Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Fresh Approach To Book-Clubbing: Hitting Up Classics Ten Chapters at a Time


This February, I found that I was traveling up to two or three hours a day for a couple of weeks in a row. Sick of music, tired of hearing the same NPR stories recycled, I had an idea: I should listen to audiobooks. I don't know why I am not swimming in audiobooks, because I absolutely love them. Honestly, I never ever think to buy or download them. Or, I should say that I never thought to do this. I now have a huge pile just waiting to be heard.

One audiobook that I started (I am on chapter thirty-one and have not yet finished listening) was Moby Dick by Herman Melville. I've never actually read this book, but after listening I absolutely want to. I don't know what I actually thought this book would be like, but I know that I didn't think that it would be as engaging and funny as it is. I am glad that I thought to download it off of LibriVox.

(But this is not the purpose of this post. It's just somewhat related. Here is what I really want to say!)

In my email inbox, I received an update about a blog I follow on the NPR site. It's called Monkey See. The authors of this blog, Linda Holmes and Marc Hirsch, are hosting an online book club called the "I Will If You Will Book Club". In this club, readers are given a time frame to read a short bit of a literary classic. This month's assignment: The first ten chapters of Moby Dick. The book club does not meet in person. They meet online and used CoverItLive to discuss the chapters they had read beforehand.

I did not have an opportunity to discuss this book with the others in this "club" online, but I did get to read their discussion and comments afterward. From what I read, this was a success. Everyone who participated seemed to think that they had discovered a classic text that they might have never read and were enjoying it. That's success.

So, what are the implications of this style of book club for classroom teaching and collaborative learning. It seems like students could easily use the same type of technology implemented in this club in the classroom setting. Or, maybe not in class but outside of class to collaborate on projects. Or to talk about a reading selection.

If this one blog project can get a bunch of people to read Moby Dick and this reading makes these people want to meet up online in the middle of the day, maybe there are some lessons to be learned about what motivates readers. Is it the actual process of reading or the idea that the reading/ insights/ information/ likes and dislikes are going to be shared with others? Given the fact that I belong to four book clubs, I'm guessing it's the later.

I can't wait to see what other books this club reads and follow the conversation. Feel free join in if you're interesting in having a little puch to read a classic text!

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