Everything You Need to Know to Participate in Our Book Club

By Jeff Howe

1book140_icon.JPG And we're off! Around midnight hundreds of readers kicked off our inaugural 1book140 and began discussing our June selection, Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin. It occurred to me that anyone just tuning in to our great, big, global readalong might find 1book140 a little confusing. "What book are we reading?" one asks. "What can possibly be said in 140 characters?" chimes in another. "And, by the way, what the hell is a hashtag?" asks a tall guy in the back. This post is for you--everything you need to know condensed into a single FAQ:

What is 1book140?
An international book club inspired by the One Book, One City programs. Every month we all choose a book to read. The following month we read it. The discussion takes place largely on Twitter, though we will also link to people's blogs and Tumblr and Facebook pages as well, and provide regular summaries of the conversation at TheAtlantic.com.

How are books chosen?
In the middle of every month we begin soliciting nominations. After about a week we pluck five titles from this list and put them up for a vote. Call it limited democracy.

When does reading begin?
What are we, your dad? Wanna stay up all night and read the whole book in one go? That's your call. There are no reading guidelines, per se. There is, however, a discussion schedule. Which brings us to:

When can I start talking about the book?
Discussion opens on the first day of every month at midnight--so the conversation on The Blind Assassin has just begun. We then follow a suggested reading plan, spending the first few days discussing the first section, the next few days discussing the second section, and so on. You can find June's reading schedule here. Those caught conversing about the book before the first of the month--even in hushed tones--will have their membership revoked.

Where does this discussion take place? Or, What's a hashtag?
Topics on Twitter are organized around a system of hashtags (think: #Obama, or #Bieberlicious). Simply add the hashtag to any given tweet, and the rest of 1book140 will be able to see it.

General 1book140 discussion takes place at #1book140. This is where you nominate a book, nudge friends to join, and otherwise get acquainted with the project. It's like the first room you get to at a party: Crowded, noisy, and fun.

Anything related to the book itself falls into separate threads for each chapter. Have a question about that eerie wombat in chapter 2, go to #1b140_2. Do you think the over-friendly hotel clerk in Chapter 6 is crucial to the plot? Tell us by tagging your tweet with #1b140_6. Note that chapter hashtags are abbreviated for the sake of space. DO NOT use #1book140_X, but the abbreviated #1b140_X.

What do I say?
Anything you want. I might throw out a specific question from time to time, but this isn't a literature class. Most of all, have fun: The point isn't to perform magisterial feats of exegesis single-handed, but rather suss out new and interesting interpretations with lots of other people.

What's the best way to read the discussions?
I recommend you use a service like TweetDeck or HootSuite to follow 1book140. (I prefer TweetDeck, but that's just me.) Both allow you to view multiple columns at any one time, which will greatly enhance your enjoyment.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/06/everything-you-need-to-know-to-participate-in-our-book-club/239726/