The Book Society (1929-69) had tens of thousands of members in over 30 countries who found its recommendations and monthly system of book-mail outs useful, for whatever reasons.
The records of the club have been lost and the archaeological aspect of this project has been funded by the British Academy. I have pieced together the history of the Book Society’s monthly Choices from surviving copies of The Book Society News and tried to uncover the club’s influence on authors, publishers, and readers by digging away in publishers’ archives and in the unpublished diaries and letters of writers involved with the club.
I have always loved reading and there was a time when I had no sense of who or what I ‘should’ read and spent many happy hours with Nancy Drew. I remember the day a supply teacher came in to my English class at high school with a list of classic authors he thought we ought to know about. It was a challenge and a provocation – no one had shown any interest in my reading before – and I started to work through the list, questioning it and arguing with the books as I went along.
I am now a lecturer in English Literature and my research focusses on the history of reading. I am interested in understanding more about what people actually read in the past, which is not necessarily the small number of texts that are remembered or canonised or taught in literature programmes.
This site recovers the history of our first celebrity book club. Please get in touch.
Nicola Wilson @Nicola_LWilson
This is an academic research project and not intended for commercial re-use.