May 25, 2010

On-Line Book Groups & Group Reads

We are all becoming all too familiar with on-line social media or networking with sites like Facebook and MySpace, etc. Well, a couple of years ago I discovered that there are similar on-line sites for bibliophiles, and it struck me that it might be interesting to spend a couple of minutes describing the two that I use. I am currently a member of and They both allow me to organize and portray all of the books I own, that I'm reading, want to read, and the books that I want to acquire. Additionally, both sites have a plethora of special interest groups (e.g., books, authors, periods, subjects, etc.) that you can join and participate in. For example, on Goodreads, I am a member of a Jane Austen group, and a group that discusses and reads all things Victorian. On Shelfari, I am a member of a smaller group of about 60 participants that reads and discusses all things in the British literary world. This group is called Anglophiles Anonymous, and it is one of my most favorite places to 'visit' each day.

It used to be that if you really wanted to delve into an author, a book, or the entire canon of an author or time-period, you needed to enroll in a class at a university or community college, or go out and form a book-club with like-minded folks; or, you were simply on your own. This is not the case any longer. Now you can browse around these on-line "book-lover" sites and find the right group, or groups, for you. I can flat-out assert that I have read more wonderful books over the past couple of years because of my involvement and participation in these two sites. I have been, and continue to be, reading the best books of my life these days.

One particularly enjoyable facet of these groups is the ability to actively participate in "group-reads" and discussions of various books over a set period of time. For example, in my Shelfari Anglophiles Anonymous group over the past year we have done group reads of, to name just a few, the following:

The Forsyte Saga...John Galsworthy
Villette...Charlotte Bronte
Far From the Madding Crowd...Thomas Hardy
Persuasion...Jane Austen
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There...Lewis Carroll
Three Men in a Boat (Not to Mention the Dog)...Jerome K. Jerome

We've read many, many more too; but this gives you the general flavor. Similarly, in my Goodreads groups we have done many group reads of some really great books. In fact, on June 1st, I am getting set to start group reads of the following novels:

Vanity Fair...William Makepeace Thackeray (Goodreads, The Victorians group)
Master and Commander...Patrick O'Brian (Goodreads, Jane Austen group)
Daniel Deronda...George Eliot (Shelfari, Anglophiles Anonymous group)

In fact, with Daniel Deronda, we will be reading the novel in sections matching the original serialization schedule of the novel in "Blackwood's" from February through September 1876; but instead of taking eight months, we will be reading it and discussing it over an eight-week period.

Finally, I want to mention that Goodreads has another really cool feature for bibliophiles. They have a bookswap feature that is really easy to use; and with it you can give away books that you no longer want, and you can, in all likelihood, find books that you have been looking for; and all for the price of postage (U.S. Mail media rate). You pay for books shipped to you; and the receiver pays for books that you ship to them. Goodreads even allows you to print the pre-paid mailing label for any book you ship off. The bookswap feature allows you to create a 'wishlist,' identify the edition and condition of any books that you are looking for, and so forth. I have sent off about 25 of my own books to new homes over the past couple of months, and I've received about ten books that I have been looking for. A great deal for all concerned.

So, if you love books, and want to meet and make some new friends, and share some great discussions over your favorite books, and find some new favorites; I strongly suggest that you go visit Goodreads and/or Shelfari. Sign up, create an account, start filling your shelves, and discover a new way to satisfy your passion for books, and meet some new folks to boot! Happy Reading!

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