12 best book subscription boxes for adults: From feminist non-fiction to travel titles

Jess Denham
·9-min read
We've chosen boxes that offer original concepts, good customer service and value for money (iStock)
We've chosen boxes that offer original concepts, good customer service and value for money (iStock)

Book subscription boxes are every bookworm’s dreams come true. Imaginative, gripping and thought-provoking stories delivered straight to your door, perhaps with a surprise treat or two? Yes, please!

The coronavirus lockdown may have put a stop to our exciting summer plans, but we can think of worse ways to spend 2020 than curling up with a good book, a cup of tea and a biccy.

Rest assured you won’t be the only one making the most of more me-time by indulging your love of literature.

One of our featured boxes, the Rare Birds Book Club, has seen a rise in subscriptions of more than 50 per cent since lockdown started in March.

There’s a book subscription box to suit all budgets and literary tastes, whether you’re into crime thrillers, romantic fiction, the classics...or recipe books.

Reader, we’ve found the very best.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Books That Matter: £17 per month, Books That Matter

This good value feminist subscription box is designed to inspire, empower and provoke thought. Each box has a theme, centred around an acclaimed book written by a woman or non-binary author. It also contains at least three gifts made by independent women makers (we received a cool tote bag in ours) and access to an online book club. Past boxes have been based around Beloved by Toni Morrison, Circe by Madeline Miller and Belonging by Umi Sinha. The rolling monthly subscription is popular but you can save money with 3-, 6- and 12-month subscriptions and there’s a one-off option too. The accompanying Books That Matter podcast is well worth a listen for some fantastic author interviews.

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Whimsy and Wonderland Book Club: £24 per month, Whimsy and Wonderland Book Club

Children’s classics may have been written with younger readers in mind, but they hold a place in many an adult’s heart and can be enjoyed anew at any age. This charming subscription celebrates timeless children’s stories by theming each letterbox-friendly box around a different book, from The Secret Garden to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Founder Zoe is also an illustrator, so you can expect at least five beautifully illustrated prints and stationery items in every delivery, along with the novel. It’s an absolute joy to open and would make a thoughtful and unusual gift. Choose from a rolling monthly subscription or discounted 3-, 6- and 12-month prepay options.

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Books + Beer: £13.50 per month, Books + Beer

Books and beer sounds like a darn good combination to us. Fans of crime and non-fiction books will love this subscription service. Simply choose which of the two genres you would like to receive and await your box later that month. It’ll also include two cans or bottles of craft beer from up and coming breweries, along with tasting notes and recipe suggestions. Books are always new releases, so you’ll never receive something you already own. Books + Beer also donates 50p from every box to men’s mental health charity Calm. Choose from 1-, 3-, 6- and 12-month subscriptions.

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Rare Birds Book Club: £12 per month, Rare Birds Book Club

This modern, diverse book subscription offers you a choice of two secret blurbs each month. These are always taken from recently published paperback fiction that’s been written for women, by women. Your chosen surprise book arrives beautifully wrapped in brightly-coloured paper and goes through the letterbox, so you’ll never miss a delivery. Founder Rachel pops a note into each box explaining why she’s chosen the book, along with an illustrated bookmark featuring a literary “rare bird”. We love that this subscription comes with membership of an exclusive online book club, so you can discuss the book and make new pals. Most deliveries are book-only, but extra perks include monthly giveaways and access to author interviews. Choose from a rolling monthly subscription or a 3-, 6- or 12-month subscription.

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The Travelling Reader: £34.99 per month, The Travelling Reader

We love the concept and ethos of this subscription service that celebrates all things British by taking you to a different region each month. Each box is cleverly themed around the chosen area. Inside, expect to find a book that is based locally, nestled among a generous variety of treats that have all been made by independent businesses native to the setting. We like that these boxes also contain some photographs and tourist leaflets to inspire you to plan your own staycation. Londoners will enjoy the London box too. It’s a pricey box at nearly £35 per month but you get a lot for your buck and can save some money by signing up for the 3-month subscription. One-time boxes are also available.

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The Willoughby Book Club: From £39.99 for a 3-month subscription, The Willoughby Book Club

This club offers a truly personal book subscription service. Resident bookworms select a novel each month especially for you, based on details about your tastes that you fill in online. There’s a huge range of subscriptions to choose from, including contemporary, classic, young adult, gardening and natural history. The food and drink subscription is great for trying new cookery books, while the couples book club features two copies of the same book so you can read it at the same time – the epitome of romance, surely! Each book arrives lovingly gift-wrapped, with a special bookmark. If you receive a title that you already own, TWBC will happily send a replacement, which not all services do.

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ShelterBox: From £10 a month, ShelterBox

Read well while doing good with the UK’s first charity book club. Global charity ShelterBox provides disaster affected families with emergency shelter. The diverse and compelling stories featured in its subscription box are inspired by the people it has helped, opening your eyes to different cultures and life experiences. Every six weeks, subscribers vote on a shortlist of three books and receive the winner in the post shortly afterwards, along with an explanatory letter and an update on ShelterBox’s relief efforts. Members are also granted access to a secret Facebook group for a guided discussion of each novel. The fee is voluntary, with a suggestion donation of at least £10 a month, part of which goes towards making a care box for disaster victims.

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How Novel: £9.99 per month, How Novel

Ever wanted a pen pal? This quirky subscription box comes with a bespoke handwritten message from the bookseller, who you can write back to each month using the enclosed blank card. Subscribers get a choice of five to ten mystery books that are wrapped in recycled kraft paper and hand illustrated with four clues as to what might be inside. You also get a cute custom bookmark featuring a quote by an inspirational female author. If you want to be part of a book club, try the £6.99 membership that sees everybody receive the same book (voted for by members) and offers access to an online forum and group video call. How Novel replaces any books you already own with a new one, so you’ll never waste your money.

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Bookishly: From £13 per month, Bookishly

What makes Bookishly so special is that it designs its stunning dust jackets in-house, meaning you can’t find these editions anywhere else. There’s a range of subscription boxes available, including crime thriller and vintage James Bond options, but our pick is the “classic of the month” club, which comes with a classic novel, a pretty quote bookmark and your choice of luxury tea or coffee. Deliveries fit through the letterbox. For a bi-monthly service, try the “classic book crate”, which includes unique literary-inspired goodies that are themed around the choice of book (this month’s is The Plays of Oscar Wilde). You can sign up to a rolling monthly subscription or pre-pay for a set number of months.

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Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights: From £45 for a 3-month subscription, Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights

The customer service that this soulful Bath bookshop offers is exemplary – it’s little wonder that it has twice been named the best indie bookshop in the country. Every subscriber is assigned a dedicated bibliotherapist for the duration of their subscription. This passionate bookseller hand-picks a book for you each month, based on the short questionnaire you complete on sign-up. The novel arrives through your letterbox wrapped in vintage-style brown paper with brown string and a red wax seal. You get a limited edition bookmark with each delivery too. Subscriptions can last for three, six or 11 months and you can choose between paperbacks and hardbacks. We can’t wait to visit the shop itself.

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Prudence and the Crow: £15 per month, Prudence and the Crow

This vintage book subscription has a cult following who wait with bated breath for their bespoke box to drop through the letterbox each month. The enclosed book is always a paperback that’s over 20-years-old, but the genre, size, condition and age will vary. It’ll always be a complete surprise but it’s tailored to the questionnaire you fill in at the checkout, so you’re sure to enjoy it. Many of the service’s subscribers have been signed up for nearly seven years, so they must be doing something right! Choose from a rolling monthly subscription or set 3-, 6- and 12-month subscriptions. One-offs are available too.

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Reposed: £12.80 per month, Reposed

Self-care is a buzzword with good reason – we could all do with looking out for ourselves more. Enter Reposed, formerly known as Reading in Heels. Curated with the sophisticated modern woman in mind, each monthly box includes a newly-published contemporary paperback, cushioned by a host of indulgent treats for the dream relaxing evening. Expect to find everything from fancy chocolates to high-end spa products inside the stylish packaging. Subscribers get access to an active digital bookclub too. Other than the rolling monthly subscription, there are 3-, 6-, and 12-month prepay options, along with a one-off box. You can also create a bespoke box to gift to a friend in need of a pick-me-up.

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The verdict: Best book subscription boxes for adults

Books That Matter has everything we were looking for in a book subscription box – exciting and diverse literature, fun treats and an affordable price tag. We also love the bespoke service offered by Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights – who wouldn’t want their own bibliotherapist?

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