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Digital book clubs are booming – reading with Reese Witherspoon

There is one for Jane Austen fans, one for feminist literature and one for “novels you should have read by now”: If you like reading, there is a book club for every possible topic on the “Meetup” website. Online literary circles are flourishing: Actress Emma Roberts founded one, as did tennis player and literature fan Andrea Petkovic. This has not least to do with the pandemic, in which there is a lack of leisure opportunities.

Yumi Downie-Blackwell runs a book club on Meetup. It now has over 4,000 members. With a few others, the 37-year-old calls the hour once a week that should only be there for reading: Netflix banned. The group has existed since 2015 and meets at the Discord online service during the pandemic.

“Sometimes I hear about my group: This is the largest collection of introverts I’ve ever seen,” she says. “But even those who prefer to read books alone at home need new stimuli and contact.”

Andrea Petkovic in a talk about literature, politics and the climate

You can also have a look around on Instagram, for example on the profile of tennis player Andrea Petkovic. While she is in quarantine before the Australian Open, she chats about his book with Greens boss Robert Habeck in the bathroom of her hotel room. She exchanges ideas with Sibylle Berg about life outside of the comfort zone, and from Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre she learns what it is like to live constantly in a hotel.

Actresses Reese Witherspoon, Emma Watson and Emma Roberts have also founded book clubs. Witherspoon has its own app for “Reese’s Book Club”. Roberts and a friend present interviews with writers and curated reading lists on Instagram. The US writer Joan Didion was recently popular there, as was the book club run by top model Kaia Gerber.

Reese Witherspoon's book club - © screenshot Wiener Zeitung

Reese Witherspoon’s book club – © screenshot Wiener Zeitung

Recently, the former US First Lady Michelle Obama announced that she would publish her biography in a version for young readers – with the hint that it might be an opportunity to start a book club for young people.

“I think the celebrity book clubs are great too,” says Downie-Blackwell. “I love everything that reveals the truth about books: namely, that reading is cool.” Aside from the coolness factor, lately more people are probably picking up books because leisure activities are so limited due to Corona.

Well-read, of course

At least that’s what the spokeswoman for LovelyBooks can report. With 1.9 million users a month and a total of over a million reviews, the online platform claims to be the leading book community in German-speaking countries. The number of hits has increased since the pandemic, said the spokeswoman: “LovelyBooks recorded a traffic growth of over 30 percent in January 2021 alone compared to the previous year.”

On LovelyBooks, for example, there is a “Crime Club” or the “House of Fantasy”, where readers can exchange ideas. “The typical LovelyBooks user is between 21 and 40 years old and loves reading. The majority, at least two thirds of our users, are female,” says the spokeswoman.

In the Downie-Blackwell Club, too, members exchange reading tips or talk about anything to do with literature. At the moment only on the Internet – but usually also in real life. As a book fan, do you benefit from social networks? The trained librarian is ambivalent about that. “Social networks take away my reading time! Instead of” doom-scrolling “(for example: scrolling to the point) I could have read Anna Karenina last year,” she jokes. “But thanks to social networking, my reading list is getting longer and longer.” (Apa, red)



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