For as long as I can remember my mum has been part of a book club. As a child, I thought it was something for very old people to take part in. I couldn't understand the magic of a book club and what seemed like more of a gossip session between the desperate housewives of the street than a serious debate about literature. Every so often these book clubs would collapse and a new one would form, moving from house to house, wine replaced by tea and back again. The cycle of book clubs would go on.
Little did I know that I would eventually graduate with a degree in what is effectively (a slightly pretentious) book club.
Book clubs are a firm part of our culture now and as I've matured the magic of discussing my favourite literature is no longer lost on me. Recently spotted on social media was the phenonmen #savetheculture. Suddenly blurring the line between fiction, Facebook and those creepy chain letters I remember from childhood, #savetheculture is one huge book exchange. By liking a friends status,I signed up to sending off one book and receiving many in return. I was messaged a girls address and, determined not to be complacent and to commit myself to this scheme, I sent off the brilliant A Little Life . I'm still waiting on the books to flood through my postbox, but at least I have a little bit of excitement and suspense to look forward to.
As more and more people embrace life IRL, the popularity of celebrity book clubs is also on the up. Florence and The Machine's bookclub 'Between Two Books' was set up just over four years by two fans of Ms. Welsh. The story is well known now - the duo tweeted Florence to let them know they wanted to set up a book club who would read books she recommended. Florence immediately jumped on board and Between Two Books was filmed. The group have read 18 books together. We spoke to them about what it's been like to run an international book club:
1.How important do you think books are in popular culture?
So many things in today’s popular culture is because of the importance and impact books have had on people for centuries. Books and writing were one the first ways for entertainment/communication and education, to simply open up your mind and escape to a different reality. Over the years, with new books being released, as well as the increase in technology, books have pretty well taken over the world. If you think about it, mostly everything we know and learned, is from a piece of literature, whether it was from a novel, magazine, newspaper article, text book, etc.. Books have done so much for the people of this earth, whether others believe it or not. Books have given us the first sense of imagination, state of dreaming, common knowledge and more than we can even imagine. Books have been around too long for anyone to deny the fact that a book never taught them anything. Nowadays, books are mainly read for people’s pure enjoyment and entertainment. Looking at popular book series like ‘Twilight’ and ‘The Hunger Games’, they were both unbelievably popular selling books, and because we live in the world of modern technology, they were created into films, so our brains didn’t have to do all the imagining, our eyes could easily see it. It’s amazing to see how big of an impact one story can have on millions of people, enough to make it a world wide, mainstream best selling book, and now movie. Everyone has a different opinion/impact on different books that may have change their lives in any little way. After reading a book, people are often left with a liberating feeling, along with a sense of pure happiness and devastating emptiness. The story and journey, they have taken, through each and every page of the book, changed them in a way that left their minds wide open, craving more of the magic and imagination the simple text printed pages leant them.
2.How do you think setting up an online book club can help people in real life?
When we first set up ‘Between Two Books’, our main goal was to encourage others to get more involved in literature and to make positive connections with themselves, and others. This is still our main focus and always will be. About 4 years ago when the club was first starting out, we never would have imagined how much of a positive impact it would have on people all over the world, including ourselves. In the past years, we have gotten to know many amazing people online and are so thankful/blessed to call them our friends. Being connected in something as simple as a book club, with people you’ve never met before, who have similar interests and passions as you, is truly an amazing, Inspiring, motivating, magical, surreal, healing experience. There is something so calming and mind settling, knowing that you are , reading and experiencing the same words and feelings as someone you highly look up to, (Florence), along side your friends, fellow fans and others who live simple lives like you. Being part of a book club, can be just another hobby or past time to some people, but to many Florence fans and our book clubbers, as well as us, it means so much more. It’s all about the powerful but positive connection it brings to us all. It is something that gives us motivation and a purpose, something to get our minds off of things we don’t want to deal with or think about. It is something that is quite healing, one page at a time. It really makes us feel connected at a personal level that gives us, relief, satisfaction and happiness. On another side of that, it gives us all something to look forward to and excited about. There is something to always look forward to, even when the current book has been finished and another has not yet been announced. There will always be another book to read, or project to take part in, along side thousands of passionate, lovely people.
3.How do you think the online community can connect IRL?
Being connected in the online community, it is so easy to meet people and make friends quickly. Sometimes, making online friends is easier than making friends in person. If you have a common interest and connection with someone, you will soon find yourself chatting back and forth, learning more and becoming close with one another. After communicating with your online friend for quite awhile, it is only a matter of time you will be making plans to meet in real life. In our personal experiences, being involved on different social medias, we have become close with each other, as well as others and met quite a few of them in person and can say we are really great friends. It is crazy, yet, amazing to think you have made such lovely friends, all because of the power of technology. If things today were the same as they were years ago, the chances of knowing all these wonderful people around the world are very slim. It is possible that we would know a few people around the world, but they would be our ‘pen pals’ that we would have to send letters to, instead of sending instant messages. It is truly amazing how society has developed into the world of technology. There are so many great things technology has brought the world, and probably many bad things as well. All we know is that if it weren’t for technology, ‘Between Two Books’ probably wouldn’t exist, and we wouldn’t know all the wonderful people we have met along the way.
4.How has the book club opened up and dynamic between “the famous celebrity” (Florence / Emma Watson) and the public?
Over the years that the book club has been active, we never thought that such “celebrities” we take an interest, let alone involvement. It is incredible seeing people taking such a huge involvement in the club, considering we started off as a small group of book loving Florence fans. It is a really cool feeling seeing that celebrities such as Emma Watson have taken a big enough interest in Between Two Books, to want to start her own book club with her fans and others around the world. Reading is such an important and huge part of people’s lives and it is amazing to see people getting more involved and inspired to read and become close to literature. To be part of Between Two Books, you don’t even have to be a huge fan or fan at all of Florence and The Machine. At the end of the day, being part of a book club is coming together with your fellow book clubbers/friends, and enjoying the simplicity and peace, getting lost in a good book. 5.How has reading and being part of the book club changed your life? Reading has always been a huge part of our lives, as well as music has been. For one of your favourite music artists to love reading as much as you do, is pretty exciting and makes you feel more close and connected to them. When we created the book club, we did it for other Florence fans who were passionate about reading and never thought in a million years, Florence would recognise us and make us grow into the successful little club we are today! Picking up a book and getting lost in the pages of a different reality has and always will be a special and magical experience. To be able to enjoy reading along side Florence and thousands of other lovely people, knowing they are reading the exact same lines and having the exact same feelings and thoughts along every page is almost mind blowing, and special in the most personal way. One of the greatest things about ‘BTB’ is receiving everyone’s kind messages and feedback about how much they loved the book we are reading, how it affected them or just if they really love the idea of the book club! Being part of ‘Between Two Books’ has changed our lives in ways we never even thought were possible. We have been blessed with several life changing opportunities as well as meeting amazing people and Florence herself. It is truly a surreal and life changing experience that we will forever be the most thankful and grateful for.