Book Clubs: A Literary Phenomenon

Book clubs have existed since ancient times. According to an article by Medium, the first book club is said to have been the Socratic Circle where disciples sought to examine and understand the deeper meaning of a particular text by engaging in dialogue instead of memorizing it. In 1727, The Junto Club was formed by Benjamin Franklin where he met with fellow artisans and tradesmen to discuss politics, philosophy, and other subjects. 

Another club worth mentioning is The First Woman’s Club started by Hannah Adams, an American historian from Medfield, Massachusetts and the first American woman to earn a living from writing. Not only did it bring literary lovers together, but it also propelled a need for women’s rights. In March 2020, the club celebrated its 125th anniversary since its official establishment in 1894. 

Book clubs became increasingly popular throughout the years, especially when Oprah’s Book Club was first televised in 1996 and made them a cultural phenomenon. Books featured on Oprah Winfrey’s list would hit the New York Times Bestsellers’ List the very next day and would sell over a million copies. By the time the show ended in 2011, people had formed their own book clubs via Facebook groups and from there, emerged the idea of virtual book clubs.

In 2015, however, Instagram established itself as one of the most influential and popular platforms. Enticed by the aesthetic layout and incredible reach, authors and celebrities alike began to launch book clubs on the platform. Today, some of the book clubs on Instagram boast a following of nearly a million and counting. 

There is a certain kind of joy in visiting these virtual clubs on Instagram, especially the visually appealing feed with the book covers that compel you to read more about the book. The real pleasure, however, is in interacting and engaging with other followers from all across the world with just a screen and a comment box. While it certainly does not match the warmth and interpersonal communication experienced in an in-person book club, these virtual book clubs proved— more than ever—to be a real source of comfort during the pandemic.

Some of the most popular book clubs run by celebrities on Instagram are Reese’s Book Club (by actress Reese Witherspoon), Our Shared Shelf (by actress Emma Watson), Between Two Books (by the band Florence + Machine’s Florence Welsh and Irish teenager Leah Moloney), and Subway Book Review (created by Uli Beutter Cohen, it discusses books that people read on the commute).

Are there any book clubs that you follow? Let us know in the comments which ones and why you like them!

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