Book Subscription Packages

I’ve had three book subscription packages so far in my life (I tend to do a lot of impulse book buying anyway), and I wanted to share you pictures of my latest one-off box, as well as talk about two longer-term subscriptions which I have really enjoyed.

A month or so ago, I saw Janet Emson review a Books That Matter subscription box and knew that I wanted to try out the box for the following month, which was all about refugees and displaced people. The May box arrived today and it is a beautiful and thoughtful delight.

Beautifully wrapped in an appropriately coloured tissue for Love. 10% of the proceeds from the sale of this month’s box go to Choose Love, a charity supporting people fleeing war, persecution and climate change.

Quite a few of these boxes that I’ve seen in the past contain items that have nothing to do with the actual book (tea and scented candles or socks or some such stuff). Books That Matter is a feminist subscription box and, although this month’s content was not quite as rich and varied as Janet’s one last month, it was very much geared towards the book therein. The book is a winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction by author Hoda Barakat, translated by Marilyn Booth, and fits perfectly with my reading Lebanese literature this month – finally a female author, too! A keyring, a cookie, several postcards and bookmarks with Choose Love logos…

And of course the indispensable tote bag! I do have a collection of bags from publishers and festivals that should see me through to the end of my life! The one-off box costs £17, so a bit pricey, although the price does come progressively down if you have a 3 month, 6 month or 12 month subscription.

The ongoing book subscription I currently have is with Chiltern Bookshops: an entirely bespoked service, in which you chat with the bookseller to tell them about your preferences, and then they send you a book each month. Since I knew the bookseller, Jacqui, quite well via our blogs (and then we met a couple of times in person), she has a very good idea of my reading taste, so each book has been a complete hit. But what was an unexpected bonus was that I got a children’s subscription as a Christmas present for my younger son, who is not a great reader. At first he muttered and grumbled, but he was won over after having a conversation with Debbie, the children’s books specialist, and receiving some very intriguing and unusual books (certainly not babyish ones, as his older brother teased him he might receive). The adult subscription is £45 for 3 months, the children’s one £40, and, while there might not be any flamboyant extras other than a bookmark, they arrive beautifully and ecologically packed.

The first book subscription I ever got was ironically one that I had to pack and ship myself to all of our other subscribers, namely the Asymptote Book Club when it first launched. I greatly enjoyed the variety of countries and types of books on offer, and also the special q&A feature with the translators, but I had to stop for financial reasons. It is £140 a year, which is not at all bad for 12 months’ worth of well-curated titles in translation, but a bit of a chunk when my pension contributions are going up dramatically and all my domestic appliances keep breaking down. I do hope I can restart it at some point, and I gather that they are moving into the ‘virtual book club’ discussions now, which was something I was always planning to do back in the days when I was volunteering for Asymptote.

I know there are some other lovely book subscriptions out there: I am tempted by the Republic of Consciousness Prize, which works with a variety of UK small independent publishers, or some of the single publisher ones (looking at you, NYRB Classics Book Club, or Archipelago Books, but sadly both of you are in the US and the shipping is slow and costly). Closer to home, there are personal favourites like Peirene Press, Fitzcarraldo Editions, And Other Stories or Persephone Books, although you already know in advance what books you are getting, so the element of surprise is gone.

12 thoughts on “Book Subscription Packages”

  1. This does sound a good idea, and a way of putting books in front of you that you might not otherwise see. But I think I prefer the serendipity of spotting something in a bookshop or library. Then if I don’t like it, I’ve nobody to blame but myself.

  2. Really good post, as usual, and although I am not in the market for a subscription box I would go for Chiltern in a heartbeat if I were in the UK!

  3. My local indie offers consultations with suggestions based on the conversation. I’ve eavesdropped on a couple while browsing and they’re good. There’s cake, too!

  4. I have signed up to the Republic of Consciousness book club and am really enjoying it so far. I have had books that I don’t think I would otherwise have known about, let alone read, and have enjoyed discussing them at the monthly book club session. 😀

  5. I like the idea of book subscription packages, Marina Sofia. They give you a chance to explore books you might not otherwise notice, and they’re fun, too. Looking at those lovely photos, it seems you’ve chosen some great ones. Have you read of Kate Jackson’s Coffee and Crime Subscription? Her focus is vintage crime, and she puts together some great-looking packages if you’re interested. She’s really knowledgeable, too, as shows on her blog, Cross Examining Crime.

  6. I subscribe to Peirene and Galley Beggars, and I’ve tried a box from A Box of Stories – you get 4 surprise books, but can customise categorywise slightly and link to your Goodreads – the selection I got for a mixed F/NF box wasn’t brilliant, so I won’t continue this one.

  7. These all sound good, Marina! I am trying to rein myself in, and have cut back a little bit because of cost (and lack of reading time…) but I do still subscribe to Renard – I like to support smaller presses if I can. Plus I have such weird reading taste and so many books, it would be a bit risky going for a mainstream box. Tempting though…

  8. I got myself a subscription at La Kube and I love it so far. All the books they picked were good and I love the surprise of getting a book I haven’t chosen. It costs 18 euros per month, the package is lovely and you get a small treat, some tea bags, postcards, bookmarks, a newsletter and excerpts from an upcoming book.

  9. It’s lovely to see this, Marina, and I’m so glad your books have hit the spot. Debbie will be thrilled with the feedback on your son’s subscription, so many thanks for that! The Books That Matter box looks really well curated and beautifully produced. I think Ali has had one or two of their boxes in the past, so you might want to compare notes!

  10. I’m glad you received a book that you don’t have, and a timely one at that. I like the sound of your other subscriptions too. The fear is still there though that I would receive a book I already have. Perhaps one of these would circumvent that.

  11. I’ve had three subscription packages in the last few years.

    One was with Shaun Blythell’s “The Bookshop” at Wigtown. All the books I received were strange choices and I gave every one of them away unread.

    My sister then bought me a ‘classics’ subscription via a bookshop in the West Country – some good choices and the book came with a packet of tea or hot chocolate, a notebook and a bookmark. I didn’t carry on with it though.

    My favourite is Asympote because the books are ones I would not have discovered myself.

    Personally I don’t particularly care about the added items. I have far too many tote bags already….

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