America Media, which publishes Catholic books through its America Press unit, is reviving the Catholic Book Club after several years of stagnation. The book club will feature four books a year, and each will be accompanied by an interpretive essay and discussion questions written by the club’s moderator, Father Kevin Spinale.
“There's a hunger for intellectual discussion around high-quality literature, the kinds of discussions that don't happen often over social media,” said James Keane, senior editor at America Media. “We would like to see the Catholic Book Club turn into an online community where the readers have a bit of ownership over discussion topics, over what books we select, over the tenor and nature of the conversation.”
The first book selected for the revived book club is Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved By Beauty (Scribner, Jan. 2017), a biography of Day written by her granddaughter, Kate Hennessy. Books across all genres will be selected from a variety of publishers in order to "[ignite] national conversations," said Keane.
America Media plans on growing the Catholic Book Club’s membership by placing ads in its America magazine as well as on Facebook and Twitter. America editor and author Father James Martin will also promote the book club on his social media platforms.
The Catholic Book Club was first established in 1928 and followed a monthly mail order format. It reached peak membership in 1959 with nearly 8,000 subscribers, but in recent years, changing buying and reading habits caused the program to fall into a state of neglect. America Media hopes to reengage readers with quality literature through both social media and an online discussion group.
“Our editors want to communicate the value of literature through the medium of what many see as the great enemy of books: social media and all its pomps,” said Keane. “It's important to use the technology we have at our fingertips to bring people together in community in new ways—ways that maybe emulate older models, but take advantage of new ways to communicate with each other.”