Monthly subscription services started to gain popularity in the early 2010s. Back then, they primarily existed in the beauty sector. Nowadays, you can find a box for pretty much anything; food and drink, fashion, fitness, plants, cleaning products, and, of course, books.
Beautifully-wrapped tomes, hand-picked with you in mind and delivered straight to your door – can you think of anything better? These bespoke services make excellent gifts, both for you and all the other bookworms in your life. No matter your taste, budget or location, we’ve rounded up fifteen of our favourites below.
Founded in 2017, during Molly Masters’ second year of university, this award-winning monthly subscription box pairs empowering, female-authored texts with beautiful gifts by independent female creatives. Each box has a theme. Last month, it was ‘Herland: Feminist Utopia and Dystopia’. It included a copy of Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s excellent adult debut, The Mercies, an exclusive essay by Sophie Mackintosh, nail varnish, colour-changing tea, soap, postcards and three stunning art prints. All for £17! We’re not being paid to promote this in any way, but, come on, that is a pretty sweet deal. The accompanying Books That Matter podcast is well worth a listen too.
Buy now: £17 a month
Mr B’s Emporium is an innovative, independent bookshop in Bath that offers a beautifully bespoke subscription service. Fill in a simple questionnaire about your reading tastes and your very own dedicated bibliotherapist (such luxury!) will hand-pick a book each month, just for you. They deliver worldwide, but should you be in the area, it’s well worth paying the beautiful (and multi award-winning) shop a visit.
Buy now: £50 for three months
We all know not to judge a book by its cover, but, given the amount of beautiful books in the world, how exactly can we put that into practice? Enter: How Novel. Each month, you pick a ‘mystery book’ from a curated list of at least five. All you have to go on is a few illustrations and key words, such as ‘historical’, ‘London’, ‘investigation’. The beautifully-wrapped book is then delivered straight to your door, alongside a hand-written note from your bookseller. If that wasn’t enticing enough, How Novel works closely with two fantastic charities, One Tree Planted and Book Aid International, so every single subscription plants a tree and donates a book.
Buy now: £12.99 a month
Born from the simple but powerful idea that everyone should be able to see themselves reflected in the books they read, this carefully curated selection reflects the depth and diversity of the queer community. Not only that, but all their books are sourced from Gay’s The Word, the UK’s first and oldest LGBTQ+ bookshop. By getting involved, you’ll be supporting not one, but two queer-owned, independent businesses.
Buy now: From £15 a month
What’s your poison? If it’s unputdownable crime thrillers or thought-provoking non-fiction, you’re in luck. Simply pick your genre of choice and Books + Beer will deliver two newly-released paperbacks straight to your door, alongside craft beers from pioneering, up-and-coming breweries. 50p from every box is donated to men’s mental health charity Calm.
Buy now: £13.50 a month
Experiencing a 50% surge in subscriptions during the first lockdown, the Rare Birds Book Club has one very simple mission; to make reading fun. It celebrates contemporary female fiction, across a variety of genres. Previous inclusions: Taylor Jenkins Reid’s summer blockbuster Daisy Jones & The Six, Sara Collins’ Costa Book Award-winning historical novel The Confessions of Frannie Langton and Emma Jane Unsworth’s incredibly funny satire Adults. Plus, once you’ve finished reading, you can share your thoughts and feelings with its incredible online community!
Buy now: From £14 a month
Created mid-global pandemic, this exciting new subscription service spotlights Black and minority ethnic writers. Each month you receive two books, from established literary giants such as James Baldwin to up-and-coming, contemporary authors. Plus, 15% of every month’s subscription is donated to charities and organisations that provide free books to those living with mental health disorders, currently in prison or financially unable to access literature. Amazing!
Buy now: £18 a month
Nestled in the heart of Edinburgh, Golden Hare Books is another awesome, award-winning independent bookshop that will hand-pick, gift-wrap and deliver mystery books straight to your home. Options include fiction and non-fiction, as well as one book or two. The great thing about PostBooks is that it actively chooses unusual or lesser-known books that you may not have encountered before, often from small, independent presses.
Buy now: £45 for three months
Established in 2012, The Willoughby Book Club has a truly dizzying selection of boxes on offer. Choose between: Natural History, Food and Drink, Classic, YA, Crime, and (many) more. My personal favourite? The Couple Book Club, which includes two copies of the same title so you and your other half can read in tandem. The height of romance, surely!
Buy now: £39.99 for three months
If you’re a special edition collector with a particular penchant for fantasy and genre fiction, look no further. Each box includes a newly-released hardback with a range of customisations exclusive to Illumicrate (a changed cover, sprayed edges, hardback embossing, that kind of thing). Upgrade to the Full Box subscription and you’ll also receive tons of goodies, everything from bookmarks to mugs, totes to art prints.
Buy now: From £17 a month
Did you know that many books are unable to be recycled because of the glue they are bound with? To save some of these books from being sent to landfill, the Hand Me Down Book Club was born. They source and redistribute thousands of pre-loved novels each month. Plus, you can choose to have as many as six books delivered each time, making it ideal for the many voracious, environmentally-conscious readers out there.
Buy now: From £9.99 a month
It is a truth universally acknowledged that there is no more enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon than nursing a strong cup of tea, a biscuit and a good book. Thankfully, Tea Time Bookshop is here to help facilitate every aspect of that experience. Simply pick your genre (Bestseller, RomCom, Sciences), hot beverage of choice (Tea, Coffee, Hot Chocolate) and wait for it to be delivered straight to you. They’ve also partnered with Ecologi, meaning every new book subscription contributes towards planting more trees in the UK and abroad.
Buy now: From £9.99 a month
First established in 2009 as Wall Envy Art, Bookishly specialises in beautiful vintage paperbacks and classics. Again, there are a number of options to choose from, but my personal favourite is Classics Revisited, which pairs a modern book based on or inspired by one of literature’s best-loved classics with delicious artisanal chocolate. There’s also the James Bond Vintage Book & Coffee box for fans of classic spy thrillers. The UK based business ships worldwide.
Buy now: From £18 a month
This stylish service pitches itself as ‘the antidote to screen time’, offering members an ‘immersive, restorative reading experience’. Each box contains a contemporary work of literary fiction, alongside beauty and lifestyle gifts from luxury designers and brands. Beauty products, herbal teas, bespoke stationary; I feel relaxed just thinking about it.
Buy now: From £12.80 a month
The Travelling Reader invites you to join them on a delightfully British ‘Reading Journey’. Each month, you receive a paperback novel set in a different region of the UK, alongside gifts directly inspired by that place. For example, May’s box featured Katie Fforde’s uplifting bestseller A Springtime Affair, alongside a candle, tea and chocolates all sourced locally from the book’s location, Surrey. At £34.99, it’s on the slightly more expensive side, but you do get a lot of bang for your buck (book?).
Buy now: £34.99 a month
Image: Ryan MacEachern for Penguin