Both the Left Book and the Right Book Clubs were a phenomenon of the 1930s.

In 1936, The Left Book Club (LBC) was established by publisher Victor Gollancz, John Strachey, and Stafford Cripps. The three aims of the LBC centred around fascism, the threat of war, and poverty. The LBC aimed at an effective resistance of the first, prevention of the second, and socialism as a cure for the last. Membership peaked in 1939 at 57,000. Over their 12-year publishing history, which ended in 1948, the LBC published some 257 books and pamphlets, many of which were commissioned works. Some of the writers included George Orwell, Stephen Spender, Emile Burns, and John Strachey. Importantly, the LBC was the first book club in the UK.

In June 1937, the Right Book Club (RBC) was established by Christina Foyle, daughter of the founder of Foyle’s Bookshop, London. She was alarmed by ‘the flood of communist and semi-communist literature…pouring forth from the printing presses and threatening to engulf the saner members of the reading public.’ The RBC was started as a reaction to the leftward swing in 1930s politics in the UK, and an attempt at political renewal. The aim and enemy were clear: To oppose and fight against Socialism, Communism and Left propaganda. It was a counterbalance, a rival to the LBC. The RBC lasted a little longer than the LBC, ending publication in 1950.

The influence of the Left Book Club was felt in New Zealand. A Left Book Club Association was formed in 1937 and there was a total of some 26 groups formed around the country: from Ruawai, Dargaville, Hamilton, Te Kuiti, Christchurch, and Dunedin. A total membership was recorded in April 1939 at about 1100. Like the mother Club, the NZLBC fell victim to the war, and effectively ceased as an organisation by 1941.

Heritage Collections, Dunedin Public Library, is fortunate to have a substantial collection of both Left and Right Book Club titles, lacking only a few of titles from each. This collection is certainly the largest collection of such material in a New Zealand institution and is on display for the very first time.

Unless stated, all the LBC titles were published by Victor Gollancz in London. All the RBC titles are 'London: Right Book Club' unless stated.