AS ATTENDANCE at her Chicago book club began to dwindle due to vexing scheduling issues, Hannah Rau, 24, craved a better way to sate her reading addiction. The devourer of young adult and coming-of-age novels wanted more than her group’s sporadic get-togethers could deliver. And she found it online. “The ability to have book clubs available on my smartphone or tablet when I am on the go is great,” said Ms. Rau, who is now a member of four.
Whether through websites, newsletters, apps or social media, millions of readers like Ms. Rau are organizing online to discuss and analyze best-selling texts. Online clubs defy the restraints of time and geography, accommodating voracious bookworms when and where they’re most comfortable.
“These clubs are helping readers break out of their existing social bubbles,” said Alisha Ramos, who founded Girls Night In (girlsnightinclub.com), a book-club newsletter that now reaches 75,000 readers. GNI conversations unfold mainly on Instagram, but the discussion has evolved beyond the web’s bounds to include monthly in-person events in 10 cities, from Austin to Toronto.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck forged his eponymous online book club (andrewluckbookclub.com) to “build a team of readers of all levels.” Every month, Mr. Luck picks two popular works—one for “rookies,” another for “veterans”—and spurs readers to post reactions on social media tagged #ALBookClub so they’re more easily searchable. Between games, Mr. Luck also hosts a podcast where he chats with best-selling authors including John Green and Phil Knight.
Podcast listeners can also download Anne Bogel’s audio book club “What Should I Read Next?” (modernmrsdarcy.com) on which the host invites authors to discuss topics like summer reads and gateway books for Netflix lovers. On Facebook, the show’s more-than-50,000 followers interact with the Ms. Bogel, guests and other listeners.
Elsewhere on Facebook, the group #spiveysclub, founded by health and wellness tastemaker Ashley Spivey, emboldens members to review their latest reads and suggest new books. Along with posting opinions and generally respectful rejoinders, members coordinate book swaps and Secret Santa-like exchanges through the mail.
One of the books #spiveysclub recently discussed was the “The Wedding Date” by first-time author Jasmine Guillory. Ms. Guillory chimed in and answered questions about her novel with clubs via Skype, adding that she’s met many friends that way. “It’s fun to see who’s reading the book,” she said.
On Instagram, Reese Witherspoon created the exceedingly popular @reesesbookclubxhellosunshine, which has amassed more than 568,000 Instagram followers. Each month, she singles out a new novel, posts photos, and leads bustling discussions using hashtags.
Similarly, actress Emma Watson updates her Goodreads community, “Our Shared Shelf,” with a new pick every two months. Focused on feminist works, her cohort has exploded to more than 215,000 members.
Her jump into countless book clubs has whetted Ms. Rau’s reading appetite. Now if only there were online clubs to offer tips on building more shelves.