Celebrity-fronted book clubs are not a new idea. In fact, in 2016, they are all the rage. Emma Watson, Reese Witherspoon, and Mark Zuckerberg are just some of the public figures who have started their book clubs, but one musician and a young Irish teen preempted the phase four years ago.
It began as the brainchild of Dublin-based Leah Moloney; wanting to connect with Florence Welch, the multi-talented front woman of Florence + the Machine, through a shared love of literature, music, and the arts. The singer expressed a desire to start an online book club on social media thanks to her near-obsession with the written word and Moloney, then just 15, saw an opportunity to help the singer in this regard, as she too, was a self-confessed book worm.
It all began in July 2012, when Welch tweeted a picture of herself in front of Portland’s independent bookshop Powell’s, with the caption “Booksbooksbooksbooks” and Leah tweeted this in reply:
OH MY GOD GUYS LET’S START A BOOKCLUB WHERE @flo_tweet RECOMMENDS BOOKS FOR US TO READ AND THEN SHE TALKS ABOUT THEM WITH US LOL YEAAAH XX
— baby luna (@leahmoloney) July 23, 2012
“I have always looked up to her, and I thought it would be great if she had a proper book club,” Leah told IMAGE.ie. “So, I just took initiative and replied to her saying we should start a proper book club where fans could come together and read books based on those that meant a lot to Florence.” Leah admitted that she didn’t take the suggestion too seriously and in the beginning, she didn’t expect the singer to notice the one tweet among the thousands she receives. But see it she did.
“Flo basically got in touch and said ‘This is an amazing idea, I wanna do it’ and we slowly got it off the ground.” Like all good things, it took a while to grow, but now you can’t miss the book club’s presence on the web. And what does it feel like to have preempted the digital book club, something that is now a very mainstream idea? “What I love is that reading is now seen as a great thing to do; it’s ‘in’ again. And myself and the girls who run the club alongside Flo just love that we’re encouraging followers to read amazing, often life-changing works and that people are responding and enjoying the process as much as we are.”
Leah onstage with Flo in France at Festival Beauregard, July 2015. Photographer: Gérard Boisnel
After a few tweets and four years later, Between two Books – a name Leah came up as a pun based on Florence’s Between Two Lungs track – is a fully-fledged reality with over 46,000 Instagram followers and thousands more on Facebook and Twitter. It’s very much a team effort, run by Leah, Heather Hale from Canada and Abbie Whitehead from London – “two very talented and hardworking girls without whom the club would be nowhere; they are the glue that holds us together!” – in full collaboration with the singer herself and together, they encourage their followers to celebrate the sheer joy that comes from reading a wonderful book.
Huge consideration goes into each recommended book and projects the group take on. Any fan of Florance’s knows the importance of her emotive, beautiful song lyrics, so the same care is taken when choosing a novel that they hope will resonate with everyone. “Flo is so literary, so it’s really wonderful to get an insight into the works that have meant the most to her,” Leah continued. So far, they have chosen a mix of classic and new titles as well as a poetry selection, from Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston to The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham, Salt by by Nayyirah Waheed, and Your Voice In My Head by Emma Forrest – a particular favourite of Leah’s. The club is currently reading Bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward.
A photo posted by leah genevieve (@leahmoloney) on
The 19-year-old explained that the entire project has been nothing but a labour of love as she gets to work and collaborate with a singer and musician for whom she has the utmost respect and admiration. The pair has formed a friendship and bond due to their love of art, books and music and it’s clear when talking to Leah, that this means the world to her. “It’s truly been amazing to meet her and talk about the book club and all the different things we love,” Leah said of the whole experience.
The club has a number projects on the go, and they are currently halfway through their summer reading #BTBChallenge16, where followers pledge to read as much as they can over the coming weeks. “We started it as an incentive for people to take a digital or social media detox and encourage them to indulge in their favourite book, even if it’s only for an hour or two a day.”
Hello everyone!! As we approach the beginning of July, things are feeling quite exciting.. summer plans are being made and the collection of books on your bed side table will be piling up. You all know what this means! It is time for the Between Two Books annual SUMMER READING CHALLENGE! The main goal here is to simply enjoy your summer (or winter, depending on your location in the world ), relax, read as many books as you can, and most importantly; have fun!! So… throughout the months of July and August, we simply encourage all of you to READ READ READ!!! Read a book, read a magazine, the newspaper, essays or a thesaurus!! Just keep those eye balls moving!! If you want, you can set yourself a specific book goal.. for example, to read a particular number of books before the end of August, to read a novel in a language you are learning, to discover a genre you would consider to be out of your comfort zone.. or perhaps to write. If so, note it down. That way, you can focus on attaining this goal. It is only a guideline for you. Remember, all you need to do to take part in the BTB Challenge is to make a pledge to read as much as you can. In addition, we want to add something new to the Between Two Books Challenge this year. We want to challenge you to take a break from social media. We LOVE our social media, and it can be used for so much good (like online book clubs ) but it can also be very addictive! We ourselves would like to break this habit. We therefore want to invite our bookclubbers to join us in pledging to keep 2 hours per day (or whatever suits you!) completely social media free this July and August. Let us know what you use this time for instead of scrolling scrolling clicking clicking falling down that hole… We would love to be kept up to date and to see all the wonderful things you lovely people are reading, so please feel free to post pictures and use the hashtag #BTBChallenge16!! We will also be reposting your photos so make sure to tag us!! We really encourage you all to take part, as it will be great fun and good for your heart, mind and soul ✨ GET READING!!! GOOOOOOO!!! Lots of love, Between Two Books Xx
Outside of her book club duties, Leah admitted there aren’t enough hours in the day to fit everything else in – she’s currently studying Psychology full time in Dublin and is a keen traveller – but said she wouldn’t change a single thing over the past four years. Another personal highlight has been connecting with millions of fans around the world, forming friendships and helping lift people up when they need it most. “Many have said knowing Florence was reading the same book made them feel more connected, so it’s fantastic to see that the book club is making a genuine difference and positive impact on people’s lives.”
A photo posted by Florence Welch (@florence) on
The club has exciting things in the pipeline, but we’d never spoil the surprise.
For now, why not take this weekend to browse the club’s selection of brilliant books, and experience the thrill of reading words that unite and touch the soul.