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May 14, 2020

Book Group Meetings During a Time of Social Distancing

Posted by tom

What has your book group been up to? Are you meeting remotely? Are you still reading and emailing each other about the books you are reading? Are you postponing your discussions? We asked readers these questions in our April 30th newsletter, and we are happy to share some of their comments with you. We hope you can find ideas on how to meet virtually, as well as some book recommendations here.


Sue from Murrells Inlet, SC: “Our book club read SUMMER OF ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand for the month of April. Since we couldn’t meet, I asked members to send an email to reply all and share what their story was for SUMMER OF ’69. All seemed to enjoy reading the stories, and we learned so much about each other!”

Karen: “My book club has been getting together monthly for 17 years! We are still meeting on Zoom. Nothing stops book club.

Denise: “Our group has switched to Zoom meetings. It was a little clunky when we had our first meeting, but by the second we were pros. We have stayed true to our original schedule. So we read THE TOPEKA SCHOOL by Ben Lerner in March, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen in April, and THE GIVER OF STARS by Jojo Moyes and THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK by Kim Michele Richardson in May.”

Rosa: “Sewickley Public Library (PA) book discussions are having virtual meetings at our regular schedule. It’s working out very well. But we would all like a real live discussion soon. We changed to e-books for now. I went over our reading list and identified the books that had e-book copies available for all the members, with some left over for other readers who might want to read the same book. In April, we read THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE by Melanie Benjamin. It was sad because the author was scheduled to Skype in to the discussion. That didn't happen because I was not sure how I would handle the meeting. I use Webex for the virtual meeting. Our May book is EDUCATED by Tara Westover. We have many e-book copies of that title. We have had the book on the list for two years and were unable to get enough copies for the group because of its popularity. Normally, we read physical books. For June, I again moved our list around to accommodate e-books. THE HANDMAID’S TALE by Margaret Atwood was already on our list, but not for June. Being flexible is imperative now.”

Carole from Wake Forest, NC: “Tomorrow, we will enjoy our third discussion using Google Hangouts. It has worked very well. We did a trial run before our first gathering, and helped those who were having some difficulty --- a microphone not working, a camera covered with tape. THE LIBRARY BOOK is tomorrow’s choice for discussion. I wish I had thought about it sooner to invite Susan Orlean to the discussion.”

Mary: “Our group met at our usual monthly time on Zoom, and it seems we will again this month. This month, we are reading THE WOMAN WHO SMASHED CODES: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies, by Jason Fagone. Last month, we read and discussed THE DUTCH HOUSE by Ann Patchett.

Jeanie: “My Dinner With Books group has continued to meet, although we have been calling ourselves Books Without Dinner. Ordinarily, we meet monthly at a local restaurant in a private room for dinner and to discuss our book, so during the past two months, we’ve tried two formats. We’ve tried email where everyone responded with their opinions and commented on the responses already made, and this past month we did our first Zoom meeting in addition to the ‘round robin’ email. That was fun as three members who had moved away in the last two years joined us from NC, FL and OH. We’ve already scheduled another for our May meeting, and we’re hoping to get back to a new normal soon!

Lil from Knoxville, TN: “My book club The Novel Bunch has continued to meet on Zoom! It has worked really well. We get to see each other and spend time discussing our book. In April, we read SERAFINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK, which is definitely a book for tweens. This month, we are reading EDUCATED by Tara Westover.

Muriel: “The St. Andrew Readers had our first Zoom meeting on Monday, April 20th with 10 of us participating in a discussion of LOVE THY NEIGHBOR: A Muslim Doctor’s Struggle for Home in Rural America, by Ayaz Virji. One of our members grew up in Dawson, Minnesota, where Dr. Virji set up his practice in 2013 and where he felt quite comfortable and accepted until the 2016 election caused some unfortunate changes in his life. We had known since December that we were going to discuss this book in the spring. We only had four copies of the book, but did a good job of passing it around to give all members a chance to read it.

“Most of us had limited experience with a Zoom meeting. We had some concern that people would end up talking over each other in our discussion, but everyone was extra careful and backed off quickly if someone started talking at the same time. If anything, people paused longer before giving an opinion to see if someone else was going to begin to talk first. It helped that we could all see one another well, except for the one person using an iPhone. The rest of us were using iPads or laptops with adequate screens for all people to be seen at the same time. The biggest glitch we had was that one member didn’t have the audio turned on and couldn’t talk to us. Since we could all see her, we didn’t realize the problem until it was too late.

“For our next meeting in May, we had planned to discuss THE GIVER OF STARS by Jojo Moyes, but due to possible inconveniences for members in getting copies of the book, we decided to wait until June. Hopefully, more outlets to get the book will be available soon as libraries and bookstores reopen. In the meantime, our group feels fortunate that I won 12 copies of THE LIGHT IN HIDDEN PLACES by Sharon Cameron through a Scholastic Press contest. Thus we have a book to use that no one will have difficulty trying to find a copy of. We enjoyed seeing one another as we met in our church parking lot last week for me to distribute the books. If need be, we’re prepared for a Zoom book club meeting again in May, but definitely would prefer an in-person meeting for our book discussion”

Carol: “Our book club is using Zoom. Some didn’t join us for the first discussion. I’m hoping more will participate in our monthly meeting in May.

Denise from Bristol, PA: “Our group is discussing via Zoom. We read THERE THERE by Tommy Orange in April. We will read THE WORLD THAT WE KNEW by Alice Hoffman in May.”

Vesna from Sparta, NJ: “We are a big group of 22 members and miss each other very much as we can't do in-person meetings. We are somewhat technically savvy; we have one or two leaders in the group who are awesome and help us navigate, but for the most part we are old school, ‘paper books in hands’ kind of girls. We joined the Book Club Girl virtual event with Fintan du Fresne, winemaker for Chamisal Vineyards, and then the book discussion of THE HUNTING PARTY with Lucy Foley, who discussed that book and THE GUEST LIST on April 30th. We enjoyed drinking the wine and listening to the author talk about her books. We were the only book club on Zoom, so we felt we were famous! I loved both her books and can't wait to see what she writes next. 

“Just today, May 4th, we Zoomed with author Craig Carlson from Paris! His new book, LET THEM EAT PANCAKES: One Man's Personal Revolution in the City of Light, was sent to us to review through #galleymatch and The Book Club Cookbook program. We got a PDF of his new book, set to release on June 2nd. We had never heard of this author or his books. His first was PANCAKES IN PARIS: Living the American Dream in France. Oh my goodness, what a fantastic Zoom event hosted by our own Nannette! We collected questions online on our Facebook page, and she assembled them and moderated the group discussion. We ran out of time, but she was able to set up a second Zoom and we continued from there. We had less people attend because we moved the time up to 4pm instead of 7pm.

“What a delight Craig was! He was so personable and easy to talk to, and he was joined at the end by his husband, who was so happy to see us. We were the first book group to have discussed his second book with him. He Zoomed in from his Paris restaurant Breakfast in America, and it happened to be the first day they opened for takeout since the shutdown. His story is extremely endearing, easy to read and gives hope that anyone can follow their dreams --- just like he did as an American expat opening a breakfast place in Paris, the culinary capital of the world. We all fell in love with Craig and are now going to buy his first book, and hope to see him at a US book event when things go back to normal for the release of LET THEM EAT PANCAKES. We asked what he was working on next, and he says he has so many stories of being in quarantine that it gives him lots of material to think about.”