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Checking Out Virtual Book Clubs

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Years ago, when my oldest child was an infant, I heard about a book club a local mom’s group was organizing. I was so excited and desperate to talk to other like-minded moms that I purchased the book, read it from cover to cover, and showed up at the restaurant. I didn’t see anyone I knew, so I grabbed a drink and waited for the meeting to start. I believe we talked about the book for approximately five minutes, before everyone began breaking off into groups and chatting among themselves about their lives. Because I didn’t know anyone, I stood off awkwardly to the side. Disappointed, I left the club early and never went back, vowing that book clubs were a waste of time. I still love to read, and a few years ago noticed virtual book clubs were beginning to pop up. I’ll see different celebrities promoting them and often get ideas for new books to read from their social media pages. I’ve interviewed a few local true crime authors for my podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. I often get pitches (and Net Galley access or offers of advanced copies) for thrillers, mysteries and true crime new releases. I started thinking it might be fun to form my own virtual book club as an extension of my podcast, so I poked around to find out what some of these other virtual book clubs offer. Here are two I researched. 

Reese’s Book Club 
How it works: Each month, Reese Witherspoon selects a book with a woman at the center of the story. It’s free to join. You download Reese’s Book Club app and set up a profile. You can buy books through an affiliate link, but it’s not required. 100 percent of the proceeds go towards funding specific programs designed to advance diverse voices and promote literacy. You can also shop for merch on the website and create your own box complete with a book and other goodies from the club’s partners. 
Recent selections: “Honey & Spice” by Bolu Babalola, “Counterfeit” by Kirsten Chen, “The Dictionary of Lost Words” by Pip Williams, and “True Biz” by Sara Novic. 

Jen Hatmaker Book Club 
How it works: Author Jen Hatmaker has a monthly subscription box and membership designed to share works of fiction, non-fiction, biographies, short stories, etc. each month. Members can pay $32.99 (plus shipping and handling) to receive the book, chapter summaries, a reading plan, and weekly group discussion questions. They also receive access to the private Jen Hatmaker Book Club Facebook group and a video podcast with the author or other special guest. The monthly book always includes a surprise item, such as a beanie, coffee mug, water bottle, etc. If you don’t want a physical copy of the book and would rather use a Kindle version, library copy, etc., you can pay $9.99. The digital membership allows access to everything but the physical copy of the book and bonus item. 
Recent selections: “When We Believed in Mermaids” by Barbara O’Neal, “The Girl with the Louding Voice” by Abi Dare, “I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet” by Shauna Niequest, and “The Lost Apothecary” by Sarah Penner. 

What’s the verdict? Do you belong to any of these virtual book clubs, and do you enjoy participating? What would you enjoy most out of joining this type of club? 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer who also hosts the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas.

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