Book Clubs During the Pandemic – Stronger Than Ever

The media often portrays book clubs as more interested in gossip and wine than books, but actually, they're much more dedicated to reading and discussing than some would have you believe. I know because in our 20 year quest to provide exceptional reading recommendations to book clubs and inquiring readers, BookBrowse has surveyed more than 25,000 book club members, so I have seen firsthand that most are strong communities, passionate about books, vigorous in debate and learning.

Book Clubs in Lockdown - cover What I didn't know is how they've been coping in 2020. So, over a period of two weeks in October, BookBrowse asked book club members to share their experiences with us--and over 3,400 answered. We compiled their responses into a recently published report, "Book Clubs in Lockdown," available for free at bookbrowse.com/wp/lockdown

The good news is that most book groups have risen to the challenges of 2020, learning new skills and reinforcing old friendships. Overall, three-quarters of respondents say their book club is currently meeting, but most are doing so in a different way to last year. Two thirds are now meeting virtually (almost all on Zoom) and half of the remainder are meeting outside, albeit with an eye on the weather as it turns colder. The great majority look forward to meeting in person again in the future, but many have discovered benefits in meeting virtually, in particular being able to reconnect with members who had moved away or who live in a different place for part of the year. In fact, a third of those meeting virtually expect their book club will continue to have a virtual element, so that sick or traveling members can participate and sometimes so the whole group can meet online, for example if weather conditions are not conducive to going out.

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Book Clubs During COVID: When Will We Meet Again?

There can be few of us who aren't wishing for the Covid-19 pandemic to be over so we can go about our lives again. But when will that be? And will things go back to the same as they were or will there be a "new normal"?

This was one of the topics we explored for our just published "Book Clubs in Lockdown" report based on an October 2020 survey of more than 3,400 book club members, 90% of whom live in the USA. You can download the full report for free at bookbrowse.com/wp/lockdown.

At the time of the survey, three-quarters of respondents were in groups that were currently meeting (and had been doing so through most of the pandemic) but they were meeting very differently from how they did before. Whereas the great majority said their primary book club used to meet in person and indoors, now two-thirds are meeting virtually (almost all on Zoom), and of the remainder, half were meeting outside at the time of the survey (with many eyeing the weather and looking to make new winter plans).

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New Research: Book Clubs in Lockdown!

Book Clubs in Lockdown - cover2020 has been a tough year; we have faced restrictions due to the ongoing pandemic, social unrest, and a bitterly contested and divisive Presidential election in the USA. Many of us have been separated from our family and friends. With so many lives disrupted, we wondered…how has all this impacted readers and particularly those in book clubs? So in October we launched a survey to find out! Within two weeks we had over 4,500 responses, including 3,400 from book club members.

Since then, the BookBrowse team has been working to analyze the responses (there was a lot of information!) to build a clearer picture of how book clubs are reacting to the challenges they've faced this year, and what this might mean for the long term. I want to thank all who took part in the survey, many with very detailed and well-considered comments, through which we've gained many insights that we're eager to share with you.

The "Book Clubs in Lockdown" report is just released and is available to you in full for free. Go to bookbrowse.com/wp/lockdown to download your copy and, when you have, please do share with others.

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Effective Ways to Encourage Quiet Book Club Members to Speak Up

Book clubs can be such a wonderful space for people to share their ideas; diverse viewpoints can lead to deeper and more valuable discussions that help us grow, both as individuals and as a society. 

But what do you do when people don't speak up? How do you encourage quiet members to contribute?

According to BookBrowse's research report, The Inner Lives of Book Clubs, 16% of people currently in a book club say their group has one or more members who rarely participate in the discussions. In most cases, the respondents express sadness and frustration saying that they would like to hear from these quieter members because their opinions and experiences are of value. After all, it's the active participation and communication of ideas that allows for meaningful discourse.

To better understand what to do (if anything), it's important to look at the reasons why a book club member might be staying silent.

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What To Do When Members Come to Book Club Without Reading the Book?

Has your book group ever become frustrated by members who join in book discussions without having finished the book -- or, in some cases, without even starting it?

If so, you're not alone. According to our research, 15% of reading group members say their book club has experienced problems around this issue; and a quarter of those who left a previous book club due to dissatisfaction cited frustration over members attending without having read the book, or not attending meetings at all, as a factor in their decision to leave.

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Tips on How to Be An Effective Book Club Facilitator

A friend of mine recently contacted me because her in-person book club is moving online during the COVID-19 pandemic and she's worried about making the transition, particularly as, while she loves her group, their discussions have a tendency of devolving into friendly chit-chat at the best of times with people talking over each other and sharing personal anecdotes, rather than the meaningful book discussion that she hoped for.

I asked her if her group had considered designating a facilitator - someone who, generally speaking, helps the group get the most out of their discussions by being prepared, keeping things on track and making sure that everyone's voice is heard. She said they had, but that she felt some trepidation as to how to be an effective facilitator, particularly while also navigating an online discussion forum - did I have any suggestions?

Here are the tips I shared with her:

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