Book subscription services have come a long way since the original Book of the Month Club started sending out “The Sun Also Rises” in 1926. Now everyone from Amazon (whose chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post) and BOTM to indie bookstores and book-loving entrepreneurs are hand-selecting books, wrapping them in boxes filled with swag and delivering them right to your home. Some services offer bonuses like chocolate bars, time with a life coach or a flash drive with audiobook clips.
We sampled nine book subscription services to see what readings — and other goodies — you can get with membership:
What you get: One BOTM-branded hardcover book of your choice from a list of titles selected by BOTM’s judges. Recent options: Madeline Miller’s “Circe,” Tayari Jones’s “An American Marriage” and Rachel Kushner’s “The Mars Room.” In most months at least one book is a BOTM exclusive (meaning the book does not publish until the following month). You can participate in a discussion forum on the BOTM site, and there’s an active Instagram account.
Cost: $14.99 per month (no charge if you skip a month). An extra book, at any time, is $9.99. Shipping is free. A bright blue BOTM tote is $20.
Best for: Readers who want an early look at fiction and memoirs likely to land on the bestseller list. Generally, women (one advertisement for the club makes a cheeky reference to another monthly event in a woman’s life). People who like to buy their candles and hand lotion separately.
What you get: One book and literary accoutrements selected by the staff at Powell’s, an independent bookstore in Portland, Ore. A recent box included a special signed edition of Jesse Ball’s novel “Census” in a slipcase, an embossed pamphlet featuring an interview with the author, two notebooks and an advance copy of Deborah Eisenberg’s story collection “Your Duck is My Duck.”
Cost: $44.95 per box, including shipping and handling. Shipments come every 6-8 weeks.
Best for: Fans of literary fiction, hipsters and supporters of independent bookstores.
What you get: There are four box types: Regular, Luxe, Bath Time or Girl Power! What’s inside is a surprise every month, but subscribers can expect a female-centric novel and cozy items such as a fancy tea bag, a chocolate bar or a scented candle. The books are new but not new releases. A recent box included a personal note, an eye mask, a pair of earrings, an essential-oil-infused cleaner (because introverts like to clean?), a small jar of salted-caramel spread and the novel “Shoe Addicts Anonymous,” by Beth Harbison.
Cost: $34.99 per month for Regular; $49.99 per month for Luxe; $24.99 per month for Bath Time; $34.99 for Girl Power! Shipping is roughly $5 per box.
Best for: A girl’s night in.
What you get: “A box of sophistication.” What that means varies. There are two types of book boxes: Book Club and Standard. Each Book Club box contains one male-centric book (an uh-oh recent choice was Junot Díaz’s novel “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”). The Standard option adds high-end grooming products and, depending on which options you choose, other accessories (sunglasses, a watch). A recent shipment included a paperback edition of Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men,” a Blackthorn leather notebook cover, a pocket notebook and three pencils.
Cost: Prices range from $16 per month (with free shipping) for a box that includes one paperback to $45 per month (plus shipping and handling) for a box that includes one paperback and various grooming products, accessories or knickknacks. The website prompts buyers to add “enhancements” — $45 sunglasses, $15 dress socks — and offers month-to-month payments or 2-month, 6-month or 12-month prepay options.
Best for: Men who consider themselves cultured yet still “want to improve themselves.” Women who think the men in their lives are cultured yet still wish they would “improve themselves.”
What you get: A self-help book along with tools — a workbook, access to a webinar — to achieve personal betterment goals. A recent Go Love Yourself! box included a handwritten note that opened with “Hey Beautiful” and products focused on restfulness: a “Beauty of Sleep” candle, a tin of herbal tea, an eye mask and a coupon for an online restorative yoga class — also a copy of “The Sleep Revolution,” by Arianna Huffington.
Cost: The Essentials box is $30 per month. For $49.95 per month, the Go Love Yourself! box includes “yummy self-care items” and group coaching. Discounts are available for multi-month prepayments.
Best for: Your yoga buddies, your stressed-out best friend, optimists.
What you get: Curated by Sanura Williams, an L.A.-based book aficionado, My Lit Box focuses on writers of color. Customers can select from two options: Book Only or Full Box (either option can focus on “Adult Fiction,” “YA Lit” or “Black Women Lit”). Williams discusses the books on her blog; there’s also an active Instagram account. A recent Full Box included “These Violent Delights,” by Victoria Namkung and a tote bag emblazoned with the word “Resist.”
Cost: My Lit Box ships every three months. The Book Only option is $14.99 per shipment; the Full Box is $24.99 per shipment.
Best for: Bibliophiles looking for a diverse reading list and gear that advertises that passion.
What you get: Children’s books selected by “a small team of parents, aunts and uncles .” Customers can choose boxes based on a child’s age: Board Book Box (ages 0-3), Mixed Book Box (all ages) and Picture Book Box (ages 4-7). A recent Picture Book Box included “A Crash of Rhinos,” by Greg Danylyshyn; “Douglas, You Need Glasses!,” by Ged Adamson; “The Friend Ship,” by Kat Yeh; and stickers.
Cost: Starts at $19.95 per month, with discounts for longer subscriptions. Shipping and handling are $4.95 per month. With each book purchased, the company donates a book to charity.
Best for: Busy parents and kids who like to be surprised with books.
What you get: A crash course in business advice. Co-founder Tai Lopez says he started Mentor Box so “you could get twice the reading done in half the time.” A recent box included “Thinking in Bets,” by Annie Duke, and “The School of Greatness,” by Lewis Howes, cheat sheets that offer a “30-second summary” of each book, two “memorization booklets” and a USB flash card loaded with videos and audiobook “nuggets.” Members have access to a private MasterMind Facebook group to discuss what they’ve learned.
Cost: $1,499 per year or $139 per month (shipping is free).
Best for: People who listen to TED Talks on double-speed while reading a book on the treadmill.
What you get: Nestled in festive packing confetti is what the company calls a “badass” book, loosely defined as a book “with a subversive plot and message or a book that was banned at one time.” You also get a cocktail recipe inspired by the book, the nonalcoholic ingredients to make the cocktail and a reader’s guide with suggestions such as “Write a Tinder bio for one of the characters.” A recent box featured Zadie Smith’s “Swing Time,” a recipe for a sankofa bird cocktail, a can of ginger beer, tonic water and sparkling grapefruit juice. For jovial book chats, there’s a podcast and blog.
Cost: Starts at $34.99 per month, with discounts for longer subscriptions (shipping is free).
Best for: A girl’s night in that feels like a girl’s night out.
Nora Krug is an editor and writer in Book World.