Stacy Oliver is the founder of Christian Book Previews and The BookClub Kit, known widely for being decorating challenged and for her prolific consumption of Diet Coke. She is married to her best friend Dan, and they have two lego-obsessed sons and a fairy princess daughter, who all share a passion for the Sovereign Lord and the written word.
One of the appeals of any club is the ability to get together with friends and talk. In a book club, the added attraction is that you get to talk about books.
With other book lovers.
Who have read the same book.
If you’re a fellow book lover, that thought alone makes you sigh with delight. So what could possibly make it better?
Making use of new computer technologies can add a unique dimension to the way you manage your book club and have discussions, as well as broadening your scope of what a book club can be. Let’s look at some tools you may have dabbled in or heard of, or maybe even some you are unaware of, and see how they can benefit your book club.
1. Organizing Tools. Many people have used Evite to send invitations and collect reminders from book club members. But what about taking it a step further? Open up an entire pre- or post-meeting discussion by creating a group on Ning, Shelfari, or Facebook. (In fact, Ning proposed this very idea not long ago on their corporate blog.) Or create a blog just for your club; someone can summarize the meeting and members are invited to comment.
Another very helpful site is Book Movement, which allows you to build a free group page with possible book picks, a discussion section, and an event planner for your book club. It also has discussion aids, but most are not for Christian books, so be discerning with these materials.
2. Audio and Video Conferencing. If you’ve thought about gathering friends from around the globe for a virtual book club gathering, some fabulous options are available to you at no cost. As someone who enjoys technology, I’ve come to rely on tools like Skype to talk with friends over the Internet. By loading a simple piece of software onto your computer and adding either a microphone or webcam, you can launch your online book club with flair. Using Skypecasting, which is still in beta, you can open up your group to anyone interested in your topic.
Not only can you use this to connect your group over the miles, you’ll find that several Christian authors are more than willing to join in your discussion via the Internet.
3. Photo Sharing. I have a friend who loves to take pictures everywhere we go. Since I don’t do well with cameras, you can bet she’s our official book club photographer! After your meeting, why not have everyone share their pictures with a special Flickr account? Flickr also allows you to add commentary
to your pictures, and friends can throw in their comments, too. See what others have done with their book club shots, and get inspired! While you’re there, take a look at my lovely pics, keeping in mind my photographic handicap.
4. Video Sharing/Book Trailers. A growing trend in the Christian book market is to produce video trailers on a specific book. Similar to movie trailers you see in the theaters before the main feature, book trailers introduce viewers to the story and convey the mood. Use these to present the next month’s book to your group, and get them excited to start reading. Or play several trailers to help with book selection decision. Most are found on the authors’ Web sites, but you can also do a search on GodTube and YouTube.
But don’t stop there! You can also create your own videos to share with other groups, either summarizing your club’s opinions of a book, or showing clips of the meeting itself. I use the FlipVideo camera because it’s so easy to use. I plug it directly into the USB port on my computer. The software does all the work of editing and uploading to YouTube or other video sharing sites.
5. Discussion Aids. Now this is probably obvious to you, but so many resources are out there to enhance your book club’s discussion. Publishers offer discussion questions. Enotes has plot summaries, literary criticisms, and more, as do SparkNotes, Encarta, and ClassicNotes. For Christian works in particular, your best bet is to seek out the publisher or author sites first, and if that’s not available, use some of the examples to create your own.
I hope this gets you in the mood to try some new tricks in your book club! I want to hear from you when you do, and then I can share your experiences here in a future column. Happy reading—and always remember to use biblical discernment when choosing your books.