Steepster Book Club?

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oh, random asides
for book readers who can bear to part with books (and end up with other books) it’s handy

Janni select said

Also! :)

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I love this idea! I’ll try reading anything and enjoy reading across the genres. I do read mostly literary fiction and classics. I belong to two online book clubs and go through periods of being very active on LibraryThing.

I would love to hear about what you think works and what doesn’t in you online book groups!

One online book club, THBC, has three leaders/moderators. They select the book for each month and announce it near the first of the month. They have a book announcement thread and a thread where you can discuss the book which can include spoilers without notice.

I do like that there isn’t a hassle about the book selection, both the process of selecting a book and the actually book choice. But, at the same time, the books are often to their taste rather than the tastes of the group, at least as far as I can tell. There is also no way to comment on or discuss the book, without fear of reading a spoiler accidentally, until you are finished. So it is more like a whole book discussion. People often finish reading at different times throughout the month. Some months there is little discussion. (This book club also has genre sections where people will post on a book, author, or series they are reading.)

The other online book club, TBN, has a core group of members that have been reading together for years in a group, which has changed website locations at least three times, changed leaders, and changed formats, often with a change in leader or location online. The current iteration has two moderators/organizers who aren’t leaders per say. The members voted on how the group was to be run after the latest move this past fall, which was due to a website getting shut down, and said they would go with the majority vote. But there is still complaining about the way things are done despite this.

We used to slot member in to lead each month as long as they wanted to lead. We would work with the schedule of who led when to make sure everyone had a month that would work for them, not too busy in RL or anything. The leader would pick the book selection of for that month. They would divide the book up into sections and post a reading schedule. After the date each section was supposed to be finished by, that section could be discussed freely in the book’s thread. Depending on how the book was set up to be divided and the length of the book, there would sometimes be a thread for each section. An example would be six threads for the six parts of Pillars of the Earth and you could talk freely about each part in its thread.

I think this system worked pretty well. There was sometimes shuffling of months, if things came up in people’s lives. But there was no confusion about book selection. The different threads for each section or knowing after a certain date on a thread the next section would be discussed allowed people who were slower readers to be able to discuss/comment on what they’d read, or at least read the discussion for that section, without fear of spoilers, while people who finished the book in five days didn’t all start discussing it then move on to another book so that half the group who read at a moderate or slow pace were left out of the discussion or straggling along but not going into the thread until they had finished the whole book.

Since we moved websites, it was decided by group vote that they didn’t want to select books far before hand (previously the leader and book selection schedule usually had advanced a year or more sometimes after the next round of letting everyone be a leader) because often several of members would have read the selection before it was up in the schedule. It was also decided that we would let members volunteer to lead each month as they wanted to. And that the leader would select three to five books which would be voted on in a poll.

So a few weeks to a month before the next month, we’d ask for a leader and vote on the book choice. Then it came up that people weren’t having enough time to get a hold of the book, either by buying it online and waiting for it to arrive or being on a holds lists at the library. And also, there were popular recent selections which were only out in hardcover. Some people didn’t want to buy these books understandably and they could be a long wait on the holds list from the library so people weren’t getting them in time for the group read. So they wanted to pick the leaders and books a bit ahead of time but not too far ahead. And that’s where that group is now. The whether or not to allow only in hardcover selections is still up in the air.

For that group, I don’t think the volunteering to lead thing works best. I personally enjoyed leading on my month but am unlike to volunteer to do it, both because of the shorter notice to plan to lead and because I’m a bit shy and one of the youngest members. We often get the same few people volunteering to lead and some months where it is hard to come up with a leader or co-leaders (at least the other way, all of this would be worked out fairly far in advance). Some people who lead a lot are great leaders, some aren’t. Some who doesn’t volunteer have led in the past and been great leaders.

Oh, I forgot to mention the new discussion method. We are allowing the leaders to selected how the discussion works. Some still use the read schedule method with dates in one thread, others do a spoiler-free thread and a spoiler thread, and some just post a thread for the book and let members discuss as they may. A large part of the success of any discussion method depends on how good the leader is. Background info, discussion questions (both from the book/offline and the leader’s own), and insightful commentary make for a better discussion.

Well, this is long and hopefully not too jumbled. I tried to give an overview of stuff that’s been done with pro and cons without being too detailed and hopefully making sense.

Okay, I knew this was long in the reply box but I didn’t think it was quite that long. My apologies.

Thank you chrine! I really like what you said about dividing the book up and making different threads because of spoilers. I’d 100% LOVE to use that – divide the book into 4 parts and each week have a thread. I’ve been scratching my head about that and now the problem is solved!!! I am so grateful you shared this :)

Rabs said

Seriously chrine, that was awesome! Thank you too :D And lemme tell ya, I sent at least one epic message to Jacqueline and janni regarding the format (and me without practical experience) – lol! I too think that sounds fantastic.

Janefan said

^^ I also like the idea of dividing the book into parts and having weekly threads. I think that will keep discussion “fresh” each week, solve the spoilers problem, and allow for everyone to participate whether they are an early reader/read it before, or are a last-minute finisher (aka procrastinator)

Janni select said

Third, fourth, or whatever number (I’ve lost count) the awesomeness of your post, chrine. Those are all excellent ideas, and thank you very much for taking the time to type them out. Bet it took more effort to do than it did for us to read! :)

I’m glad you guys found it helpful. I’ve been THBC since it started in May 2008 and TBN since Fall 2007. I’m more than happy to provide any info or answer any questions about my experience with online book groups. I love that one is starting here on Steepster.

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I love this idea! Though, I am a really bad reader. I have trouble finishing books that I start, and I haven’t really read books since high school. If a book that peaks my interest pops up, I’d totally join! As much as I have really bad reading habits I’m always trying to fix them!

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Doulton said

I’m excited by this! I wonder if it’s possible to start a plan so that the May book will be a shorter one because there’s not going to be a lot of reading time between selection and discussion and if you could also select a June book at the same time so that people would have plenty of time to read and also plenty of time to get a copy of the book. Then you could select the July book in May.

In my “real life” book club we pick the year’s readings at the September meeting. I like to be able to plan ahead because my “reading for fun” time is limited. I am constantly reading for work.

Janni select said

Really good ideas, Doulton. I’ve been thinking about that, too…especially for those of us who try really hard to get stuff out of the library. My book collection was massively out of control. It still is, but for the most part I’ve developed a system for myself where I’ll only buy books if I absolutely adore them. And/or they’re professionally-related. (My collection of books on food is ridiculous. D:) For the most part, otherwise, I try to stick to utilizing my lovely local libraries. :)

Janefan said

The clubs “real life” clubs I’m in generally pick about 6 months in advance. Any more than that, and we find that our membeship evolves too much during the year – we would be picking books in Jan for December only to find that most of the people who voted for them have since lost interest or moved on, so the book of the month no longer represents the interest of our current members. Does that make sense? I guess we have a few core members, but high turnover otherwise. I imagine it would be similar with an online group…?

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Lori said

To summarize, the books proposed have been the following:
Alice in Wonderland, Thru the Looking Glass, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Great Gatsby, Tess of the d’Ubervilles. Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy, Harney and Sons Tea book, Way of Tea, Book of Tea, 3 Cups of Tea, Pillars of the Earth…

Perhaps, if we choose to go thru w/this and it does seem like folks are interested, we can give about XXX more hours/days to collect suggestions then have the vote…
But with such divergent interests, can we ultimately decide on a book selection? I hope so!

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gmathis said

Right now our life is in such a flux I’m afraid to commit to anything on a firm time schedule, but I’d love to at least keep an eye on the thread, lurk a bit, and see what everybody’s doing.

Janni select said

The idea we’d been discussing was that it should be structured enough that we all have a good idea of what’s expected…but loose enough that people could come and go as they choose, regarding involvement in specific books.

In other words, if you’re too busy now, there’ll be another book next month. And another the month after that, and so on. Sooner or later, one of them is bound to pique your interest and/or fall at a time when you’re not too busy to fit it into your schedule! :)

gmathis said

I’ve already read some that are on the nomination list, so a quick refresher would be all that’s needed for me to communicate (somewhat) intelligently about them. Then again…intelligence is stretch for me most days of the week….

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Britt☮ said

I love this idea :) My reading taste isn’t limited, although my favorite genres are fantasy, historical fiction and chick-lit.

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Jason admin said

Today in Steepster Select we’re featuring Jennifer Sauer’s “The Way to Tea: Your Adventure Guide to San Francisco Tea Culture” plus a pu-erh sampler. It’s 34% off and might make a good book for the book club. Just wanted to give you book wormy tea drinkers a heads up. :)

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