I adore book clubs, and have belonged to many: literary fiction groups, mystery groups, an Oprah book group, science fiction groups, celebrity memoir groups (Lauren Bacall’s By Myself is a classic), and a silent reading group from which I was, alas, expelled, because I was whispering, and I regret to say I giggled – very undignified.
Most online book clubs these days are what I call “unstructured parallel reading.” For instance, during Virago Month (August), everybody solemnly swears to read a Virago, any Virago. Call me crazy, but if I’m reading a wicked satire by Molly Keane, and you’re reading a surrealist novel by Leonora Carrington, isn’t the only common ground the publisher?
Perhaps the smartest book club on the internet today is run by Miranda Mills, host of the YouTube channel, Miranda Jane Mills: Sharing My Love of Books. In her early thirties, Miranda gives off a calm pre-Raphaelite vibe, with her long, flowing hair and floral-print dresses. She addresses viewers from her beautiful home in Yorkshire, where we admire the decor, the flower arrangements, the table set for tea, and the bookshelves filled with Penguin clothbound classics, reprints by small presses, gardening books, and art books. Her succinct reviews and recommendations are always welcome, and her photography is of professional quality.
She also runs the monthly Comfort Book Club at the YouTube channel with her charming mum, Donna. Among the titles they have discussed are Jane Austen’s Emma, Elizabeth von Arnim’s The Enchanted April, and E. M. Delafield’s The Diary of a Provincial Lady. And during the pandemic, the Comfort Book Club really has been a comfort.
Here is Miranda’s description of the club:
The Comfort Book Club started in 2021 and is a book club for those who enjoy classic comfort reads. I run the CBC with my Mum, Donna, who is also an avid reader, and the books we choose reflect our tastes in literature: primarily classic British comfort reads (both fiction and non-fiction) from the 19th or 20th Century, although we do sometimes pick contemporary books too.
I look forward to Miranda’s new selection at The Comfort Book Club, P. G. Wodehouse’s Joy in the Morning, one of the best of the Jeeves and Bertie Wooster series. The discussion will be held on July 22.
As a longtime fan of P. G. Wodehouse’s goofy, inimitable classics, i am not only reading Miranda’s book club selection but revisited one of Wodehouse’s Blandings Castle books, Pigs Have Wings. Lord Emsworth’s prize pig, the Empress, is at the center of the conflict – as is, I think, true in all the Blandings books. His neighbor, Sir Gregory Parsloe, has purchased a new sow, Queen of Matchingham – a contender for the Fat Pig prize. Due to a misapprehension, Lord Emsworth’s younger, wilier brother, Galahad, kidnaps (pignaps) Queen of Matchingham, while several mixed-up guests in love dither and wander the grounds, – and even Beach the butler can’t keep everything straight.
What are your favorite online book clubs? I know there are many to choose from.
4 thoughts on “What Happened to Old-Fashioned Book Clubs? Miranda Mills Has the Answer”
I discovered Miranda Mills last year and have received a lot of great early 20th century recommendations from her. I also enjoy watching Katie Lumsden’s YouTube channel Books and Things, where she discusses 19th century novels, as well as some more modern fiction. Right now she and other Booktubers are having “Jane Austen July.” Not exactly a book club, but a lot of discussion of various Jane Austen books and books about Jane Austen.
I do enjoy Miranda’s recommendations! I had forgotten about Katie Lumsden, who is very enthusiastic about 19th-century lit. I have enjoyed her Victober (Victorian October) event.
In the Miranda Mills is it a matter of an audience watching the two women talk about books, with them say getting a chance to contribute through chat? Otherwise, they are silent? Maybe we need to define or describe the different kinds of clubs with attention paid to how the club “members” participate? I’ve been expelled too — from a Poldark discussion group because I dared to write critically of the recent TV series.
It’s not a live event, but people can call in remarks (there are directions for this). During the discussion, they do play some of the phone messages and respond to them. It’s really an old-fashioned book club, with the lively discussion between the mother and daughter.
Those Poldark fans must be wildly faithful to the TV show! I didn’t watch all of the second series, so I would have been kicked out, too.