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ON THE SHELVES: Book clubs are booming and they’re getting creative

Are you reading more or less during the COVID-19?
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Book clubs may not be able to meet up in living rooms like they did a few months ago, but they’re alive and thriving in this time of physical isolation.

They offer a combination of solitary pleasure and social solidarity that is well-suited to this moment. Book clubs can be a way to build friendships, or to explore important issues with a local community organization.

They can provide support while reading a difficult book, or bring people together for snacks and a good laugh.

How are book clubs changing these days?

While some clubs have always taken advantage of digital platforms, others are making their first forays into using video conferencing.

Some are creating groups on social media to share their thoughts. A book club can be as simple as a group text between friends or a dedicated family dinner discussion.

At the library, we’ve even teamed up with the CBC “St. John’s Morning Show” to bring you an on-air book club (Friday mornings in May at 7:20 a.m.).

While you might have to bring your own snacks, book clubs are discovering there can be unintended bonuses to going digital.

We’ve heard from several book clubs who were surprised to find they talked more about the actual book on video conferencing than they did in person.

Groups have re-united with previous members who had moved out of town, and new groups are popping up. A lot of people have more time to read than they have in a while, so it’s a great time to gather up friends from any time zone and talk books.

How are book clubs finding books they can read at the same time?

At the library, we’re focusing on our digital collections while buildings remain closed.

Our main source of eBooks and eAudiobooks is Overdrive (also called Libby when using the app on a device).

Since popular titles can have waitlists, which is tricky for book clubs wanting to read the same book, we’ve created a new collection called Book Club Central, which will feature five no-waitlist eBooks each month.

For the full May to August schedule (and a whole assortment of book club resources) see:

Looking ahead to plan your book club for next month?

Check out these Book Club Central titles available for the month of June (if you place a hold now, you will be notified June 1st):

“Land Beyond the Sea” by Kevin Major (NL)

In October of 1942, a German U-boat sinks the passenger ferry SS Caribou and a deadly conflict ensues in the icy waters of the North Atlantic. Reimagined from both sides, this is an epic historical novel contained in the events of a single night.

“Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club” by Megan Gail Coles

Against a backdrop of blizzards, rolling blackouts, sex, betrayal, and addiction, the unforgettable characters in this “Newfoundland gothic” confront the traumas of their past and work towards a different kind of future.

“Moon of the Crusted Snow” by Waubgeshig Rice

The power has been cut, food supplies are dwindling, and chaos looms in a small northern Anishinaabe community. A post-apocalyptic novel about catastrophe, resilience, and a new society emerging as another collapses. A great choice for National Indigenous History Month.

“Flat Broke With Two Goats” by Jennifer McGaha

This memoir moves from tax debt and foreclosure to accidental Appalachian homesteading adventure.

“The Rest of Us Just Live Here” by Patrick Ness (Teen)

What if you aren’t the Chosen One? What if you aren’t off fighting zombies or rescuing the town from supernatural threats like your best friend? What if you just want to figure out the everyday catastrophes of high school, prom, and dating, before someone blows the school up again?


We also have other ongoing collections of no-waitlist titles. It’s a great time to catch up on classics, and we have hundreds of always available classic novels to choose from. For groups interested in audiobooks, AudioBookCloud has a great collection of always available titles. We’ve highlighted some of our favourite book club picks in these collections here:

Looking for other ways to switch things up in your book club? Here are some ideas if you want to try something new with your group:

• Cookbook test panel

Each member tests and reviews a different cookbook over a shared video meal. Show-and-tell at its most delicious!

• #OwnVoices

Look for books with diverse characters written by authors with the same lived experience

• Compare the book to the movie

Best. Homework. Ever. (You can even use tools like Netflix Party to discuss via chat panel while watching the movie together.)

• Reading as reconciliation

Pick a title by an Indigenous writer as a way to continue the conversation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

• Hire the author to attend your meeting

Writers make a lot of their living doing readings, which means they might be available right now. It’s a great time to support our authors!

• Laughter as medicine

Read something hilarious and share your favourite parts out loud

• Family book club

Read a book out loud together, or listen to the audiobook, and then get together online (or in your double bubble) to compare notes with another family


And stay tuned for some great kids’ reading ideas coming up in our all-digital Summer Reading Club program.

We miss our patrons. We miss hearing about what you’re reading. But you know what’s giving us life right now?

All of you out there sharing your current reads on social media, and telling us about your latest discoveries on Libby. What are you reading or listening to right now? Find us on Twitter (@NLPubLibraries) and tag us in pictures or screen shots of your current books. Introduce us to your book club.

Keep each other safe out there, and happy reading!

For more about the Newfoundland & Labrador Public Libraries, or to get a free library card online, go to

Anna Swanson is the provincial selections co-ordinator for the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries. She is also a writer, a terrible banjo player, and an avid outdoor swimmer.


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