How did your group get started?
In 1996 a group of pioneering volunteers, all age 50+, developed a book discussion area on the Web site of the SeniorNet nonprofit organization. The original books area was called Book Club Online and then, as now, was open to everyone. Although the Book Club Online has expanded into a broader Books & Culture area with several clubs, general discussions, literary contests, and other areas of reader interest, the original Book Club Online has offered a discussion of a specific book every month for the past 10 years. The Wall Street Journal called SeniorNet.org "The BEST On-Line Forum for Retirees," and it won the first Webby Award for communities.
How do you describe your group?
We're a virtual community open to book lovers all over the world who meet on the Internet for cordial, literate, and in-depth book discussions 24/7. About 30 volunteers offer book discussions and related literary activities to hundreds of readers yearly. Some members gather for an annual in-person meeting in different parts of the country.
When you participate in one of our book discussions, you may be talking to a farmer in Illinois, a member of a champion curling team in Canada, a university professor, a grandmother in New Zealand, or a psychologist in Virginia. Diverse experiences and perspectives provide a rich and rewarding experience for everyone.
Each book discussion takes place in a bulletin-board/message-board asynchronous environment (not a live chat), which is open 24 hours a day. The discussion of a book generally lasts for one month or longer. We provide several book discussions in any time period, and readers can participate in as many as they'd like.
We offer readers several different areas of interest: our quarterly "Read Around the World" book club discusses books by authors from different regions of the world; our "Houseboat" club selects books with House in the title; and our "Great Books" group has been reading the classics since 1997. In total, we have read more than 400 books together (300 discussions remain in our Archives). We also sponsor two op-ed discussions: "Curious Minds," conversations on a wide range of news-related topics, and a discussion of PBS programs.
What makes your group special?
SeniorNet.org Book Clubs have many unique aspects. First, we have renowned authors participate. Participants have included Wally Lamb and some of the women writers of his Couldn't Keep It to...