11 years of ABC's The Book Club but where was the Bible?

ABC Television’s The Book Club will air its final show tonight, after more than a decade on air.

On Twitter, Bible Society Australia’s CEO Greg Clarke congratulated the show for “keeping our screens literary for 11 years.”

“My only disappointment is that we never got the Bible on the show 🙂 or did I miss it?” Clarke tweeted. A spokesperson from The Book Club tweeted back, pointing Clarke to a 2004 TV special where the Bible was covered as Australia’s third most popular book.

The 90-minute special announced Australia’s top 100 books, based on an ABC poll of thousands of Australians over three months, asking them to nominate their favourite read. The Bible came in third, pipped at the post by The Lord of the Rings (1st) and Pride and Prejudice (2nd). This show sparked the idea for the First Tuesday Book Club, hosted by Jennifer Byrne, now called simply The Book Club.

“We got books on television and we made it work.” – Jennifer Byrne

The panel-based show brought together book lovers to discuss a broad range of genres. Byrne, who hosted the show for most of its history, told Fairfax Media “it was time” for her to leave the show so she could just read for pleasure. “We got books on television and we made it work,” she said.

Here at Eternity, we’re not sure one mention of the Bible over a decade of book talk is quite what Greg Clarke had in mind!

According to the Guinness World Records, the Bible is the world’s best-selling and most widely distributed book, estimating more than five billion copies have been printed.

Koorong, the largest retailer of Christian books in Australia, reports Bible sales are up 4 per cent in 2017.

“It’s done quite well as a book over the years, and is written by quite an authority, really.” – James Valentine

Earlier this year, the Bible made an appearance at the Sydney Writer’s Festival, with a sold-out panel session on the Bible in Australian culture. Clarke, who hosted the panel, has written a book called The Great Bible Swindle, in which he argues that every Australian needs a working knowledge of the Bible in order to be truly educated.

Bible Society, which celebrated its bicentenary this year, was a sponsor of the Sydney Writer’s Festival in 2017. ABC Radio’s James Valentine said on air, “[The Bible] is one of the ‘big books’. It’s done quite well as a book over the years, and is written by quite an authority, really, and there were quite a lot of good writers involved in the Bible, so it’s very apt that they support the Writer’s Festival.”

It’s a shame The Book Club is finishing up this year so it won’t have a chance to review the upcoming book by historian Meredith Lake, The Bible in Australia: A Cultural History, which is being published by NewSouth Books. Due out in April 2018, it is a “revelatory story of the Bible in Australia, from the convict era to the Mabo land rights campaign, Nick Cave, the Bra Boys and beyond,” according to NewSouth.

Regardless of whether the Bible should have appeared on The Book Club, the loss of the show is a great one for book discussion in Australia. Where to next? asks this writer.