Not to be outdone by the “Today” show, which splashily launched its first book club last month with “The Bone Season” by newcomer Samantha Shannon, Tumblr’s new Reblog Book Club debuted Tuesday.
If what makes a book club work are enthusiastic participants (and, possibly, wine, but only for those over 21), then a book club and Tumblr are a natural fit. The bookish Tumblr community is active, devoted and sometimes even chatty. That conversation, and more, is what Tumblr’s Reblog Book Club hopes to encourage around “Fangirl” by writer Rainbow Rowell, herself an avid Tumblr user.
We threw Tumblr books maven Rachel Fershleiser some questions about the new book club via email; these are her answers.
Why the name “Reblog Book Club”?
Reblogging is what makes a Tumblr book club (or any Tumblr conversation, really) different from other ones online. When you reblog from someone else, their full text/art/etc comes over to your blog with clear credit to the originator, and then stays providing context for whatever comments you add. So if I wrote three paragraphs about disliking a certain character, and someone else reblogged and added three paragraphs about why they love her, and then someone else reblogged with a gif like this, people seeing the post later can follow the whole conversation and who thought what -- it doesn’t just zip by.
I still think it can be tricky to create the feel of a book club with people in different time zones who never get to meet. I’m humbly suggesting that Tumblr might be the best way to do it. You can use text as short or longform as you want, art, gifs, videos, songs; you can include hundreds or thousands of contributors without getting confusing; and you can create original posts or share interesting things you find elsewhere on the Web.
How important was Rainbow Rowell’s own Tumblr presence in choosing “Fangirl” as the first Reblog Book Club book?
It was definitely important to me to work with an author who’s an active member of the Tumblr community. Rowell gets the culture, she gets the tools, and she’s a shining example of the brilliant artists we count among our creators. With this particular book, it’s sort of inextricable anyway -- fan culture, Tumblr culture, and the world of “Fangirl” have tons of overlap.
“Fangirl” is a YA book – is it a book that you think adults are reading too?
“Fangirl” is a book that all my friends in our 30s were clamoring for an early copy of. [Rowell’s novel] “Eleanor & Park” was a big crossover hit, and I think “Fangirl” is, in some ways, even more sophisticated. It’s 432 pages, it takes place in college, and, most appealing to me, it has a nuance a lot of books lack. You get to know the characters for a long time before you know what roles they’re going to fit in Cath’s world. Sort of like life.
What percentage of teen and younger readers are participating, or do you expect to participate, in this book club discussion?
I don’t have exact numbers on this, but I think participation will start at 13 like Tumblr does and reach up well into adulthood. From notes I took while putting things together, we had interest from people in U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Ecuador, Czech Republic, Latvia, and Denmark, and teens, college students, moms, dads, teachers, and librarians! (And this guy).
Librarians are very active on Tumblr – how are librarians involved in the book club?
Yuuuuup, you nailed it. I am seeing LOTS of librarians. And some clever library Tumblrs reblogged the intro post and then linked to reserve the book in their individual library systems. Smart!
Will there be another book club pick, do you think?
I sure think so, but I don’t have anything nailed down yet. This is definitely a bit of an experiment, and we’re learning as we go. I’m wide open to suggestions -- mainly I’m looking for a perfect storm of appropriate for younger readers but compelling to older readers too, quality/accessibility, and an author who is already an active member of the Tumblr community.
Anything else you want to share?
Basically, Tumblr is already a place full of enthusiastic readers and writers: poetry, fan fiction, novels, everything. And while a certain kind of nerd already spends all day discussing books on Tumblr (Hi Mom!) we wanted to highlight these great conversations for a wider part of the Tumblr community, as well as book-lovers who might not know what it’s like here.
Personally, I’m incredibly passionate about the ways that online communities enrich the literary world. There are still too many people who think the Internet is a wasteland devoid of complex thought or genuine connection. In fact, it’s where the most attentive fanbase in history celebrates the art that speaks to them and creates their own in response. It’s where I can work out my feelings about a 900-page novel with a stranger on the other side of the world when I finish reading it at 4 a.m. So I guess I’m hoping we can showcase some of that for the wider book-loving universe.