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?!).

1 Like

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:


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.


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:

We just kicked off a blogchain book club on Education in a time Between Worlds hosted over at

I’m excited to see how the format goes! It’ll be neat to pull together everyone’s writing at the end see what common threads emerge.


Sweet! Can I, uh…borrow that book when you’re done plz :grin: Not sure if I’ll do the realtime weekly blog responses but def want to check that one out / try to do a writeup at some point! Excited to see how the blogchain format works for collaborative reading.

Also dropping this link for reference, meta-discussion on the reading group blogchain @jaredpereira mentioned lives here:

1 Like

Yeah for sure! I’m still figuring out my reading strategy here. I think I might take a first pass and take notes (I haven’t taken notes while reading a book in a very long time :sweat_smile: so that’ll be a first) and then sit and digest for a while.

I’m pretty curious how the weekly format will work out. It’s honestly such a dense book that a week might not be enough to really digest, but having the prompts stay up so you can always add should help with that. Might try to augment it with a video call, or something, to get the momentum going.


Another cool one on this topic is “Blog Club”

Like a book club, but for blogs.

It’s a regular Zoom call to discuss interesting blog posts, each one seems to be around a particular theme each. I haven’t participated yet but love the idea. Great way to tackle idea-dense longreads that might otherwise be a big hard to digest, with a pretty casual structure.

Makes me wonder if we should set one up for the Antilibraries community? Have a blog post related to the topics discussed on the forum (maybe the first one chosen by you @Brendan?) that we meet on a Zoom call to discuss. I’d be super down to participate!


Here’s a link to pdf of Metamagical Themas:

Maybe we can read one or two a week and discuss? @Brendan (If others would like to read it too then we can all discuss or share thoughts here!)

1 Like

This is interesting, see the section near the end on “A modest proposal for podcast book clubs

Some good ideas here for better virtual book clubs, with the example of running a “podcast book club”:

I have, however, been the main organizer and an enthusiastic member of a podcast book club for just over a year now. I run it for the paying supporters’ club attached to my podcast Shedunnit; every month we read a different mystery novel and discuss it. I make a bonus primer episode about the chosen book each month just for club members. The discussion takes place at the end of the month in a private Discourse forum, which has the benefit of both being asynchronous (so there’s no need to pick one night when everyone has to be free) and fulfilling my nostalgic need to pretend I still live in the age of dialup. The tone of the book conversations is kind, respectful, and knowledgeable, to an extent that they routinely give me warm fuzzy feelings about the internet as a force for good.

And some particular tips for ways to make it interactive / participatory, beyond just being a readaloud or interview show sort of thing:

  • Options for both active and passive participation (e.g. listening to podcast vs. active community discussion in a forum etc.)
  • Choose a good discussion platform that gives you a way to separate serious discussion from general chatter, but isn’t too difficult to use (shout out to Discourse!)
  • Should be an opt-in thing; don’t need to saturate all your emails / social media w/ it
  • Stick to a consistent schedule
  • Can be fun to introduce democratic elements (e.g. voting on next title, from a shortlist)
  • Use audio creatively…beyond interviews / essays, can run listener voicemails, chat about a reading list, share casual thoughts, etc.