Regardless of your genre of choice, there's an online book club that will welcome you into the discussion–no traveling required.
By Jessica Dukes
While we deeply appreciate our tight-knit, in-person book clubs, the benefits to joining an online book club are many. The schedule is more flexible—the conversations typically begin early, last all month, and you can jump in whenever you please. You’ll be in touch with a much larger group of people, often from around the world. And past conversations about books are typically archived, so you can look back at other people’s reviews and recommendations—something you won’t get from an in-person club unless you take a lot of notes.
With this in mind, have a look at some of these online book clubs. There’s something for everyone!
Let’s start with the Queen of Book Clubs, Oprah Winfrey. Her first book club launched in 1996 with Jacquelyn Mitchard’s The Deep End of the Ocean, and over the next 15 years, Oprah’s picks rocketed to the top of bestseller lists. In 2012, she launched Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 in concert with her media company, OWN. At her website, you’ll find a lot of videos—Oprah introduces the book and talks a bit about why she chose it, then she sits down with the author for in-depth, live-audience interviews. Join the conversation at Goodreads: Oprah’s Book Club has nearly 37,000 members.
“As part of my work with UN Women, I have started reading as many books and essays about equality as I can get my hands on.” This, and the desire to start conversations about the stories she reads is what inspired Emma Watson to start a book club. With more than 225,000 members, it’s safe to say that her call to action has been heard. The group only chooses one book every two months, but other conversations about feminism flow in between. In January 2020, Emma and her team announced that they would no longer be making bi-monthly recommendations or moderating discussions. But Emma continues to use the hashtag #oursharedshelf on Instagram, and the community is still very active.
It started as a good-natured joke. When he wasn’t busy quarterbacking for the Indianapolis Colts, Andrew’s love of reading and discussing books earned him the nickname “the NFL’s unofficial librarian.” In 2016, he decided to make it official and he launched the Andrew Luck Book Club online, aimed at both young readers (Rookies) and adult (Veterans). Every month, he chooses two books and the conversations happen on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with the hashtag #ALBookClub. We love the enthusiasm, but most of all, we love the blueprint it sends to young readers for how to be an athlete and a scholar.
If you want on old school online experience, head here. All of the conversations take place in forums, where you can start a thread on any topic you like or join a discussion already in progress (they provide the broad categories). Their active message boards are the heart of the community, but OBC offers much more. They have a daily Amazon gift card giveaway. There’s an app called Bookshelves that you can use to keep track of the books you’ve read. The book of the week, month, and year are all crowdsourced, decided by member voting. Hundreds of thousands of members make this one of the largest self-contained book clubs online.
Reese Witherspoon’s book club has become a force to be reckoned with, and many of her book club picks are also optioned for movies by the Hello Sunshine production company. Reese and Hello Sunshine have a mission to create “content that celebrates women and puts them at the center of the story,” and this is absolutely what you’ll find with each of her monthly book picks. You’ll get Reese’s review via video on the website, and you can join other readers for discussion on Instagram, Facebook or Goodreads.
This Goodreads group of more than 30,000 readers takes their love of the genre seriously. Each month, they vote on which books they’ll read the following month, covering three categories: a book in a series, a standalone title, and a book within a chosen theme. They’re careful to not choose a book they’ve picked before, although conversations about other books can be started at any time too. They host regular giveaways and love it when authors want to schedule time for online Q&A sessions with the group. It’s a lot of fun, and the good times continue on Instagram.
Noname is a 27-year old female rapper from Chicago who jumped on the celebrity book club bandwagon in August 2019 with her first two picks: Samantha Irby’s We Are Never Meeting in Real Life and Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Make no mistake though, Noname’s bibliophile roots are strong—her mother was the first black woman in Chicago to own a bookstore. With her website, Noname’s goal is to highlight authors and independent bookstores within the POC and LGBTQ communities, areas she feels are underrepresented in literature and in business. Her Instagram and Twitter discussions are more active than the ones at the website for now, and she plans on introducing podcasts eventually. Keep your eye on this progressive book club.
History buffs have united! This Goodreads group of nearly 18,000 chooses one book each month, while they hold longer-running conversations about single books, such as The Federalist Papers (a current two-year-long project) and The Korean War: A History (a three month discussion). Every topic you can imagine is represented, from wars to elections, music to sports, world religions to world literature. As expected, not everyone agrees, but the golden rule is Always Be Respectful. Best of all, the group boasts members from all over the world—171 countries and counting.