Florence Welch is a remarkably literary artist whose passion carries through in her music. Her voice has a poetic rhythm to it, her song’s melodies are lyrical in and of themselves, and her words are stuffed with allusions to poetry, literature and mythology. But what may come as a surprise is her active roll in dishing out recommendations and spreading the word on important new works through The Florence + The Machine Book Club. What’s more, Welch built the club not on whatever she fancies reading or even around her music, but through a sustained relationship with her fans that has been going on for years.
It all began where most artist-to-fan interactions, wanted or unwanted, happen: on Twitter. Way back in 2012, Welch visited the famous Powell’s Books in Portland, Or.:
As an innocent and beautiful photo, there were plenty of options to ridicule and harrass her. Fortunately for society, one inspired fan named Leah Moloney had the perfect idea:
At 14, Moloney was doing what we all do: messaging idols and celebrities with hopes of getting a courtesy “thanks!” back or a notification of them ‘heart-ing’ your tweet. Moloney, luckily enough, struck a chord (pun intended). Welch not only responded, but enthused over the idea and began personally arranging the book club with Moloney. Within the week, the club was up and running, with Welch promoting the first book (Gwendoline Riley’s Opposing Positions, in case you want to join in from the beginning) onstage inbetween songs.
Today, as the club finishes out its fourth year, The Florence + The Machine Book Club has read more than twenty books together, from up-and-coming poet Mira Gonzalez to neo-classics such as Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. As of writing, Welch is guiding the club towards Salt by Nayyirah Waheed and Bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward. Welch (via the club) recently announced her own ‘summer reading challenge’, which you can take part simply by “mak[ing] a pledge to read as much as you can”. So it’s not a precision operation, but it’s a credit to the larger power of using one’s celebrity to inspire.
The book club has actually been drawing some fantastic returns for Florence as well. Through the club’s Twitter and Instagram following, the latter more than 42 thousand followers strong, she had the opportunity to interview author Donna Tartt for Rookie magazine. On top of that, she’s attracted the likes of Allison Brie and Lena Dunham to the cause.
While star members are a feather in the book club’s cap, the project is first and foremost fan-driven. Young readers from around the world host unofficial book club meetings, make their own badges and bookmarks in celebration, and even spark up some friendships. If that’s not what you want from a book club, I can’t tell what you’re looking for.
Featured image courtesy of Dave Chalkey /NME.