In the five part series, the participants, which included Champion, Sarah Weinman, Levi Asher, and Diane and others, wrote about the book in turn, sometimes responding to each other, sometimes not.
In all, it was a compelling, insightful read, but I am not sure, in the end, that I would call it a discussion, but more like analytical turn-taking. This is not an indictment of the project; I would gladly read another such document about a contemporary novel.
In addition to getting me interested in the novel at hand, this experiment got me thinking about the structure of online book discussions. There are all sorts of them happening online, from read-a-longs to challenges to book clubs, to forums, and so forth. And while I haven't tried every available format, one thing is clear to me from those that I have tried: none of them comes close to a old-fashioned, in-person, book discussion.
My instinct is to blame the medium--that there's something irreplaceable about being in the same room with someone, something in the more subtle ebb-and-flow of face-to-face interaction that lends itself to intimacy, investigation, and encouragement.
When I think of the best discussions I've ever had about books, though, I'm not sure it's about physical proximity but about shared experience; there's something about knowing the people you are discussing a book with. But, there's something else that is harder to define that makes for illuminating, sustaining book talk, something much harder to define.
So, here's my question: what's the best book discussion you've ever had? What made it so great? How does it compare to online book discussion (or was it online)? What do you think the qualities of a good book discussion are?