reading and discussion to get you through what is surely the second-weirdest year in living memory! If you’d like to explore even more of the best online book clubs, check out our list from early 2020.
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