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The United Kingdom is currently experiencing a surge in book club popularity as Generation Z's leisure activities shift.

The United Kingdom is currently experiencing a surge in book club popularity as Generation Z’s leisure activities shift.

According to recent information from companies that list events, the United Kingdom is currently seeing a surge in the popularity of book clubs.

The number of book club listings on Eventbrite, a ticketing website, saw a 350% increase from 2019 to 2023. This growth was much higher compared to the general increase in listings based in the UK during the same time frame. In just one year, from 2022 to 2023, book club listings on the site increased by 41%.

Meetup, a website that lists events, stated that there was a 14% rise in the amount of people responding to book club events from January 2023 to January 2024. In comparison, there was only a 4% increase in responses for all events based in the UK.

The recent surge aligns with the introduction of book clubs by popular young stars such as singer Dua Lipa and model Kaia Gerber, and the emergence of #BookTok – a section of TikTok where users share book suggestions. Co-founder of the book club Between2Books, Victoria Okafor, noted that the increase in enthusiasm for reading could be attributed to a shift in pastimes among younger generations, as nightclubs are receiving less attention from Gen Z and they are seeking alternative ways to occupy their leisure time.

According to Okafor, the pandemic may have contributed to the increase in popularity of book clubs. Due to being forced to slow down and resume old hobbies, many individuals turned to online book clubs as a means of connecting with others while in isolation. Taragh Godfrey, organizer of Brunch Book Club, stated that people were lacking connection during the lockdowns, leading to a recognition of its importance among individuals.

According to Okafor, virtual book clubs offer a lower level of commitment as members only need to log in rather than physically attend a designated location. If the club eventually holds in-person events, you may be more likely to attend if you have already been enjoying the virtual meetings via Zoom.

According to Godfrey, book clubs have created a welcoming environment for communities, especially for women. This is in contrast to the dominant presence of sports teams in community spaces, which may not appeal to everyone. The atmosphere in Godfrey’s club strikes a balance between serious discourse and light-hearted fun. Additionally, discussions about the selected book often lead to conversations about relevant topics such as loneliness in London.

The number of attendees at Brunch Book Club has significantly increased. According to Godfrey, the club has been experiencing steady growth since it was established in 2019, but this year has been particularly busy. Tickets have been selling out at a rapid pace.

In recent years, book clubs have undergone a transformation. According to Godfrey, they used to be a traditional gathering where members would go to someone’s house and drink copious amounts of wine. However, modern book clubs now offer a wider range of activities, such as organized trips and events. For example, Godfrey’s club hosts brunches and cocktail hours, while Between2Books plans outings to exhibitions and the theatre. Prior to Godfrey’s brunch, there is an online discussion where participants engage in conversations and answer questions about the selected book. During this time, some members may also be getting ready for the brunch, with some even multi-tasking by doing their skincare routine with towels on their heads.

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There are various book clubs listed on Eventbrite that have specific themes, such as Sheffield Feminist Book Club, Bring Your Baby Book Club, Crime and Nourishment Book Club & Social Dining Group, and Modern Chinese Literature Online Book Club.

Okafor’s club, Between2Books, focuses on books by writers traditionally excluded from the canon. She began seeking out such stories “embarrassingly late”, she said. Reading authors of colour “brought back a joy to my reading that came from not only seeing elements of myself and culture reflected in novels but also reading stories that could be funny or empowering as opposed to the narratives of struggle that can often surround stories of people of colour”, she said. The variety of books “makes reading and discussion so rich and I think that’s what attenders are drawn to”.

According to Okafor, social media is also playing a role in increasing the exposure of book clubs. They speculate that individuals may stumble upon a book club page by chance or actively search for one, ultimately giving them the necessary information to participate if they choose. This significantly differs from solely hearing about a book club through word of mouth.

The majority of book club gatherings hosted by Eventbrite during the years 2019 to 2023 occurred in London, with Bristol, Manchester, Leeds, and Edinburgh following in popularity. Approximately one-fifth of book club events this year will be held online, with nearly two-thirds being free to attend.

Godfrey stated that people take great pride in their clubs, much like a sports club. He compares reading to being a sport that they engage in.

Source: theguardian.com