Several years ago, someone proposed a business idea to me, one in which I would provide personalized book recommendations, wrapped and delivered, as a gift-giving service. When it came time to respond, I didn’t outright say no, rather evasively smiled and complimented the business idea. I believed my repudiation of it would sound overly, bookishly romantic, as I explained my deep attachment to and respect for books, let alone an intense connection to literary fiction that borders on a private love affair (emphasis on the private). Add to that something about destroying the magic, and I’d find myself engaged with a business thinker trying to talk me out of what would appear to be mere excuses.
My silent “no” eventually got recognized, and the person stopped bringing the idea up. Besides, the world now is filled with book box subscription services. Personally, I find them overwhelming and beside the point, being the majority not only send a book in the box but also cool treats, whimsical goodies, letters from authors, hot beverage samples and other temptations to lure you to select that subscription. Also, it’s hard to ensure you’ll get the page-turner you’re craving.
That said, I have three monthly book subscription services that I like, and I like them because they originate from two publishing houses and a bookshop I follow, frequently reading their books. I know the style and premise of their establishments and gravitate to them for the same reason readers stick with their favorite bestselling authors — I know I’m guaranteed to get something good. And it’s just the book. Still, there is the risk I might not like what I get, but I still value building my library with their selections. I’ve listed the services below. As for that business idea I squelched? The commercialization of what I love and do wasn’t for me. I’d prefer to leave that to the booksellers.
The NYRB Classics Book Club
NYRB Classics brings great literature back into print, and each month they send you one of their newest releases. I’ve read countless novels from this publishing house, and when I subscribed to their book club, I loved the surprise that came in the mail. One or two I put aside, not wanting to read them at the time, including the highly praised The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson. I still have not read it, looking for that long vacation when I can devote myself to its 400+ pages. Thousands of readers on Goodreads have given it more than four stars. Finally, NYRB Classics also has a children’s book club. These are annual memberships.
Notting Hill Editions
The tagline for this publisher is “Beautiful books by the most surprising thinkers of past and present…” I loved reading My Katherine Mansfield Project by Kristy Gunn and Essays on the Self by Virginia Woolf. These are small books that expand one’s mental boundaries, allowing a perfect escape from the doldrums of empty conversation and the mindless distractions of social media. The shipping costs are high because Notting Hill Editions is in England. The total cost, however, compares favorably to the other clubs. You can choose the books you want, or they’ll make the selection for you. Six and 12 month subscriptions are available.
The Mysterious Bookshop Crime Clubs
I virtually shop at this store in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood all the time and also have visited the store in person. Their website and weekly newsletter are great for finding new releases of crime and mystery — and they offer seven book clubs, such as Thriller & Espionage and Traditional & Historical and British Crime. (The Horowitz novel above was a British Crime Collectors Club selection.) Best of all, their books are signed by the authors. Check out their website for the full list of clubs. Three, six and 12-month subscriptions.