Brainstorming and Crowdsourcing a BITG Book Club

I’m starting a book club. The Bishop In The Grove Book Club.

Cool, right?

For those who are keeping track of the number of projects mounting on my desk, the thought of one more new endeavor probably seems like insanity. But I don’t care. I think a book club sounds like fun. I could use a dose of fun.

(The 19 year old me might never have expected himself to one day think of a book club as a “dose of fun.” I was a hot mess, though. What did I know?)

“So many books, so little time.”
― Frank Zappa

 The inspiration for the book club came after I posted this photo to Twitter. Beacon Press, at the request of my friend, Chris Stedman, sent me a copy of Chris’s book, Faitheist. I was thrilled.

First, it’s a hardback, and I really love the weight and feel of a hardback book. Second, how adorable is he? Not to undermine his position by objectifying him, but isn’t he charming? With those big glasses and little suit. I mean, how could you not want to know how he came to let go of God?

So I posted the picture and one of my Twitter followers, the word nerd, dog dad, hiker, runner, actor, accordionist, bicylist, bookworm, coffee snob, and ’80s freak, Jeremy, wrote the following:

That was all it took.

And here’s why I think it could work:

I’ve seen time and time again how the readers of this blog are willing to engage deeply with the subject matter I present. You are willing to dig in, to challenge assumptions, and to open your minds up to new ideas. That sounds like the makings of a wicked book club, right?

Here’s the thing, though — I’m not exactly sure how to structure this. Before I can put a plan together, I need to gauge your interest. I need to see who would be up for joining in this internet-wide book club, and I need to know a little bit about you.

If you’re into it, if you want to be a part of the Bishop In The Grove Book Club (is #bitgbc a good hashtag?), please answer the following questions in the comment thread. They’ll give me some perspective about how to move forward from here.

  1. How much time would you need to read a 175-250 page book?
  2. Are you interested in reading books about religion, theology, polytheism, Celtic culture, Druidry, and creativity?
  3. What are you interested in reading? (In case none of the categories in #2 are interesting to you.)
  4. What 3 books do you think would be good reads for the audience of this blog (based on what you know from our discussions in the comments)?
  5. Are you comfortable using Twitter? In addition to dialoguing on this blog, would you be open to scheduled Twitter chats?
  6. Do you think this idea is something that your friends would enjoy, and would you be willing to post about it on your social networks?

Lay down some thoughts, and feel free to elaborate.

If you’ve done online book clubs before, what worked? What didn’t? If you can, tell me what you’ve seen succeed — that information will help me out a great deal.

Yay books!



28 responses to “Brainstorming and Crowdsourcing a BITG Book Club”

  1. S Kaiser Avatar
    S Kaiser

    I am definitely interested in the book club idea.

    1. I would need about 2 weeks.
    2. Absolutely.
    3. Anything. (history and critical thinking are always interesting to me at least)
    4.World full of Gods by John Michael Greer, The Otherside of Virtue by Brendan Myers, and Loneliness and Revelation by B Myers
    5. I do not use twitter so that part would be a bit of a bust. I am best at posting comments here.

    6. I really do not use other social media. I just started playing with google+.

  2. Tasha Danner Avatar

    Okay! Yes to this… I love book clubs, since I am a tad lazy in finding good books and this exposes me to things I normally wouldn’t choose on my own.

    1) It takes me 2-3 weeks to read a book, depending on the complexity of the subject, more if I am thinking if specific questions while reading it.

    2) Of course!

    3) Also: Qabala, Hermeticism, yoga, music and spirituality (Harmony of the Spheres), mythology, Isis, magic, and Greek/Celtic/Jewish/Egyptian History

    4) God is not One (Stephen Prothero), Inside a Magical Lodge (John Michael Greer), Modern Magic (Donald Michael Craig).

    5) Comfortable is a relative word, but could remind myself of it again, as needed.

    6) Yes and yes! I’d also announce it at Hermetic Society and people would be very into the idea.

    Keep us updated!

  3. Soliwo Avatar

    1. A weekend – 2 weeks (if it includes making notes)
    2. All of the above
    3. Books that aren’t too expensive and are available in Europe (checking at is the way to go. And mainly newly pressed books, as I would like it if the book is equally new to us all. It makes sure that everyone reads the book carefully, instead of just remembering / skimming it. I would prefer some popular yet scholarly work.
    4. Spell of the Sensuousness / Becoming Animal by David Abram; Circles of Meaning by Brendan Myers; Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.
    The first two titles because they are about making a connection to the natural world and community. The second, because not all members of SDF are Celtic orientated, so I would limit these to some extent (maybe one every 3 or 4 months). Furthermore, I would love to educate myself in some of the classics, to connect to how our ancestors thought and worshipped.
    5. Probably not. I do not use twitter and I would like an in-depth discussion which I believe is not possible when one should limit themselves to 140 characters. I do not want this to be quick and easy.
    6. Maybe, somewhat depends on the titles. Yet I doubt if my quite anti-religious Dutch friends would be very interested any way. I’ll promote it in my private groups though.

    1. Soliwo Avatar

      I forgot to say, this is an awesome idea. I am surprised you still have time to spare though. Soon, SDF will take over the world! 😉

      1. Teo Bishop Avatar

        I appreciate your enthusiasm, Soliwo, and I’m so glad that you’re interested in the Bishop In The Grove book club. I do want to make a distinction though, and a somewhat important one.

        This book club is not an extension of the Solitary Druid Fellowship. That is a project of service that I do in harmony with ADF, one that I am very grateful to organize. This, however, would be an extension of my personal blog, my personal life, and also my personal interests. So it may lean toward the Celtic because that is something that resonates for me.

        I’ve done my best to keep my own hearth culture leanings out of the SDF work, respecting each solitaire’s own personal practice. But I may reserve the right to have this be something that is more resonant with and inspired by my own idiosyncrasies.

        I’m discovering lately that I need to do this more for the benefit of my own spirit.

        I appreciate your respect and understanding, and I hope this makes a little clearer the intention behind the book club.


        1. Soliwo Avatar

          I do not mind at all! I am into all things Celtic, well al things written halfway decent anyway. I mixed up SDF and your personal blog and made suggestions mostly on account of other SDF-members. So, actually, I am rather relieved as this seems a somewhat easier enterprise. The mistake was an honest one, you just seem to be everywhere 😉

  4. Valerie Legg Avatar

    A week, tops, but monthly is a good format.
    I’m also interested in sacred ecology and trance.
    Blood and Mistletoe by Ronald Hutton; Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard; The Apple Branch by Alexei Kondratiev
    I’m not a Twitter user, but I could be.
    I’ll post about it on social networks – a few friends might be keen!

  5. Kenneth Apple Avatar

    1. A couple days. To read and discuss it intelligently, three weeks would be nice.
    2. That’s what I read these days anyhow.
    3. NA
    4. Deep Ancestors by Ceisiwr Serith, World Full of Gods by JM Greer, Buddhist Atheist by Stephen Batchelor
    5. I don’t twit.
    6. Sure.

  6. Nathair /| Avatar
    Nathair /|

    How much time would you need to read a 175-250 page book?
    two-three hours reading time if I want to really think about what I’m reading. Usually, I can find that much time within two-three days.

    Are you interested in reading books about religion, theology, polytheism, Celtic culture, Druidry, and creativity?
    Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes!!!

    What are you interested in reading? (In case none of the categories in #2 are interesting to you.)
    Anything pertaining to the occult, earth centered spirituality, primal cultures, wilderness survival,..

    What 3 books do you think would be good reads for the audience of
    this blog (based on what you know from our discussions in the comments)?
    Any of John Michael Greer’s Druid books, esp. the Druidry Handbook; anything by Ross Nichols, esp. The Book of Druidry; Black Elk Speaks.

    Are you comfortable using Twitter? In addition to dialoguing on this blog, would you be open to scheduled Twitter chats?
    Sure. I don’t use it much, but I could make the very tiny extra effort it would take.

    Do you think this idea is something that your friends would enjoy,

    Some of them, probably. At least a handful.

    and would you be willing to post about it on your social networks?
    Of course.

  7. Teo Bishop Avatar

    It’d be great to incorporate some Myers into this list. He’s got some great books that would really start discussion.

    Thanks, Dash!

  8. Kourtney Avatar

    I think this an amazing idea! I would be totally be up for participating!

    1. Takes me a week or two. I also think that monthly would be a good format.
    2. Yes.
    3. All in #2 work for me.
    4. I don’t have a whole lot of suggestions on books… but I would really like to see other’s opinions on ‘The Third Jesus’ by Deepok Chopra.
    5. Yes
    6. Yes

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Right on. Thanks, Kourtney.

  9. Daniel Grey Avatar

    Personally I think one book a month is good. I read fast but I don’t always have time, and reading /and/ analyzing takes time, if I want to do it right. I would suggest planning out the first three or so titles with dates associated with them to give people time to plan and get their books. If you choose to read books over, say, a two-week period (which is pressing it a bit for those of us with jobs and grad school and new puppies 😉 ) then this will let people pick and choose which to focus on.

    As for titles — like I said on twitter, I really like Ceisiwr Serith’s two books, “A Book of Pagan Prayer” and “A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book.” “The Pagan’s Muse”, edited by Jane Raeburn, is another collection of prayers and invocations. Isaac Bonewits also has the great “Neopagan Rites.”

    You might consider doing a rotation style of different types of books: ritual and prayer, mythology, history, Pagan “classics”, maybe even Pagan fiction.

  10. Cosette Paneque Avatar

    I think this is a great idea.

    I agree that #bitgbc isn’t a great hashtag. It’s short, but I find that hashtags that aren’t proper words or phrases are harder to remember and use. I suggest something like #BishopBC, #TeoBookClub, #BishopBooks (as Jeremy suggested), etc. I know they’re a little longer, but they are unique and easy to remember and write. Another option is to draw from the book title (i.e. #faitheist, which I see is in use and may draw more people to the discussion).

    1. It takes me a week or two to get through a 175-250 page book, but I think monthly is a good approach for book clubs.

    2. Yes.

    3. The only thing I’m not that interested in is stories of how people came to a faith and personal gnosis. I just find there’s an over-abundance of this in the Pagan literary sphere.

    4. I haz no idea.

    5. Yes.

    6. Yes.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Awesome ideas. Thank you, Cosette!

  11. Jeremy Avatar

    Oh, and #bitgbc might be a difficult hashtag for a few reasons, including some people not putting “the” in the acronym, resulting in hashtag inconsistencies. I was going to suggest #bishopbooks, but then again those extra five letters are valuable tweet real estate. Hmmm….

    1. dashifen Avatar

      I think as long as we make it clear that it’s #bitgbc people will use it correctly more often than not. The benefit of this acronym is that it’s likely going to be unique at least for some time. Something less specific like #bishopbooks might end up crossing the streams with a different Bishop’s book list, for example.

      1. Teo Bishop Avatar

        Good point. Maybe #TeosBookClub?

  12. Taylor Baysinger Avatar

    I am very interested in your book club! I can get through a book in about two weeks. I think books on shamanism, history, compassion, writing, and mythology might also interest the Solitary Druidry community, but the topics listed are of interest to me! One book that comes to mind is “Landscape and Memory” by Simon Schama, which explores the intersection between history, mythology, religion, art, and the natural world. “Fire in the Head” by Tom Cowan, which focuses on Celtic shamanism but also explores shamanism across the globe, poetry, and Celtic culture and religion might also interest BITG readers. I don’t use Twitter, but would be willing to do so if it was chosen as the main social network for the book club.

    Good luck with the new project! I will happily spread the word about it, I’m sure plenty of my friends will want to get involved.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thanks for the support, Taylor!

      I recently found out that Skip Ellison is releasing a new edition of “Solitary Druid.” It might be worth incorporating that title into the list. I like the “Fire in the Head” idea, as well as Schama’s book. That sounds fascinating!

  13. Jeremy Avatar

    I’m in (naturally) and love what Mary and Bri have said. In fact, I’ll pretty much “Ditto that” to all that Mary said regarding reading speed, topics, and being new and thus not knowing what to recommend. If anything, being part of a book club with the folks on this site would be a welcome impetus to get my hands on books with more substance. And I’m happy to help spread the word on Twitter, Facebook and my own (paltry) blog, as well as among IRL friends who might be interested.

    I’ve participated in an online book club that had an open forum/bulletin board-type discussion. I don’t recall the time schedule for each book, but perhaps an 8-week cycle could be a good place to start. You could announce the book, then give people four weeks to procure and read it. Discussion would then open up and go on for two to three weeks, then after a week or two off the next book would be announced. Hopefully that would minimize your commitment and limit the time you’re actively engaged in the project to 2-3 weeks every other month.

    That’s my twopence off the top of my head.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Great ideas, Jeremy! Thanks for the ideas, and the inspiration!

      Basically, you’re thinking that we could announce a title on Feb 1, and begin the discussion on March 1, perhaps with a series of blog post exploring certain aspects of the book and a Twitter chat. Then, a new book would be announced on April 1.


      1. Jeremy Avatar

        Spot on, sir.

  14. Mary Whitt Dirlam Avatar

    Hi Teo, I love this idea. I can get through a book in about 2 weeks, depending on how much I have to work. I am interested in all the topics you listed. I’m not sure what to recommend to the larger community as I am fairly new here. I am comfortable using Twitter and also have friends who might be interested.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Awesome! Thanks, Mary!

  15. Miss Bri Saussy Avatar

    Hey Teo-I would definitely be willing to give this a whirl. I am part of another virtual book group-Symposium SA where we focus on great books (primary sources) from both Eastern and Western schools of thought. We have used programs like uber conference with success-there are lots of programs out there for facilitating conversation-the trick thus far deals with video conferencing-from what I hear for a larger group that can be hard.

    Would definitely share on social networks. I like books-all different kinds-folklore, faerie tales, hard core theology, etc, etc. I ran a bookstore in San Francisco and I have facilitated and participated in discussions of very hard and intimidating books for over 10 years so I do have some guidelines of what I have seen work:

    1.) everyone who participates needs to read the book-duh.

    2.) Its very helpful if the discussion can start with an opening question that comes out of the reading-I cannot emphasize enough what a difference this makes-it puts everyone on the same page immediately (and literally).

    3.) Its nice if the group can be set up to be conversational and informal-I think everyone knows how to be civil.

    4.) Resist the desire to bring in a ton of outside sources-its well and good to think about any book in relation to what is going on today-but if people start talking about what they have read or seen and the sources are not familiar to everyone it can be a real conversation killer.

    5.) Let the book speak for itself-I think book discussions do best when there is a certain level of disinterestedness-that doesn’t mean you don’t care about what you are reading-but rather like approaching an exotic banquet table you are there to sample and savor before critiquing.

    Hope this helps some!

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      I really appreciate these ideas, Miss. Thank you for sharing your insights into the process. 🙂

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