Welcome to this site about the Book Society, Britain’s first celebrity book club.
The Book Society ran between 1929-69 and was modelled on the American Book-of-the-Month club. Like its American counterpart, the Book Society had a huge effect upon sales and distribution and allowed a whole new class of readers to buy books.
To detractors like Q. D. Leavis the Book Society meant the standardisation of taste and conformity, to others like Margaret Cole it was ‘the opening stage of a real revolution’ in giving more people access to books (Books and the People, 1938, 6).
The Book Society’s celebrity judges sidestepped the culture wars of the mid-C20, celebrating their club and its readers as what J. B. Priestley called ‘Broadbrows’: those ‘who snap their fingers at fashions, who only ask that a thing should have character and art, should be enthralling, and do not give a fig whether it is popular or unpopular, born in Blackburn or Baku’ (‘High, Low, Broad, Saturday Review 20 Feb. 1926, 222).
Book Society members lived in many countries and we do not know how much they discussed the books they received through the post with colleagues or family or friends. But they formed a community of sorts through their membership, monthly reading patterns, and the stock of books that piled up on their shelves.
The site aims to highlight the story of the Book Society and will include blog posts, summaries, and guides to some of its eclectic and varied reads.