Honest Reviews of 2020 Books by Real Readers

There are many places to find reader reviews on the web, but it can be a challenge to know which are truly independent.

The reader reviews offered through BookBrowse's First Impressions program are trustworthy because only our members can post them. Members have the opportunity to request books to read months ahead of their publication dates in exchange for their honest opinion. They can request specific titles but the books are assigned by an algorithm. So, while it's conceivable that someone with a personal connection to the book might receive a copy to review, the chances of there being enough people to influence the overall consensus is effectively zero.


New Research: Book Clubs in Lockdown!

Book Clubs in Lockdown - cover2020 has been a tough year; we have faced restrictions due to the ongoing pandemic, social unrest, and a bitterly contested and divisive Presidential election in the USA. Many of us have been separated from our family and friends. With so many lives disrupted, we wondered…how has all this impacted readers and particularly those in book clubs? So in October we launched a survey to find out! Within two weeks we had over 4,500 responses, including 3,400 from book club members.

Since then, the BookBrowse team has been working to analyze the responses (there was a lot of information!) to build a clearer picture of how book clubs are reacting to the challenges they've faced this year, and what this might mean for the long term. I want to thank all who took part in the survey, many with very detailed and well-considered comments, through which we've gained many insights that we're eager to share with you.

The "Book Clubs in Lockdown" report is just released and is available to you in full for free. Go to bookbrowse.com/wp/lockdown to download your copy and, when you have, please do share with others.


Best Books for Book Clubs in 2021

It's been a challenging year on a number of levels and we hope you've managed to keep your book club going strong as we all rethink and rework the way we live our daily lives. The end of the year is a great time to take stock of your book group and make plans for the future. In this roundup, we recommend a dozen books for your book group in 2021, all of which are newly released in paperback or will be available in paperback soon.

The list features books by award-winning and tremendously popular authors like Elizabeth Strout's Olive, Again and Ann Patchett's The Dutch House, along with some debut novels such as The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner. We also have two young adult recommendations, two mysteries and a good splash of historical fiction; and for nonfiction fans we suggest Richard Askwith's captivating biography of World War II-era horse racing phenom Lata Brandisová, and Anne Gardiner Perkin's biography of the ground-breaking first cohort of women to join Yale in 1969.

All 12 books earned five stars from BookBrowse reviewers, so you can't go wrong whatever you choose. Also, we invite you to check out the selections from our Anti-Racist Reading List which includes books from the past two years that should foster dialogue on current events.


The Best of Culture Corner

For almost six months, we've posted a weekly "Culture Corner" blog sharing cultural experiences you can access from home during the pandemic--such as online concerts, theater and art. This has been great fun, actually almost too much fun, I've spent way too much time going down internet rabbit holes researching what to recommend!

Although clearly the pandemic is still very much with us, I'm drawing the weekly posts to a close for now as we're getting close to the end of the year and will have a number of "best of year" posts to share. Plus, in a few weeks we'll be releasing the findings from our October 2020 "Book Clubs in Lockdown" survey. We're working hard to get this finished so we can share it with you as soon as possible, and I can tell you now that it is filled with fascinating information.

Of course, there is still a world of culture to explore, enough to fill many lifetimes. Here are a few places I suggest to continue your journey:


Culture Corner: The Early Days of Photography

LovingAn extraordinarily moving photo essay in the Guardian based on pictures from Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love from 1850s-1950s got me thinking about this week's "Culture Corner" topic which focuses on the early days of photography.

Photography as we know it began in the 1820s when French inventor Nicéphore Niépce created a light sensitive surface that could record a permanent image (albeit a poor quality one) in a process that was more akin to a photocopy than a photograph. A few years later, he and Louis Daguerre collaborated on a process that led to the first publicly available photographic process using mercury vapor to set a permanent image on a sheet of silver-plated copper. Henry Fox Talbot invented his own process at broadly the same time as Daguerre, and it was arguably a better one as it created a negative from which multiple positive images could be printed, but the daguerreotype won out in large part because the French government acquired the rights to the process in return for lifetime pensions for Daguerre and Niépce's son, and then released full details of the process so that all could use it.


20th Century American Playwrights

Eugene O'Neill, Arthur Miller and Tennessee WilliamsEach week in "Culture Corner" we're sharing cultural experiences you can access from home during the pandemic, such as online concerts, theater and art. This week we look at three of the most respected American playwrights of the 20th century: Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neill:


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Waiting for the Night Song
Book Clubs in Lockdown - Free Research Report