5 Ways to Host a Virtual Book Club and Support Local Businesses at the Same Time

The reality of our new, remote existence has officially set in. Cans of chickpeas and rolls of toilet paper are now bought in bulk, YouTube has seemingly become a boutique gym, and the buzziest happy hour spot in the world is on Zoom (that's right, Zoom!). It's bizarre and maddening and near-impossible to process, but — for those privileged enough to be safe at home and working remotely — there are still little things we can all do for a moment's reprieve from the news cycle. For homebodies and bookworms in particular, having the extra time to curl up with a paperback is one undeniable perk. (Bonus points if you're cozied up with a slice of homemade banana bread, which everyone seems to be baking these days.)

Now is the time to tackle your to-be-read list, catch up with friends, and, if you're able, support local, independent booksellers all in one go. In that spirit, here are five simple ways to host the perfect virtual book club — one that's sure to make Reese Witherspoon proud!

Select a Bookish Virtual Venue
Getty | Westend61

Select a Bookish Virtual Venue

The first matter of business is locale. Ordinarily, we'd suggest you gather at a cozy pub or cocktail spot — ideally one with a literary menu (more on that in a bit). Given current circumstances, though, choices are limited.

In lieu of corner booths and high-top tables, try gathering on Google Hangouts, Zoom, or via Book Movement's Book Club app (made expressly for digital book clubs). Pro tip: recommend everyone allow five to 10 minutes for tech set-up before you dive into a provocative conversation about your chosen book; goodness knows we all need a bit of time to tackle last-minute technical difficulties.

Choose the Perfect Story

The most important part of this process is choosing the perfect book for your group to read and discuss. You could follow the selections of clubs like the Black Girls Book Club (whose events are, understandably, on hold at the moment) or Reese Witherspoon's Book Club (the latest pick is Glennon Doyle Melton's inspiring memoir, Untamed). Or, you can follow the beat of your own book club's drum and choose books that speak to you and your friends.

Some soon-to-be-released recommendations? Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender tells the story of a transgender teen, but is sure to prompt important, thought-provoking dialogue among adults. Lisa Duffy's My Kind of People will fill you with hope and a renewed sense of resilience, which we could all use a bit more of right now. Stephanie Danler's memoir Stray is equal parts heart-wrenching and inspiring — perfect for fans of nonfiction and Danler's prose (you may be familiar with her last book, bestseller Sweetbitter). And Hannah Orenstein's Head Over Heels offers a perfect escape to an alternate 2020, one full of Olympic aspirations and encouraging pep talks.

Support Local Booksellers
Getty | Johner Images

Support Local Booksellers

Once you've landed on the date, digital meeting medium, and book of choice, you have to make sure you're able to get your hands on an actual copy. And fortunately, there are still loads of ways to order from local shops without physically visiting their locations. Google the shops you usually frequent — many of them are continuing to take orders by phone, email, and through their respective websites.

Order From Digital Indie Bookstores
Unsplash | Perfecto Capucine

Order From Digital Indie Bookstores

Prefer ebooks? Audiobooks? Unwilling to wait for the post? Not to worry. Websites like My Must Reads and Libro.FM allow you to buy digital and audio editions directly through local bookstores as well. Niche titles, bestsellers, Stephen Fry's sweet narration, and the power to support small businesses are all, quite literally, at your fingertips.

Whip Up Some Literary Libations

Now, on to refreshments. Many local alcohol and wine shops are still delivering straight to customers' doors — often through third-party sites — giving you and your book club mates the capacity to whip up some literary-themed cocktails.

Draw some inspiration from The Blind Pig in Soho and shake up Paddington's Lost and Found, a meld of citrus flavors and vodka (served with a note reminding you to "Please look after this bear") or Harry Potter's Best Bottle Butter Bitter, a frothy blend of butterscotch, bitters, and beer. Cheers!