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Rachel’s Reads – May 2024

Book clubs provide more than just thought-provoking discussions of books. They provide connection, camaraderie, and an enriching experience for readers. Interested in the advent of fully digital book clubs, I recently got the chance to interview Alexandra and Tiffany, the founders of Subtle Asian Book Club. Childhood best friends from the suburbs of Los Angeles, they started the book club together in January of 2020 with the idea to amplify Asian storytellers and to connect the world through stories. Tiffany is a book blogger living in Texas, and Alexandra is a digital creator and film student living in New York City. 

What inspired you to start the book club? 

Tiffany: We had both gotten pretty comfortable in the online space and in building online communities. Through my book blog, I had already made great connections with people around the world, so I was excited to further that and continue in the online space. When you think of a traditional book club, you think about people chatting in a circle and talking about the books they are reading. In recent years we have seen how technology has really enabled us to bridge borders, and that inspired us to see that there was an opportunity to connect readers across the globe with no restrictions based on location or time zone. 

How does it work as it is fully virtual? 

Alexandra: Each month we read a book that we both choose. We have all of our discussions on the platform, Discord, with different channels for each of the books. We also have other channels for people to get to know each other, chat about books, make recommendations, or just talk about other books they are reading. Discord has a spoiler feature where you can hide text behind a spoiler warning, so we encourage people to discuss the book and use that feature so everyone can read at their own pace and share their thoughts. 

Tiffany: In addition to the books we read every month, what we are really trying to do is build a community. So we have a lot of non-book of the month channels as well. For example, when the latest Avatar movie came out, we did a little community watch party. We also interview authors on our YouTube or our blog. It’s really a combination of reaching our existing community, but we also want to share a lot of Asian literature we are excited about and think other people would love as well. 

How do you select your books?

Tiffany: We try to strike a balance by asking if this is something easily accessible. We want to make sure that people can get the book wherever they are. We also try not to necessarily pick the most popular book at the moment because we want to make sure that we are amplifying a variety of authors and stories. At the end of each year, we sit down and do a mini-audit to make sure we are switching things up. 

Alexandra: We have heard from our members that they enjoyed our selections so far because they included a diverse range of popular books and not-so-popular books. We like to switch up genres so that people are always getting something new. We also keep an eye out for what members are discussing and books they are excited to read.

What has been some of the feedback you have received from your members?
Has that feedback led you to change things during the last three years? 

Alexandra: Earlier this year, we had a poll and asked readers what they thought on topics from how things run, the book selections we have, and what they want more of. Surprisingly to us, they wanted more content on the two of us in order to get to know us better as people and readers. They also wanted more community events so we have added a buddy read corner to Discord. There we can create a channel for a book we are reading that isn’t related to the book of the month and people can join in and read along with us.

Tiffany: As things have evolved, we used to have questions for each book, but now people jump right in and we let the conversation flow naturally. 

What is your preferred reading set up? 

Tiffany: Ninety-five percent of the time, I am reading in bed under the covers at 1:00 a.m.

Alexandra: Although I can read anywhere, I prefer somewhere with good light that is cozy and warm.

What was the last book that made you cry?

Alexandra: What You Are Looking For is in The Library by Michiko Aoyama, translated by Alison Watts

Tiffany: Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa

What is a book cover you liked? 

Alexandra: The Queens of New York by E. L. Shen

Tiffany: Babel by R. F. Kuang, specifically the United Kingdom version

What is the last book you loved?

Alexandra: Tomb Sweeping by Alexandra Chang

Tiffany: Your Eternal Lies by KKomak which is a webtoon

What is a book you want to see adapted?

Tiffany and Alexandra: I Hope This Doesn’t Find You by Ann Liang could be the next great Netflix rom-com.

During the month of May, the Subtle Asian Book Club is reading The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka. You can check out their book club at subtleasianbookclub.com, or visit them on Instagram @subtleasianbookclub



Rachel became the publisher of The Independent in March of 2017 and then married her husband Jake in May. Their goldendoodle Einstein joined the family in 2019. Rachel is an avid reader and loves to share book recommendations. (Don’t miss her column, Rachel’s Reads in the Magazine!) She can always be found with a book nearby, especially while traveling (another of her favorite things).

Bailey Pianalto Photography



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