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Reflections on a new kind of book club

Reading a book alone can be nice, but this format showed me that even reading can be an inherently social endeavor.

Shamay Agaron
Shamay Agaron
. 2 min read

In the last few months, I was part of an online book club where we discussed Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From. The book itself was interesting, but the structure of the club and the people involved were really fascinating.

For context, this book club was created from the community of early adopters of the note-taking tool Roam Research, which I’ve written about earlier. As you might imagine, people in this category are pretty thorough and take lots of notes.

Without going into too many specifics, Roam Research provided a common space for the club members not only to leave their own thoughts, but also to read through the thoughts of everyone else for a specific chapter or section.

For example, we went through the exercise of providing a brief summary of each chapter. After everyone added their summary, it was a really magical experience to read through 50 different interpretations of the same text. Here’s a sample:

It not only gave me a much deeper understanding of the ideas we’ve discussed, but also a greater appreciation for the diversity of perspectives within the group. It was a reminder that we all come to the table with vastly different sets of experiences, and it’s a wonder we ever understand each other at all!

The book club also had weekly Zoom calls, which featured various speakers (including the author himself) as well as breakout rooms to discuss the chapter we just read.

This was my first experience with an online, community-driven learning group of sorts, and it was truly transformative. Reading a book alone can be nice, but this format showed me that even reading can be an inherently social endeavor.

Personally, I would love to see a platform like Goodreads that also provided a way for people to easily find others reading the same books they are to form spontaneous reading groups.

I’m confident that many more people would be drawn to lifelong learning if platforms like Hyperlink and Learn Awesome continue to grow and provide more opportunities for active, participatory learning experiences.

If you’re curious to experience this for yourself, the book How to Take Smart Notes was chosen for the next iteration of the Roam Book Club and the first meeting is tomorrow. Sign up here!