A virtual reading group in action: Q&A with Beth's Book Club

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Virtual reading groups are popping up everywhere at the moment, with people looking to make sure that they stay connected to others and discovering new books. There are lots of different ways of meeting online, and if you’re looking to set up a group, make sure you check out our guide.

When you think of a reading group, you might think of a group of people in a circle having a discussion. But there are alternatives, such as hosting a group in a forum, for example using a Facebook group.

To show you how this works, we spoke to Beth and Hannah. Beth runs Beth’s Book Club, a Facebook group with over 2,000 members discussing books. Hannah has joined Beth’s Book Club since moving to a new country in 2019.

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Why did you set up a virtual reading group?

Beth: I was travelling around the world and my kindle was my favourite form of ‘down time’. I love reading books and I especially love chatting about them afterwards! I decided to set up an online book club because I wanted people to be able to join in all around the world and enjoy the community spirit from the comfort of their own sofa. Or on their travels!

Why did you join a virtual reading group?

Hannah: Unsurprisingly for someone in a book club, I love reading! I’m always looking for recommendations and although my friends provide great ones, I also discover new titles from the people I follow on Instagram. When one of my favourite bloggers said she was starting an online reading group, I figured I’d give it a go, mainly for the recommendations. I didn’t expect to enjoy the discussions as much as I do.

Why did you choose Facebook as the best channel for your group?

Beth: We use Facebook for our discussions because it’s a really easy platform to create a streamlined group on. Most people already have a profile too! The group allows us to have our virtual chats but also keep in touch during the month between discussions too. We share thoughts, bookish offers and even funny memes!

Can you tell us a bit about how your group works?

Beth: Usually we read one book a month, though during the current Coronavirus pandemic it’s two as we felt members needed more escapism! Each month the group reads a book and then we ‘meet’ online to discuss it at the end of the month before announced the next one. We have a set ‘meeting’ date and time and usually it lasts for an hour. I’ll post questions and members will comment and discuss underneath. We read a variety of genres over the year.

How does being part of the group help you to feel connected to other people?

Hannah: As I mentioned, the whole ‘reading round the world’ thing is lovely. It’s also opened my eyes to new perspectives, showing me how people from different backgrounds might interpret things in their own way, and making me reflect on how my own family history has shaped my perspective on the world.

The book club became even more worthwhile to me after I moved abroad – most of my friends here don’t read books in English, so being part of a virtual reading book means I can connect with people reading the same book as me from wherever I am in the world.

What would you top tip be to anyone who wants to set up an online reading group?

Beth: See what’s missing! Is there a particular genre or niche that you love to read? Such as ‘Thrillers Book Club’ or the like! A Facebook page is a great place to start and we love using Instagram too to share daily bookish posts and engage an even wider community.

What would your top tip be to anyone who wants to join a virtual reading group?
Hannah: Engage in the discussion! After the moderator posts a question, don’t just write your own answer – otherwise you may as well be on your own. The best value from a virtual reading group comes from reading other people’s answers and responding to them, whether you agree or disagree.

Take a look at Beth’s Book Club on her website, Facebook and Instagram.

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