Book club via email?

I love reading. I love to sit and read and think and read some more. Sometimes reading places me on paths that I wouldn’t have reached otherwise. I enjoy sharing these insights and adventures with others who are also reading that particular book or author. I was searching to join an online book club at my local library’s website. I belonged to an online book club before and looked forward to sharing a book and insights with other people.

Instead of a forum-based club, I found an email book club. Even thought I had never heard of one, I clicked for more information. I wondered how we discuss a book. Does everyone in the book club have access to my personal email? This was one of the questions racing through my mind as I read the FAQ pages. The program is simple and only the leader has direct email contact with you. I decided to try it and clicked join. I was able to determine the genre of the book I wanted to join and entered my email address.

For those not familiar with face to face book clubs, people gather together and discuss a particular book. They discuss characters and plots as they read through the chapters. At the end of the book, you have gained further insight from questions, predictions, and discussions of different ironies and meanings the author added throughout the novel.

That is not the case for this email book club. The emails arrive Monday through Friday. Within the body of the email is an introduction to the author and the book, along with some feedback from participants. The main body of the email contains copies from the books pages. There is a salutation referring to the next days reading and a link back to the library to check the book out and another one to post comments on a reading forum.

I clicked comment link, anticipating insights or questions from other participants. What I found, however, was a vast page of white. Nothing. No comments, no discussion. Not even a single question. Alright, maybe the forum thread is new or wiped clean once a book has made its rounds. I clicked the post and wrote some thoughts on the chapters from the email I just read. I went about my business, and the next day I revisited the site thinking someone else might have posted a comment. Sadly, I was wrong. The page loaded and there was my comment looking alone in a world of white background. Maybe other participants don’t want, or have, the time to post and be active participants on the thread. I adjusted and moved on.

The book readings are sent via email with a brief introduction and explanation from the leader. The leader includes bits of emails and various comments she received through the forum in regards to the book we’ve been covering. The comments are current and related to the previous days readings, which assures me I’m not the only one in this club.

The downside of this type of book club is not being able to delve into a book heart and soul, discussing character traits, situations, and other related items with fellow readers. Your thoughts are posted on a forum and there might be a response. I wouldn’t count too much on the forum as it’s been over 3 weeks and still no response. When a particular item is begging to be discussed, you won’t find much feed back from other participants. However, you might be mentioned in the beginning paragraphs of the emails from the leader where the day’s reading is discussed, allowing participants to share thoughts and ideas.

Another negative aspect of joining email book clubs is the inability to read an entire book. The emails consist of the beginning chapters of the book for the week. This can leave an avid reader with a feeling of loss as there are loose ends hanging out there and questions needing to be answered. What happens? How does the book unravel from the mess that started? Questions which can only be answered by reading the book.

There is a silver lining with this type of reading program however, and it is the ability of reading the beginning of several books without having to check them out. While reading during the week, I am able to determine if I want to pursue the book and the author. For example, one of the earlier books I was sent did not hold my interest. It was poorly written and after reading the first 5 chapters, I promptly wrote the book and author on my dislike list. I myself may not be an exceptional writer, but I can determine between a good book which holds my interest and one which is a total flop.

Though the email book club has shed some light on some new reading material for myself, if you are after a more involved book club, then this is not for you. I’ve adjusted to how the program works and wait until Friday night or Saturday before opening the emails so I am able to read the pages in succession without interruption. I keep a spreadsheet for books I want to read and those I don’t. If the book has kept my interest and I feel it’s a “must read”, then I make note of the title, author, and a brief note about the character or events.

Perhaps in due time there will be activity on the email forums. In the meantime, I’m adaptable and have added several book titles to my “must read” list.

~

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