“I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.” - J.K Rowling
I have just joined a second book club. For someone who usually feels like they have a bit too much going on in their life (don’t we all?), this might seem like a strange decision. After all, although I am a genuine book geek who finds reading a complete pleasure and source of relaxation that I don’t get to do nearly often enough, do I really need to add reading a couple more books each month to the endless list of things I have to do?
And yet it is precisely because life can sometimes feel a bit hectic that I really love being part of a book club. It gives me the permission to put aside the time to lose myself in a good book (or sometimes, not so good-the democratic nature of book club title selection meaning you’ll read beyond your usual genres and tastes), and then spend an evening talking about it and sharing ideas (and inevitably, wine) with friends. Perfect.
So if you fancy starting your own book club, here are my top tips for making it work- and making it fun;
- Think about the number of people in the club-too few and it can be difficult to get the discussion going, and it all falls apart if a couple of people can’t make it. But too many and the gathering will inevitably lose a bit of focus, and some shyer member of the group may not get the chance to have their say. I think around 8 people is ideal.
- Aim to meet every 4-6 weeks, so everyone has plenty of time to find the book and read it.
- Set up a rota so everyone in the group has a turn to choose the next book. That way you are all exposed to new authors and titles you may never have heard of, or would never normally pick up. When it’s your turn to choose, go for a title that is readily available in paperback, and easy to track down.
- Don’t choose anything over 500 pages. There are lots of worthy tomes out there on my ‘must read’ list, but remember most book clubs are as much about socialising as they are about literature. And anyway, if half the people in your group don’t get past chapter 5, it won’t make for the most scintillating discussion.
- A reading group should be as informal as you all want it to be, but if you want to make sure you do fit in a proper discussion about the book amongst all the catching up, most books now have book group notes and suggested talking points at the back, which just helps get the initial discussion flowing. Wine also helps with this.
My 5 favourite recent book club reads
‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ - Gail Honeyman
Bitingly funny and unbearably moving-at points heartbreakingly so, this depiction of modern loneliness somehow ends up being life-affirming and full of hope. And Eleanor’s character will stay with me for a long time.
‘The Power’ - Naomi Alderman
Examining what would happen if women ran the world, ‘The Power’ is bold, brash, brutal- and often pretty bleak. It feels a very timely read in this post-Trump, #TimesUp era while still being a gripping page turner.
‘The Muse’ - Jessie Burton
With two seemingly unconnected storylines switching back and forth between the swinging ‘60s in London and the civil war in rural Spain, this beautifully crafted novel tackles issues of art, creativity, female identity, love and war. Full of twists and surprises.
‘How to Stop Time’ - Matt Haig
A gorgeously unique novel which tells the story of Tom, who doesn’t age like the rest of us-meaning he has lived for hundreds of years and is still only 41. Not only is it a hugely rich, detailed and entertaining story, revisiting different eras and continents, but it makes you examine what it is to be alive. I loved it.
‘Commonwealth’ - Ann Patchett
A book primarily about family, with the central story spanning decades and told by different members of an extended family in America. Amazingly insightful observations about the relationships between parents and their children and sibling bonds.
I’m a writer and content creator, working with brands to create inspiring bespoke content, as well as on my own projects. Having spent 12 years working at Glamour before going freelance, I now spend my time working with a diverse range of mainly lifestyle, health, well-being and beauty brands, on anything from blog writing, website copy, features and press releases, to e-marketing, social media content and campaign management. And while my average working day may not be as glamorous as during my time in the magazine industry, I love the flexibility of working for myself and the daily variety of working with new people and on different projects.
Having given up city life for seaside dwelling, if I’m not busy tapping away you’ll probably find me down at the beach with my young children, with a large coffee in hand, or with my nose in a book. Ideally, all three.