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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The BookBrowse Book Club: What We Discussed in 2020

Whether you're wondering if a book might be right for your book club, or you just want to see what others have said about a book you've read, BookBrowse's Book Club discussions are an excellent resource. In 2020, our members exchanged views on 17 different books.

What sets BookBrowse's Book Club apart from others online is the quality of the discussion. Participants come together with the intent of sharing and learning from each other, just as they would if they were physically in the same room.

Most of these discussions are now closed for new posts, but you can browse them all to find out what people thought of each book and discover which topics generated the most lively debate.

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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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The Best Books of 2020

Although a difficult year for many, 2020 turned out to be a great year for excellent books. If you don't already have a stack of unread books on your nightstand waiting for your attention (or even if you do), you'll definitely want to pick up a few of these titles from our Best of Year lineup - the highest rated books of 2020, as voted on by BookBrowse subscribers in our annual Best of Year survey (over 9,400 votes were cast). The books are listed in ratings order lower down this page; but first, the four 2020 Award Winners!

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Honest Reviews of 2020 Books by Real Readers

There are many places to find reader reviews on the web, but it can be a challenge to know which are truly independent.

The reader reviews offered through BookBrowse's First Impressions program are trustworthy because only our members can post them. Members have the opportunity to request books to read months ahead of their publication dates in exchange for their honest opinion. They can request specific titles but the books are assigned by an algorithm. So, while it's conceivable that someone with a personal connection to the book might receive a copy to review, the chances of there being enough people to influence the overall consensus is effectively zero.

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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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