Book clubs can provide companionship, an incentive to read and a forum for conversations.

As the coronavirus pandemic pushed many gatherings of book lovers onto virtual platforms like Zoom, it helped them expand their memberships into new neighborhoods or even across countries’ borders.

In traditional book clubs, members agree to read the same book in a given month, then get together over refreshments to discuss it. Some are private gatherings, often in a café or someone’s home, while others are in places like public libraries. (About 11% of Americans belong to a book club, according to a Pew Research Center poll.)

Davina Morgan-Witts, publisher of the site BookBrowse, which is a resource for book clubs and a guide for readers, says the turn to online meetings has allowed clubs to add newcomers from far away or keep former members involved after they moved away.

“There was no longer the requirement to be within 10 miles,” Morgan-Witts says. The ability to include people in other countries with varied perspectives has been a bonus.

Connecting quietly

A totally untraditional take on book clubs was started by friends Laura Gluhanich and Guinevere de la Mare, who have enjoyed sitting in a bar reading together. Called Silent Book Club, the members don’t discuss a book’s finer points aloud. Members just sit and read together — not even the same book. The club has 250 chapters around the world, including in Perth, Australia; Meerut, India; and Laramie, Wyoming.

Members agree to meet online at a specific time, spend a few minutes showing off what book they’re reading, 40 minutes reading silently (on Zoom or a similar platform), and then a few minutes at the end reading favorite passages to each other.

“The benefit is connection — connecting with fellow readers and introverts without needing to be an expert on any given book or genre,” Gluhanich says.

Just like traditional clubs, these online forums are helping readers find exposure to ideas and titles they might not have known about.