Reading is not as private as some might think. Readers crave conversation and will go to great lengths to get it. I created Book Oblivion to combat intellectual isolation and read with like minds. We are a bit intense as far as online book clubs go – we are voracious readers. We focus on reading challenging literature and difficult philosophy and make time and space for conversation. Today I want to talk to you about some hidden benefits of an online book club community that you might not have realized.
When we lived in Oceanside, California, I paid a couple hundred dollars to take a class at UCSD and drove 45 minutes in traffic after a full work day. Did I need the credits? Hardly. The class description mentioned a couple really interesting books and I wanted to discuss them with others. This was a glorified book club that I was willing to pay for and drive out of my way for! How many of you have done something similar for the sake of conversation?
This is why you need an online book club. Reading a book with someone requires discipline and focus and offers accountability and connection. That is what we are creating in our community because we see the value in growing together through reading literature and philosophy. Many of us self-identify as introverts, which we have come to realize does not mean we avoid conversation. It just means we yearn for meaningful conversation. We’ll take this over small talk about the weather any day.
Every person needs an online book club to share reading experiences with to grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.
Cultivating the Intellect in Your Online Book Club
Perhaps you are familiar with the current academic trend of flipping the classroom? Instead of the traditional model where professors are held up on a pedestal, students are given more authority and autonomy in their learning experience. This encourages them to take more initiative in their learning process. The goal is to move the learner from a passive listener to an active participant.
Think-pair-share is an example of this and many professors will use this to help students solidify concepts taught in class. After the instructor lectures on a concept for 10-20 minutes, they ask the student to write a few thoughts (think), find a partner (pair), and explain their reaction to the concept (share).
This academic trend points to a deep need students have to share and discuss what they learn. Somewhere along the line, professors realized students weren’t performing this vital part of their education outside of the classroom anymore, so they now carve out precious classroom minutes to make it happen. Professors have found students perform better on tests and discuss more complex ideas in the papers they write after implementing this model.
We will never reach our full potential in isolation. David Foster Wallace echoes Wittgenstein when he calls solipsism For this reason, I urge you to find a reading partner to discuss anything and everything you read. This will help you solidify concepts, apply the text to your life, and contribute to your overall comprehension and retention of whatever book you read together.
In other words, you will get more bang for your buck.
If you read this blog, it’s more than likely you take reading seriously or would like to. My hope is that you are willing to read challenging texts, and when you do, your reading partner will have knowledge and expertise that you don’t. If you are not able to learn from one another, then it’s not a partnership.
Connecting Emotionally in Your Online Book Club
Reading with someone is a vulnerable exercise. You are exposing your emotions and intellect to someone and sharing parts of you that might never come up in non-book-related conversation.
If you are reading fiction, you might admit to empathizing with a character facing a certain temptation or relating to the flaw that ruins the happily ever after ending. If you are reading philosophy, you might resonate with a certain proposition that violates everything you thought you knew. Whatever the case, it is absolutely crucial that you trust your online book club because these deep emotional connections are what bring us back together again and again.
When people call reading their escape, this is why. It’s not because it’s mindless, but because the experience is sublime. It transports us to another world. Connecting emotionally to the text AND talking about it with trusted friends solidifies the memory of what you read in a way that strengthens your retention.
Connecting emotionally to material also increases retention and teaches empathy. If you weren’t particularly moved by a certain passage, but your reading partner was and shares that with you, you are more likely to feel strongly about that passage the next time you recall it. When my book club read Unbroken a few months ago, my friend cried when the Bird hurt the duck. And even though I didn’t feel as strongly about it the first time I read it, the more I thought about how the duck represented hope for the prisoners of war, the more I realized how despairing that season of captivity was for them. Not only that, but it makes me love my friend even more for being so in tune with the characters in the book and allowed me to recognize how big her heart is.
Reading with a partner allows you to connect with the literature AND your partner on a deeper level.
Caring Spiritually in Your Online Book Club
The intellect and emotions are intimately tied to one’s spiritual beliefs. The old adage that says it’s rude to bring up politics or religion has absolutely no place here. It’s impossible to read a decent book with an online book club without discussing what you believe about the character of God and how the book challenges or affirms those beliefs.
This, too, contributes to the deep bond and connection you’ll have with whomever you choose to read with. It doesn’t happen overnight, especially in a cultural moment where certain belief systems are considered hateful. But over time, these kinds of attitudes will come to light and be celebrated in conversation.
A friend of mine recently asked how what I believed spiritually contributed to my reading of House of Leaves. The most striking part of this book related to what I suspect the author believes about God and how it’s revealed so subtly in the text.
It comes in the form of a drunken letter from Navy to Karen when Navy says the house is God. Right after that statement, text is missing, and then Navy pokes fun at the fact that he just called God a street address. Nonetheless, we come to understand this character considers God an all-powerful, all-knowing, shape-shifting, physics-defying, monster. How is my God different? Let me count the ways…
The hard part with any text is recognizing where it taps into hard truths about some of the deepest parts of us. Do I think God is a monster? No, however, I have thrown my share of questions his way when I allow my circumstances to dictate what I believe about his character. This is a human reaction, especially to hard circumstances, but the more we talk about God’s character as revealed in scripture as it relates to what we are reading, the fuller the picture we have for who He is.
Whether you believe the author is dead or not, the text will point to his or her own attitudes about the world and teach us more about our own existence in relation to it.
I read different books with different people for different reasons, but I am always looking to connect with the mind of the author, the motivations of the characters, and intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually with the online book club community I am reading with. Reading has never been more alive.
Book Oblivion Online Book Clubs
Quick note: we’ve called our reading community everything from an online book club to reading groups to online courses. Here’s the deal: each reading group has an instructor functioning as a guide. Each guide reads, researches, synthesizes, and connects each book to the larger conversation. That research is disseminated in a reading guide to help clarify the reading and points participants to supplemental resources. We chat about our thoughts throughout the month in an online forum. We then get together to discuss the reading in an online video conference. Recordings are made available to anyone who cannot attend. Wash, rinse, repeat. We’ve been reading together for over two years and are joined by new participants each month. The rich intellectual, emotional, and spiritual connections we’ve made together defy geographic limitations of time and space. Are you interested in joining us? Find out more HERE.