The Book Society (1929-69) had tens of thousands of members in over 30 countries.

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to uncover the club’s influence on authors, publishers, and readers by digging away in publishers’ archives and in the unpublished diaries and letters of writers involved with the club.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. Growing up I used to spend many happy hours rummaging through the public library’s heaving fiction shelves. 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 ‘should’ know about. It was a challenge and a provocation – no one had shown any interest in my personal reading before – and I started to work through the list, questioning it and arguing 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, canonised, or taught in literature programmes.

This site recovers the history of Britain’s 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.