Top Five Alternatives to Traditional Book Clubs

photo via

photo via

I know those “what you think X is, what X actually is” memes are played out and dumb so forgive me:

What book clubs want you to think goes on at book club: Ladies, libations, and literary discussion. Basically this guy’s wet dream.

What you think actually goes on at book club: a bunch of 30-something ladies drink wine, eat snacks, and pretend to have read the book for a few minutes before moving on to more important subjects, like, I dunno, shoes or something.

What actually goes on at book club: I have no idea. I’ve never been to one.

I know traditional book clubs are still a thing. Several people I know (some in real life!) love them. But for those of you who are too lazy to clean your house and/or have trouble interacting with people IRL, there are SO MANY other options. In no particular order:

1. #YegBookClub
The idea for this post came courtesy of blogger Kristen Finlay, who came up with #YegBookClub. It’s very simple, which is why is works so well: each month, an Edmonton-authored book is chosen and a date and time for the chat is set. Read the book, use the hashtag during the chat, and connect with other readers. You can still drink wine and no one has to know that you’re wearing your stayin’-in leggings.

The inaugural #yegbookclub pick was Todd Babiak’s Come Barbarians. I found out about it too late and hadn’t read the book but had fun participating anyway. This will be a regular event for me from now on. I was inspired to start the book that same night (it’s fantastic so far.)

Oh, and the author participated, AND gave a hint about the next book in the series:

2. The library
It seems like each branch of the Edmonton Public Library has at least one book club going, or three, in the case of my local branch.  There’s even a club specifically for CanLit, which I will be attending later this month. The pick is Richard Wagamese’s Indian Horse and yes, I read the book. I will report back but the nice thing about a drop-in club is there’s no pressure. Yes, I will have to put on my goin’-out leggings, and interact with strangers, but I’ll never have to host which means I don’t have to clean. I have my priorities straight.

I’m curious, do other cities have this much book club action going on in their libraries?

For some reason I am much more scared to attend a Meetup book club than a library one. Maybe because libraries feel like a safe space? I don’t know what my issue is, I’m not afraid of internet strangers. I mean, I survived meeting a strange boy off the internet in 1994, when the likelihood of someone who says they were a 14 year old male actually being 14 was probably… not good. There was also that time ten years later that I met another boy off the internet and married him. ANYways, there are a ton of book clubs on, and this one in particular, Bibliophile’s Anonymous, that I will attend one day, damn it.


4. Canada Reads
I have a whole other blog post brewing about Canada Reads, but it struck me that it’s less of an award and more of a one-sided book club. Not completely one-sided, as there are lots of chances to interact in live chats and on Twitter. The books are announced way ahead of time and it’s doable to read them before hand. And the debates are just like I imagine my dream book club to be – sometimes serious, sometimes silly, always passionate. This was my first year watching and I was so pleasantly surprised by the tone of the discussion AND by how my Twitter timeline was dominated by #CanadaReads2014. Obviously I am following the right people.

Everyone's new boyfriend, Wab Kinew, on Canada Reads. Photo via

Everyone’s new boyfriend, Wab Kinew, on Canada Reads. Photo via

5. Book Blogs
If you think about it, all of our little book blogs are attempts are building a big, long-term, online book club. Readalongs especially, and those are kind of like a longer, drawn out Twitter chat, but the whole concept of a book blog is just an excuse to find people who give a shit about what you’re reading, right? And when I’m blogging I am most definitely wearing my stayin’-in leggings, as a best-case scenario.

TOTCSpeaking of readalongs, here’s a heads up: I will be hosting a readalong for A Tale of Two Cities starting Easter weekend. Watch for a sign-up post soon. If you are thinking, hey, weren’t you going to focus on diverse authors this year, you can blame my brother-in-law for this pick. He was also responsible for the Moby-Dick readalong last year, so I’m going to trust him on this, despite Dickens being the ultimate Dead White Dude.

Tell me about your book clubs, IRL and otherwise!



  1. Kristilyn

    I missed the yegbookclub one too late, too. I would’ve loved to have read Come Barbarians for it! Ah well. I’ve seen the bookclubs on, too, and always feel so intimidated about signing up. That and they’re ALWAYS on the south side. I think I love the book blog one the best … I like being able to read my books at my leisure. I feel so much pressure when it comes to reading for book clubs! I attended one at my library a few times and it was okay. I found the books to be kind of dull, though, since they only used books that were available as book club kits. I like more personal ones where we have to find the books ourselves because the books are usually more exciting.

    • lauratfrey

      I know, I have the same issues with Meetup groups, all on the southside and a lot of them seem very well established, like, I would be some weirdo just showing up. I dunno. I’m gonna try it, it’ll be something to blog about anyway 🙂

  2. plaidheart

    A friend and I are starting a book club and the planning has been the important part; neither of us has been part of a book club and we actually want to talk about books! We decided not to host in people’s homes, that way no one has to clean! Also, we decided to read an award winning book that we pull out of a hat so that no one bring a ‘dud’ to the club. I also followed Canada Reads and try to read as many of the books as possible. I can’t wait to see what my new book club friends have to say!

  3. Naomi

    I’ve never belonged to a book club, online or otherwise. My blog is the closest thing to it. But I love following Canada Reads, and I love seeing what others have to say on their book blogs. Both of these can be done in my pajamas. I’ve thought about our library book club (I think there’s one for adults and one for teens), but usually I’m not very interested in the books they read. The CanLit one at your library sounds great! I hope you enjoy it. I would be interested in hearing how it works.

    I’m participating (I hope) in my first read-along (Madame Bovary @ ebookclassics). And, now that I see you have one coming up, I would love to do that one too. I haven’t read A Tale of Two Cities, but I own it and it should be read. I will be watching for the sign-up!

    • lauratfrey

      Readalongs are great. I did a bunch last year and haven’t done any yet so far. Been feeling uninspired for some reason. And TOTC isn’t one I would have chosen, but I’m keeping an open mind!

  4. Jen

    My book club definitely tends to be in the “chat about the book for a few minutes before turning straight to gossip.” It’s a fantastic excuse to have a night out with some girls and to read books I might not otherwise read – BUT I’m a purist/anal retentive control freak, and I would love more book talk at my, you know, book club.

    • Brie @ Eat Books

      Haha, Jen!! 😉 I know, it can be frustrating when almost no book talk happens during book club. It’s even more frustrating when almost no one has read the book! (And yes, I have been guilty of that more recently). My Edmonton book club is a lot like this – very, very little talk about the actual book and a miracle if more than 2-3 people have read the book. BUT, I do really enjoy the night out with the women in both my book clubs 😉 I think that’s why readalongs via book blogs are so popular – you actually get to talk about and dissect the book. One of the things I like most about being in a book club(s) is the different books it *forces* me to read, books that I would otherwise never pick up.

  5. Carolyn O

    Why is Canada so cool?

    I would totes sign up for your ToTC readalong, but (1) I’m reading Great Expectations for the CC spin right now, and I think that’s enough Dickens for a decade and (2) I have never gotten over my tenth-grade hatred of ToTC. Maybe you can reform me.

    I don’t belong to any book clubs, but my friend Mary runs a local indie bookstore, and they have at least three or four book clubs going. I think our library has a couple, too.

    I met my husband thanks to the good graces of the internet, too. 🙂

    • lauratfrey

      It must be an American thing to read Dickens in high school, I never did. I’m not even sure if I’ve read any Dickens… I own GE and David Copperfield but I can’t remember if I actually read them.

  6. ebookclassics

    I have to agree that the book blogging community is already one big book club, so maybe that should be enough …

    I work in Toronto and go to the Toronto Public Library even though I’m no longer a resident (they allow it with a letter from your employer). The City Hall branch has a book club that meets at lunch, but I haven’t been because I usually have to many books already on the go. They also have an online book club which I just signed up for and they are encouraging the whole city to read The Cellist of Sarajevo as one big book club in April. I also go to the Oakville Town Library where I live, but their book club meets at night and that’s family time for me. I joined a Meetup book club thinking I needed to meet book lovers IRL, but have only attended once. I met lots of interesting people and I’m supposed to go again soon, but a lazy can’t-be-bothered feeling comes over me just thinking about leaving the house.

    Would love to read Dickens with you, but probably will be tied up co-hosting Madame Bovary in April. Maybe next time!

  7. Leah

    These are all great ideas! I’ve never been in a book club because I don’t have anyone to start one with, but I’ve had some great blog read-along experiences!

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  9. Priya

    I have been part of a Meetup Bookclub for two years now and I love it. We’re ready to try books from all genres and the discussion does stick to the book (mostly) 🙂 And it’s not just ladies, in fact, there are only a couple of other women. But still, book blogs are my favourites for book discussions – readalongs, challenges and events are the best, especially to find your kinds of readers. 🙂

  10. Rory

    I run a book club at the library I work at. It’s a science book club (we have a meeting tonight, actually – Abundant Beauty by Marianne North). It’s…exhuasting. I’m the one who organizes, hosts, and leads the discussion. As you can imagine, the topics can be a wee bit dry, but as we’re a science library we’re kind of limited on topic choice. Wine would help. Or, at the very least, help me. Overall it’s fun. It’s nice to get to know the people who come and who are interested in reading. Last session a participant showed up drunk, that was interesting.

    Aside from Carolyn, I’ve never met anybody that I’ve interacted with online (as a way of meeting). But there’s a whole list of people I want to meet since I began blogging (you’re included – we’re about the same age, our children are about the same age, we read books and like ’90s music – that’s enough, right?. There’s a fine line between coming off nice and normal and coming off creepy. Hopefully I didn’t cross that line… 🙂

    • lauratfrey

      No line crossing, of course not! Most of my friendships are based on less 🙂 I`m trying to form a one-time book club so an author will come visit us (I never realized how many authors visit book clubs, it`s pretty cool) but maybe it`ll become something more. I just can`t host for obvious reasons (kids, filth.)

  11. Isi

    I attend to a book club in my public library and I’m very happy with it 🙂 I discover new books, I don’t have to clean my house (ok, I have to but not because people are coming) and, most important, the library provides the books we read, so it’s perfect!
    The downside I’ve found is that you start talking about the book, and we usually end up talking about politics (fortunately it’s not everything about shoes!)

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