A couple of years ago, I co-founded a major book club in my city. Because I was the facilitator, I felt it was my duty to read not only the chosen books but the study guides as well. It was like taking a literature class, without the term papers and oppressive overhead lighting.
Ah, those were the days. Now I’m in the middle of seven different books and can’t seem to finish any of them. Seriously. (I hope at least to finish Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — yes, that’s Book 5, not even Book 6! — before the movie is released.)
If you’re an avid reader — even a lapsed one, like myself — you might be inspired by the myriad book clubs and resources available online:
- Adobe eBook Mall: Compendium of online bookstores and retailers selling reading material in PDF format.
- AmazonConnect: Amazon.com’s service that enables readers to receive messages directly from their favorite authors.
- Barnes & Noble Book Club Center: Free online reading groups with authors and other readers.
- Book Club Resource: Comprehensive guide to discount book clubs and reading groups.
- BookCrossing: Free, serendipitous exchange of books “in the wild.” (BookCrossing is related to other forms of “Internet-Guided Offline Recreation” — a phrase coined by yours truly — like Geocaching and Database Rituals.)
- Booksfree.com: Online library of paperbacks and audiobooks delivered to your door.
- BooksOnline.com: Clearinghouse of book clubs, including specialty interest and niche clubs.
- Dear Reader: Serial portions of books delivered via email — an innovative yet simple way for busy people to get started on good books.
- Google Reading Groups: Large compendium of reading groups and literature lovers. (A great place to start.)
- Great Novels Wikispaces community: Anyone can participate in this wiki (collaborative online resource) for readers.
- Internet Public Library: Handy reference site put together by librarians. It includes a reading room of free books and other materials.
- Library of Congress: An important national reference site that should be on everyone’s list of bookmarks.
- MSNBC Today’s Book Club: Big-media resource for books that includes feature stories, book excerpts, interviews and individual sections for different genres.
- National Education Association’s Read Across America: National tour to inspire kids to read and — laudably — to bring books back to Gulf Coast public schools.
- NetLibrary: Partnered with many public library systems to provide library card holders with access to free digital books.
- Oprah Winfrey is credited with inspiring millions of adults to read good books in the age of information overload and media exhaustion. You can view her list of cited books and join the famous Oprah Book Club. If you’re feeling crafty, check out the nifty free Bookmark Maker.
- Page By Page Books: Free repository of public domain books in easy-to-read page format.
- Playaway: Pre-loaded, self-playing digital audio books.
- Project Gutenberg: Free repository of public domain books in plain-text format.
- Reader’s Circle: Online directory of face-to-face book clubs and reading groups, including readers’ circles (free-form groups in which people attend with whatever they’re reading, which can include books, articles, magazines and other print materials).
- Readerville: An organizational resource for readers interested in participating in lively, lofty discussions of chosen books on a schedule.
- Spaghetti Book Club: Book reviews by kids for kids.
- SparkNotes: Free study guides for literature and other academic subjects.
- Target’s "Ready, Sit, Read!" book club for kids. (You can use this $2-off book coupon until September 8, 2006.) Target also offers Bookmarked, a book club for grownups.
If this got you thinking about books and literary resources, you can listen to an imaginative discussion on libraries of the future. (Will they be bookless community centers chock-full of digital information, accessible from anywhere?)