Tag Archives: book club

Our Shared Shelf – Emma Watson’s Feminist Book Club

I’m pretty sure you and I relate to Emma Watson’s most remarkable fiction character.

Hermione Granger, the bookworm witch turned into feminist activist.

The bookworm witch turned into feminist activist.

The 26-year-old actress was appointed as the United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador in 2014, when she helped launch the campaign HeForShe, advocating for gender equality.

At the beginning of 2016, Watson launched a worldwide book club on GoodReads called Our Shared Shelf. The group has over 140 thousand members across the globe! With the help of a handful of volunteer coordinators, the group engages in frequent and lively discussions about feminism, human rights, cultural differences, etc.

Watson picks a book every month (though she created a poll for members to choose the book for the summer – July and August). She managed to interview a few of the authors, soliciting questions from the members. Some of the interviews are available in videos. Volunteers have started to translate the transcripts of interviews so members that don’t read English can read the interviews.

Here’s what the group has read so far:


February color-purple
“I am trying to choose works that cover as much ground as possible and are diverse… I’ve heard amazing things about this book from a person that I trust… The musical is currently on Broadway (starring Cynthia Erivo, Jennifer Hudson and Danielle Brooks) and a film was made of the book in 1985 by Steven Spielberg. It was Oprah Winfrey’s film debut and introduced Whoopi Goldberg (I love both of these women). I’m excited to read it and maybe do some watching too.”



“This month’s book choice is in honor of bell hooks who interviewed me for Paper magazine this month. Maya Angelou said of bell’s work, “Each offering from bell hooks is a major event, she has so much to give us’. I love hearing from bell, I am pretty excited to start “All About Love: New Visions”. It’s been on my list for a while.”


“I read it on a plane from London to New York and I laughed out loud and cried so much I think the whole of my cabin, airline staff included, thought I was losing my mind.”


“The story is about the author’s relationship with artist Harry Dodge, who is fluidly gendered. It’s about their romance, the birth of their son, the death of Harry’s mother and their changing bodies, as Maggie becomes pregnant and Harry undergoes surgery, but it’s also about inclusion and the powers and shortfalls of language.”


“As Iran enters another important period of change, with relations re-opening with much of the world, I think this is a particularly good time to pick up Persepolis. Satrapi’s deceptively simple, almost whimsical drawings belie the seriousness and rich complexity of her story–but it’s also very funny too.”

July/August hunger-modern-girl


“Half the Sky depicts, in eye-opening detail, the various cultures and customs that suppress women and gives a voice to those individuals who need to be heard the most. Traversing through Africa and Asia, Kristof and WuDunn introduce us to some incredibly strong women and describe their stories of suffering and survival.”


Booksmacking and the Library Book Club

Does your library book club have a hard time keeping its members? Is the reading too predictable by the end of the season? Do you need a way to inject variety and freshen up your book club?

How about considering alternating the assigned reading with a Booksmack?

At the Greater Victoria Public Library we have had great success and retention of our members at our Oak Bay Branch Book Club by alternating a month where members all participate in a Booksmack with a month of the traditional book club format (i.e. all members reading and discussing the same title). With a Booksmack, each member of the club is required to select a title, give a verbal critique of it and then answer questions from the group. Booksmacks can be as simple as free reading for that month.

You could also choose to assign a genre or theme to each Booksmack and thereby showcase your library collection to your readers. We experimented with this by assigning Nonfiction, Autobiography and Graphic Novel themes to our Booksmack months. Graphic Novels received the most pushback but produced the best meeting of the year.

Booksmacks also generated patron-driven Readers’ Advisory lists, allowed for expression of taste, reduced the onerous “I have to read it for my book club and I don’t like it” syndrome and took the pressure off the collection to supply enough titles every month, particularly if your club is a Nonfiction or genre club like Mysteries and there may not be enough copies system-wide for all members to read the same book.

By the end of the year the assigned fiction reading was, by all accounts, boring, while the Booksmack was loved. The retention for the next year was 75% and the alumni promised to come up with better titles for the assigned reading.

Alternating the monthly format in this way has kept the best of both worlds: the joy of traditional book discussion with the full expression of personal reading, along with an audience with whom to share it. This year with the injection of 25% new members, the genres we are considering  for our Booksmack months are Science Fiction, Children and Teens, and Nonfiction (specifically the 300’s this time around).

If you’re tired of doing the same-old, you might want to consider the Booksmack as a fun way to put a new spin on your library book club format.

Sharon Young is a Library Assistant at the Greater Victoria Public Library