By Olivia Adams
Having a community of readers is incredibly important, despite the solitary nature of the act. Spending my fifth-grade year at the library is how I got my first job! I experienced my first open mic event at the last independent bookstore in Niagara Falls. But what do you do when the world suddenly becomes inaccessible? Here are five ways I’ve found to be helpful in creating community during such isolating times.
1: Pen Pal Book Exchange
One of my favorite things in the world is receiving mail. Imagine getting a package with a random book in your favorite genre, well-worn and loved by its previous owner? Or exchanging books by the same author with someone across the globe? A snail-mail book exchange might be the perfect way for readers to connect in a physical way with others. One community that is currently very active is the subreddit r/bookexchange, where you can request anything from specific titles to the most niche of categories. Worried about someone having your address? If you have the means, getting a P.O. box is an inexpensive way to protect your privacy.
2: Virtual Book Club
Book clubs are one of the most popular forums for conversation between booklovers. However, with libraries and other locations having limited capacity, one can turn to the internet and find a plethora of book clubs that can connect them with a variety of readers they may have never known. Quarantine Book Club is a site that hosts virtual meetings with popular authors. Anyone can join in and have discussions on topics from goat farms to children’s bibles and everything in between! Silent Book Club hosts a network of book clubs that meet throughout the United States. Many of these groups have switched to online, making them more accessible to anyone with internet. In the spirit of staying local, head to the Purchase College Library Instagram to learn how to participate in the book club run by their staff.
3: Book Twitter
Twitter is good for a lot of things, and bad for nearly as much. However, the commentary community there is absolutely unparalleled. Looking for a more lighthearted take on your favorite horror novel? Or a hot take that doesn’t take three pages to get to the point? Or recommendations and essays linked in your everyday newsfeed? Book twitter has it all! Follow @BookRiot for essays from their website and book deals you might not find on your own. Following authors such as @thatlauraruby can help connect you to the book world in a very intimate way by allowing you to see a point of view that comes directly from the source of the writing. Additionally, @APublicSpace is a literary journal that is hosting a book club on Twitter that readers can follow and participate in using the hashtag #APStogether.
4: Reading Challenges
While there are a lot of reading challenges that circulate on platforms like Instagram and Twitter, signing up for an official one can help give either specific or vague book options that you’ll read simultaneously with people across the globe. For instance, Book Riot’s annual Read Harder challenge asks readers to check out books from various genres with specific stipulations, widening the world-views of the people reading them. They also link participants to a group chat that connects readers, furthering their sense of community.
While this option may not seem the most exciting, the variety of newsletters that are available to the reading public is vast and fascinating. If you want to find ones that send a blog post related to writing to your email, the Dear Reader newsletter might be a perfect option for you! Want to simply get a short story sent to you every two weeks, no decisions needed on your part? A Small Good Thing does just that! There are newsletters for almost every genre you can think of — Go crazy!
I know the world is an intense place right now. But I hope this list helps you find something that can brighten your reading world in some way!