5 Reasons Why I Love My Virtual Book Club

Molly Bagshaw
April 6 2020
Share 5 Reasons Why I Love My Virtual Book Club

I have been in many book clubs over the years—some conducted through work, others founded to make new friends in a new city, and those where the focus was more on wine than the book—but the only one that has withstood the test of time is my virtual book club. Founded five years ago, my online book club contains only three members: my friends Alyssa and Johanna, and me. Alyssa is an editor living north of Boston; Johanna is an ontologist with a library science degree living in Seattle; and I’m a digital product manager working in publishing and living in New York City. Alyssa and Johanna are two of the biggest bibliophiles I know, and with our homes spread out across the country, starting our book club was a natural solution to the problem: we missed each other and also wanted to talk books together.

Since many of you may be newly navigating this world of virtual hangouts, let me share with you five reasons why I absolutely love my virtual book club, followed by some of the books we’ve enjoyed along the way.

Connection. First and foremost, my virtual book club gives me an opportunity to see and connect with two of my book-loving friends who live across the country. I saw Alyssa in person only twice last year and I haven’t seen Johanna in person in over two years, but it doesn’t feel that way—the three of us have become better friends by meeting virtually every month. Funnily enough, when we all lived near each other in the Boston area, we saw each other less frequently than we do now. During this uncertain time of social distancing, I’ve had lots of video calls with friends and family that have felt a bit odd because we’re not used to communicating virtually, but video chatting with Alyssa and Johanna for our book club has brought me a sense of normalcy. 

Flexibility. When you’re meeting for your
book club from your own home, it’s really easy to be flexible in your
scheduling. You don’t have to worry about commuting, and you can also fit in a
quick dinner or workout before you meet. With only three of us, if someone
needs to reschedule, it’s easy enough to pick a new time and date. It takes
much less effort to reschedule your virtual time than an in-person time and place.

Comfort. Sweatpants! Really—how great
is it to hang out with friends and discuss literature while wearing pajamas?
It’s very reminiscent of our college days. After a long day at work, sometimes
the last thing I wanted to do is go out and be social. But with our virtual
book club, I can have all the comfort of being at home and still engage with my
friends. It’s a low-effort, maximum reward situation.

Affordability. A virtual book club is really affordable! It removes the extra costs caused by hosting your book club at a bar or restaurant, and it doesn’t require a member to purchase drinks and snacks when hosting at home. Additionally, when we pick the next month’s book, we make sure to determine which books are available to check out at the library or might be on sale; that way, no one is spending money on a book they can’t afford to purchase or aren’t interested in owning. Although I love collecting books, it’s a bit of a risk to purchase a new book every month when you’re not sure in advance if you will like it. Non-virtual book clubs take note, because this tactic of ours could help you out with affordability as well.

Conversation. While thought-provoking discussion should hopefully occur in any book club, it’s often longer in virtual ones since we don’t have to cut it short for fear of being too tired for the commute home. And, over the years, we’ve had some great conversations about all kinds of books. Though we each have our personal preferences for genre, we’re open-minded about reading any book on the shelf. We’ve read everything from literary fiction to celebrity memoirs, serious nonfiction to young adult novels, historical fiction to thrillers. And with help from book club discussion questions, we’re able to dig deep into each book. Our conversations reinforce why we love reading: reading challenges our experiences and understanding of the world; it breeds empathy and makes us better people; it allows us to escape our own worlds for a bit; and it lets us fall in love with a fictional character or learn about an important person in history. It keeps us connected to the world around us. “We read to know we are not alone.” (C.S. Lewis)

In five years, we’ve read 45 books together. Here are a few of our favorites to help you kick off your own virtual book club! 

Check out Off the Shelf’s Virtual Book Club post for more tips on starting your own engaged, online club from your couch!

This post was originally published on GetLiterary.com.

Love from A to Z
by S. K. Ali

A charming and heartfelt young adult romance that touches upon potent issues such as Islamophobia, degenerative diseases, and what it means to be a family.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo
Love from A to Z
S. K. Ali

A School Library Journal Best Young Adult Book of 2019
A YALSA 2020 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers

From William C. Morris Award Finalist S.K. Ali comes an unforgettable romance that is part The Sun Is Also a Star mixed with Anna and the French Kiss, following two Muslim teens who meet during a spring break trip.

A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.

Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.

Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.

Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo


Must-Reads to Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

By Get Literary | May 22, 2020

Celebrate National Library Week with These 7 Librarian Picks

By Off the Shelf Staff | April 20, 2020

5 Reasons Why I Love My Virtual Book Club

By Molly Bagshaw | April 6, 2020

6 Books to Celebrate Muslim Women’s Day

By Saimah Haque | March 27, 2020

This Will Only Hurt a Little
by Busy Philipps

As major Dawson’s Creek fans, we were eager to devour Busy Philipps’s memoir. It is entertaining, full of heart, and inspiring.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Bookshop logo
This Will Only Hurt a Little
Busy Philipps

A hilarious, heartfelt, and refreshingly honest memoir and New York Times bestseller by the beloved comedic actress known for her roles on Freaks and Geeks, Dawson’s Creek, and Cougar Town who has become “the breakout star of Instagram stories...Imagine I Love Lucy mixed with a modern lifestyle guru” (The New Yorker).

There’s no stopping Busy Philipps. From the time she was two and “aced out in her nudes” to explore the neighborhood (as her mom famously described her toddler jailbreak), Busy has always been headstrong, defiant, and determined not to miss out on all the fun. These qualities led her to leave Scottsdale, Arizona, at the age of nineteen to pursue her passion for acting in Hollywood. But much like her painful and painfully funny teenage years, chasing her dreams wasn’t always easy and sometimes hurt more than a little.

In a memoir “that often reads like a Real World confessional or an open diary” (Kirkus Reviews), Busy opens up about chafing against a sexist system rife with on-set bullying and body shaming, being there when friends face shattering loss, enduring devastating personal and professional betrayals from those she loved best, and struggling with postpartum anxiety and the challenges of motherhood.

But Busy also brings to the page her sly sense of humor and the unshakeable sense that disappointment shouldn’t stand in her way—even when she’s knocked down both figuratively and literally (from a knee injury at her seventh-grade dance to a violent encounter on the set of Freaks and Geeks). The rough patches in her life are tempered by times of hilarity and joy: leveraging a flawless impression of Cher from Clueless into her first paid acting gig, helping reinvent a genre with cult classic Freaks and Geeks, becoming fast friends with Dawson’s Creek castmate Michelle Williams, staging her own surprise wedding, conquering natural childbirth with the help of a Mad Men–themed hallucination, and of course, how her Instagram stories became “the most addictive thing on the internet right now” (Cosmopolitan).

Busy is the rare entertainer whose impressive arsenal of talents as an actress is equally matched by her storytelling ability, sense of humor, and sharp observations about life, love, and motherhood—“if you think you know Busy from her Instagram stories, you don’t know the half of it” (Jenni Konner). Her conversational writing reminds us what we love about her on screens large and small. From “candid tales of celebrity life, mom life, and general Busy-ness” (W Magazine), This Will Only Hurt a Little “is everything we’ve been dying to hear about” (Bustle).

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Bookshop logo


5 Reasons Why I Love My Virtual Book Club

By Molly Bagshaw | April 6, 2020

The Circle: What Books the 5 Finalists Likely Read to Prepare

By Courtney Smith | March 19, 2020

The Library Book
by Susan Orlean

A love letter to the Los Angeles Public Library and a deep dive into the 1986 fire that destroyed or damaged more than a million books.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo
The Library Book
Susan Orlean

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo


Genre Bridges: 7 Books to Shake Up Your Reading Routine

By Off the Shelf Staff | June 14, 2021

7 Spellbinding Books Brimming with the Magic of Libraries

By Karen Bellovich | May 12, 2021

8 Books About Books for Booklovers

By Alexandra Boelsterli | April 19, 2021

14 Reese Witherspoon Recommendations Your Book Club Will Devour

By Off the Shelf Staff | March 30, 2021

Book Haul: What Inspired Us to Pick Up the 8 Newest Additions to Our Shelves

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 16, 2021

6 Remarkable Literary Libraries I Long to Visit

By Holly Claytor | October 19, 2020

by Christina Lauren

A swoon-worthy romance between a young woman trying to find her way in the world and the sexy, Scottish musician she meets on the subway and subsequently marries to prevent his deportation.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Bookshop logo
Christina Lauren

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Bookshop logo


5 Reasons Why I Love My Virtual Book Club

By Molly Bagshaw | April 6, 2020

4 Music-Inspired Romance Novels for Boy Band Stans

By Jennifer Proffitt | January 17, 2020

11 Swoon-Worthy Love Stories for Non-Romance Readers

By Danielle Bucco | August 1, 2019

Books We Like to Give: 9 Books We’re Sharing with the Readers In Our Lives

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 4, 2018

5 Reasons Christina Lauren Are BFF Goals

By Casey Nugent | July 4, 2018

The Whispers of War
by Julia Kelly

A historical fiction story about three young women living in London at the cusp of World War II.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo
The Whispers of War
Julia Kelly

The start of World War II looms over three friends who struggle to remain loyal as one of them is threatened with internment by the British government, from the author of the “sweeping, stirring” (Kristin Harmel, internationally bestselling author of The Room on Rue Amélie) The Light Over London.

In August of 1939, as Britain watches the headlines in fear of another devastating war with Germany, three childhood friends must choose between friendship or country. Erstwhile socialite Nora is determined to find her place in the Home Office’s Air Raid Precautions Department, matchmaker Hazel tries to mask two closely guarded secrets with irrepressible optimism, and German expat Marie worries that she and her family might face imprisonment in an internment camp if war is declared. When Germany invades Poland and tensions on the home front rise, Marie is labeled an enemy alien, and the three friends find themselves fighting together to keep her free at any cost.

Featuring Julia Kelly’s signature “intricate, tender, and convincing” (Publishers Weekly) prose, The Whispers of War is a moving and unforgettable tale of the power of friendship and womanhood in the midst of conflict.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo
These Ghosts Are Family
by Maisy Card

A beautifully written novel told in vignettes about one family’s generational story from the Jamaican plantations in the early 19th century to current- day Harlem.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Bookshop logo
These Ghosts Are Family
Maisy Card

Longlisted for the 2020 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

A “rich, ambitious debut novel” (The New York Times Book Review) that reveals the ways in which a Jamaican family forms and fractures over generations, in the tradition of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.

*An Entertainment Weekly, Millions, and LitHub Most Anticipated Book of 2020 Pick and Buzz Magazine’s Top New Book of the New Decade*

Stanford Solomon’s shocking, thirty-year-old secret is about to change the lives of everyone around him. Stanford has done something no one could ever imagine. He is a man who faked his own death and stole the identity of his best friend. Stanford Solomon is actually Abel Paisley.

And now, nearing the end of his life, Stanford is about to meet his firstborn daughter, Irene Paisley, a home health aide who has unwittingly shown up for her first day of work to tend to the father she thought was dead.

These Ghosts Are Family revolves around the consequences of Abel’s decision and tells the story of the Paisley family from colonial Jamaica to present-day Harlem. There is Vera, whose widowhood forced her into the role of a single mother. There are two daughters and a granddaughter who have never known they are related. And there are others, like the houseboy who loved Vera, whpose lives might have taken different courses if not for Abel Paisley’s actions.

This “rich and layered story” (Kirkus Reviews) explores the ways each character wrestles with their ghosts and struggles to forge independent identities outside of the family and their trauma. The result is a “beguiling…vividly drawn, and compelling” (BookPage, starred review) portrait of a family and individuals caught in the sweep of history, slavery, migration, and the more personal dramas of infidelity, lost love, and regret.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Bookshop logo
Woman on the Edge
by Samantha M. Bailey

A fast-paced thriller about a fateful subway encounter that will make your heart beat out of your chest.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Bookshop logo
Woman on the Edge
Samantha M. Bailey

A moment on the subway platform changes two women’s lives forever—a debut thriller that will take your breath away.

A total stranger on the subway platform whispers, “Take my baby.”

She places her child in your arms. She says your name.

Then she jumps...

In a split second, Morgan Kincaid’s life changes forever. She’s on her way home from work when a mother begs her to take her baby, then places the infant in her arms. Before Morgan can stop her, the distraught mother jumps in front of an oncoming train.

Morgan has never seen this woman before, and she can’t understand what would cause a person to give away her child and take her own life. She also can’t understand how this woman knew her name.

The police take Morgan in for questioning. She soon learns that the woman who jumped was Nicole Markham, prominent CEO of the athletic brand Breathe. She also learns that no witness can corroborate her version of events, which means she’s just become a murder suspect.

To prove her innocence, Morgan frantically retraces the last days of Nicole’s life. Was Nicole a new mother struggling with paranoia or was she in danger? When strange things start happening to Morgan, she suddenly realizes she might be in danger, too.

Woman on the Edge is a pulse-pounding, propulsive thriller about the lengths to which a woman will go to protect her baby—even if that means sacrificing her own life.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Bookshop logo

You must be logged in to add books to your shelf.

Please log in or sign up now.