How to Start an Online Book Club on Goodreads

I write this title to draw in readers with the assumption that I know what I am talking about. Yes, I do know how to start a book club. But to get it going and sustain it for the long run? That will be the topic for another post.

Here are the steps I have taken to get things started on facilitating a book study for a group titled School Leaders as Readers:

1. Get a Goodreads account.

Goodreads is one of my favorite social media tools. It combines my love of reading with the online networking that creates unique connections with other readers. I wish we had something like Goodreads for kids. You can create an account through your Facebook profile, which is what I did. Otherwise just create an account through your email.

2.  Start adding books and bookshelves.

You can categorize books in three ways: “To-Read”, “Currently Reading”, or “Read”. I have several books jockeying for attention in the first two categories. As for the books I have completed, I recommend creating personalized bookshelves. This is a helpful way to curate what you have read for others to reference, or simply for you to reflect on later.

3.  Create a Goodreads group.

While it may seem odd to complete the first two steps before this one, I think it is pretty important. To start a book club online, I believe you need to be seen as an avid reader. It’s not enough to read a lot but are not actively sharing our reading lives. We expect this of our students; why not us?

Starting a group is pretty straight-forward: Select “Groups”, then “Create a Group” on the upper right side of your screen. At this point, Goodreads guides you through the next steps of giving your group a title, adding a book you want to read with your friends on Goodreads (friends will find you or be suggested to you, no worries), invite friends to your group, and then create discussion boards related to the major parts or chapters of the book you are reading.

You will want to keep your book club group’s title and purpose pretty generic, as you will hopefully be reading several books around topics of interest within this online community. Since you are the leader of the group, it is imperative that you start the discussion ball rolling with your own initial posts. Below are the first three I shared for our group’s first book, Mindfulness by Ellen Langer.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 7.51.10 PM

As you can see from my initial post, I really need to read this book.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 7.51.27 PM

I ended up gifting a copy to the librarian, and buying a gift card for the Good Samaritan.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 7.51.43 PM

One thing I have appreciated about this online community is the sense of a “closed space”. I can write what I want to write, and not worry a whole lot about grammar, audience, purpose, etc. Of course, I am attending to those elements of good writing, but I am not worrying about it as much I might with a blog post (like this one) or more formal writing. No responses yet, but we only have six people in our group. If you are a school leader, consultant, or public education advocate in general, I hope you will join us for this initial experience. Click here to access our Goodreads community.

Bonus: Leave a comment on this blog post, and you are registered to win a free copy of Mindfulness by Ellen Langer!

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District ( Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD ( and Lead Literacy (

11 thoughts on “How to Start an Online Book Club on Goodreads”

  1. The timing of this post is impeccable! Just today I created a new Goodreads profile as my teacher account. I am planning on facilitating student sign-ups in class tomorrow! I have many thoughts about where this may take my learners (excitement for reading, writing reviews with audience in mind (thank you Digital Portfolios!), and also collaboration with other classrooms in my school, along with a teacher in another District who wants to set up collaboration between schools via Goodreads. Thanks for the ideas!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for this article, Matt. While I have been aware of Goodreads, seeing it everywhere, I really had no idea what it was. There are many times when I am reading a book that I wish I had someone to discuss the ideas with. Not all are suitable for blog posts but I can see how various ideas could be discussed on Goodreads. I also like that it would make it easy to maintain a list of what I have read, as well as what I am reading and plan to read. I’ll have to investigate further. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Matt, I’ve been a member of Goodreads for some time, but I haven’t found it to be particularly helpful to me as a reader. I just joined your group, and I’m hoping this is exactly the forum I need to really see what Goodreads has to offer me. Thanks for starting this group – and this conversation about online book clubs!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There is a Goodreads for kids! Two actually. I use a website called Biblionasium with my students. They can create a Bookshelf, keep track of what they’ve read & want to read, log minutes (if you want them to – not necessary), recommend books to friends, review, etc. It’s totally private and kid-friendly. There is another site called Bookopolis which I haven’t used personally, but it looks very similar.
    It has lots of books in the database – probably not as many as Goodreads though. But if kids can’t find their book, they add it. It’s quite simple!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Could I create closed or private book clubs? I am a high school librarian, and I want to create an online book club, but for obvious reasons, don’t want the club to be open to anyone but club members.


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