3 Online Book Clubs with a Global Perspective

A globe covered in book covers
Photo: Around the World in 80 Books

ONE OF LIFE’S GREAT pleasures is sharing a favorite book with a community of bright, engaging friends, wine in hand and the fireplace crackling. In a perfect world, the host of your local book club is charming, the introverts are cozy and the extroverts gregarious, the conversation is brilliant and never lags, and the serving board groans under the weight of everyone’s best-loved dishes. 

Time, however, is not always on our side, and acknowledging that the perfect is all too often the enemy of the good, we submit for your consideration the online book club. In these digital spaces, there’s no need to clear your calendar because you can dip into the conversation at your own pace. There is more time to consider your response to a thought-provoking insight, and those who feel shy of public speaking can take their time crafting exactly what they want to say—or just read along and keep out of the limelight.  

The internet is vast, and sometimes it’s hard to find a signal in the static. With that in mind, we’ve tuned in to some vibrant, active, and smart online book clubs where the participants are bringing insight and a sense of community to their digital spaces. We’ve also taken care to bring you a variety of levels of social engagement, whether you’re looking to make close friends or just supplement your reading. 

BBC World Book Club 

Our first pick is perfect for our most introverted or busiest readers, or perhaps just those of you wary of online forums. The BBC World Book Club invites readers to submit questions for a podcast that features the world’s great authors discussing their best-known novels, such as Héctor Abad’s Oblivion, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen. With a substantial archive and no forum, you’re free to scroll back to learn more about a longtime favorite or find an extra incentive to work through the ever-growing pile on your nightstand.


Asymptote Book Club 

For a little something in the middle, we recommend the Asymptote Book Club. Partnering with top independent book publishers, Asymptote’s subscription service delivers a new book to your doorstep every month. Recent titles include The Barefoot Woman, by Scholastique Mukasonga, Like a Sword Wound, by Ahmet Altan, and Moving Parts, by Prabda Yoon. The online discussion space is professionally moderated to keep the conversation focused, and for subscribers in major world cities, there is the chance of attending in-person events featuring authors and speakers from around the globe.  


Around the World in 80 Books 

If you’re looking for something more intimate, Goodreads is one of the most active communities for avid readers. The discussion boards are classically laid out and simple to follow, with side conversations in separate threads you can jump in and out of for a more social experience. Around the World in 80 Books is the most popular of the Goodreads book clubs devoted to world literature and books in translation with nearly twenty thousand members, but like many long-running book clubs, the core membership is much smaller. This makes for a cozy and more personal setting to really sink your teeth into the books and make real connections with fellow readers.  

Elizabeth Rae is an undergraduate student at the University of Oklahoma and an intern for World Literature Today. Her self-published novel Idyllwilde is available on Amazon, and her pop culture podcasts are available at CommonRoomRadio.com.