Book clubs / reading groups - open call for experiments!

A while back I started researching book clubs, interesting ones both historical and current, and I’ll probably come back to that later…but for now wanted to start a more general discussion about book clubs — what they mean to you, and ideas for how we can experiment with them so they feel more fun and useful.

In an earlier discussion on history / evolution of reading practices (Reading throughout the ages) @morgane mentioned wondering about how book clubs came to be. A couple things come to mind as impressions of a stereotypical book club: either a sort of old-fashioned intellectual salon, or a monthly gathering of old friends chatting about the latest book pick over dinner/drinks (with one extra-organized friend as the leader.) But I realize there are lots of possible ways to run a book club, and it’s something I think we can be more imaginative about.

Talking with @HotTake recently one thing we hit on, for example, was that it feels hard to regularly participate in a book club where the circle stays the same and everyone all reads the same book. Tough both to keep up the schedule, and all agree on the same book / participate equally. But one thing that could be interesting to explore is ways of bringing together people who are either already reading the same book, or have it in their queue and could use some incentive to get through it.

I’ve had good success with @jinjin reading super long books together, a two-person micro reading club. Also recently talked with @Maura about how we both have a copy of Metamagical Themas and it’d be fun to have someone to read at the same time / chat about it with. So one model would be reading groups that are loose, emergent, fluid, possibly very tiny…could be just enough to have even one or two other people to chat with about a book you’re into.

On another end of the spectrum I’d be interested in doing a reading retreat at some point — a whole weekend with a small group dedicated to reading…a lot of reading in a short period of time, with some kind of structured discussion / digestion sprinkled in. Great examples of that here and here.

And I’d love to see this space (the Antilibraries Athenaeum!) play host to any sort of experimental online book club, reading circle, whatever you want to call it. Thoughts? Suggestions? What kind of participatory / collective reading would you like to see / engage in??


This is a great idea!

I always wondered if there could be an equivalent to book club but for blog posts or articles. It’d be awesome to bring the same kind of deep conversation from book clubs to what we read online. Hypothesis does allow for creating private annotation groups. There could be small scale reading groups who go through a post/article a week and annotates it together. The annotations could then be imported into a post for others to read (and annotate?!).

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Yeah that would be very cool. Closest thing that comes to mind is this “Journal Club” series from Fermat’s Library, where they feature important historical papers w/ annotations:

Fermat’s Library is a platform for illuminating academic papers. Every week we send you a new paper annotated by the community in the fields of Mathematics, Physics, Economics, Computer Science and Biology.

Really nicely done, but doesn’t exactly feel like you’re reading with other people, more just annotations rather than discussion.

Doing something using Hypothesis could be fun to try. Maybe curating a handful of really good articles around a chosen topic. And then could also discuss the annotations on the forum…and/or through some kind of looser more distributed blogchain type structure :slight_smile:

To the point about reading clubs for websites / posts / articles, this app Polar could be interesting:

I see they have a beta “groups” feature — haven’t played around with it much, but I like the idea of being able to share documents + highlights / comments with a particular set of users. Will have to see how it compares to Hypothesis…at any rate cool to see a variety of tools cropping up that support this:

Oh, and another great example — I’m doing this online workshop that’s kind of both reading group and writing group! All about online networks and community dynamics and collaborative meaning making…coming up soon; I’m excited:

There’s a great reading list for the workshop that’s publicly available here:

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Ah I was interested in that online workshop but didn’t pull the trigger on it. Very cool that the reading list was made public.

In light of that, I was going to work through the reading list through Hypothesis and wanted to invite you and others to participate. All you have to do is sign up for a Hypothesis account (it’s free) and follow the invite link to join the Antilibraries reading group - that means your annotations are only shared with the reading group. I’ll start annotating the first work mentioned in Sonya’s list, “Popping the Publishing Bubble” (here).

Would love feedback and to see y’all there! Follow up on the annotations being made here.

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Thanks for kicking this off, fun idea! Just added a couple annotations / comments on that first article. Let’s see if we can get to some of the others soon…I can mention to the Friends as Force Multiplier course chat group + maybe mention in an Antilibraries email too, would be cool to get some others in the Hypothesis group :slight_smile: