With so many books on my shelves that are either still to read or which I very much want to read again – right now it’s Middlemarch –, what do I need with not one or two but three book clubs that will be sending me still more books over the next twelve months? And yet, for their different reasons, they have all appealed to me. At least, all of them will be sending me physical books and I can continue my one-man campaign to boycott e-book readers. Admittedly, that’s not quite consistent with my own novel, Rembrandt Sings, being available across all e-platforms but, as the closing line of Some Like it Hot says, “Nobody’s perfect.”
In order of joining, I am a member of the Litro Book Club which sends me a new book each quarter written by new and emerging writers; plus 10 issues of a C5 sized literary magazine, each issue full of news and a themed set of new writing, each month different. I almost never read magazines and newspapers since it takes me away too long from reading and writing fiction but I am quite hooked on the Litro mag. The last book they sent me took me completely by surprise. Many of the things about Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan might have put me off if I’d had to choose between this and something else in a bookshop. However, I was very much taken by Sloan’s first full-length novel and wrote an enthusiastic book review blog about it. So; from Litro four books a year, not chosen by me but by them. Find them at www.litro.co.uk
About the publisher & Other Stories I need to declare an interest. By taking out my subscription to books still to appear, which was very much the way to promote and finance books in earlier centuries, I find my name, in alphabetic order of given names, like the Icelandic Phone Book (a great read!) in the back of the book which is more than I do when I scan the index of political memoirs. Here’s what Litro has to say about themselves on their website www.andotherstories.org
And Other Stories has been set up as a Community Interest Company (CIC, pronounced ‘kick’ not ‘sick’). This means we are a not-for-private-profit company. What gives us a ‘CIC’? (Couldn’t resist!) We make our decisions based on what we think is good writing and a good way of working. This sets us apart from shareholder-driven publishing companies where all decisions are ultimately about increasing profits. Of course, in order to be able to continue our work in the long-term, we certainly can’t lose money … We are a literary publishing house that works on the principle that great new books will be heard about and read thanks to the combined intelligence of a number of people: editors, readers, translators, critics, literary promoters and academics. We hope we can host such collaboration.
The mention of translators is important as many of the books are first-rate translations that are, through the subscription list, given access to the wider anglophone audience. They have reading groups in several countries to discuss works from other languages and assist in the selection of books and they claim that they are also able to pay translators a decent reward for their work which is by no means the general condition. I have read with pleasure and blogged about All Dogs are Blue by Rodrigo de Sousa Leão and Quesadillas by Juan Pablo Villalobos. Subscription levels vary but I went for the full whack, contracting for six books a year. So, six books from & Other Stories; again, not chosen by me!
Finally, on a whim, I have joined what could be a total waste of time (judging by the first book they have sent me which I will be giving to Oxfam unless any reader wants Stuck Up! 100 Objects inserted and ingested in places where they shouldn’t be, with loads of X-ray illustrations. (Contact me if you really must have this!) The Random Book Club is run by one of the UK’s biggest second-hand bookshops in Wigtown (Dumfries & Galloway). I must go there sometime and compare it with the Barter Books in Alnwick. Anyway, for £59 a year, they will send me a dozen completely assorted and varied books across all the genres including non-fiction. I will let you know how I get on but I leave you with one of their postcards and their website address, www.randombookclub.co.uk