Tag Archives: Book groups

Seven Recommendations for Book Groups

On an art tour of the south of France recently I asked people about their reading recommendations, and in turn I was asked for mine. As such conversations developed they frequently referred to books discussed in reading groups. I was asked what I would recommend for book groups. In turn I asked my own group for their choices.

My Book Group’s reading choices

The criteria that emerged for making these recommendations were probably some combination of

  • The book was an enjoyable read
  • It was not too long or too difficult to be off-putting for very busy readers
  • It produced a good discussion in the group

To make our annual choices in our group we devote our December meeting to the task, each person bringing several selections. We have a free vote and then ensure we have on our list of eleven books, one from each individual and a variety of genres including poetry, theatre, memoir or biography and other non-fiction.

Seven recommendations from my Book Group

Milkman by Anna Burns (2018) 

Not everyone found this an easy read, but we all appreciated its innovation and compelling subject matter. Not everyone finished it.

I reviewed it on this blog, and you can find the review here.

Plainsong  by Kent Haruf (1999)

Some of the members of the group had not previously encountered Kent Haruf but agreed that this was a very good read, and prompted a good discussion about his focus on the ordinary folk of Holt, Colorado. 

I had reviewed this book as well. You can find it here.

Reservoir 13  by Jon McGregor (2017)

I missed the session at which this novel was discussed, but the enthusiasm of the group has encouraged me to plan to read it soon. It was swiftly recommended for this post.

My Life on the Road  by Gloria Steinem (2015)

This memoir prompted much talk about our different involvements in feminism in the past and today, and in Gloria Steinem’s approach to activism. Its length did not daunt us.

This is another book I reviewed on my blog and here is the link.

Go, Went, Gone  by Jenny Erpenbeck (2017)

The group recommended this book because they were interested in how it takes a long view of migration and a close look at refugees in Berlin. It was originally written in German and translated by Susan Bernofsky. 

I had read it and recommended it as part of a series on my blog about refugees. Here is the link.

All My Puny Sorrows  by Miriam Toews (2014)

The group recently discussed suicide, desperation, families and Mennonite communities after reading this book. Again, the topic prevents it being an easy read, but it was considered a very worthwhile choice.

Home Fire  by Kamila Shamsie (2017)

This novel had won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2017 and the group enjoyed reading and discussing it. It has been a reference point since as it deals with people seeking to return from terrorist activities abroad, and the effects of radicalisation on families.

Yet another book I reviewed and here is the link.

You can find therecommendations of the art group here.

The Book Group and this blog

You can see that I have reviewed most of the group’s recommendations on Bookword. There’s a reason for that. The choices are good ones and I like to pass on reading recommendations. 

A footnote: You might be wondering what happens to the suggestions not included in the final eleven choices each year. To ensure that none of them are lost we add them to the schedule of books and group members can follow them up if they want to.

Over to you – what recommendations would you make to book groups?

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Filed under Books, Feminism, Freedom from Torture Challenge, Reading, Reviews

The book group, the blogger and the book

There’s a cliché about book groups: the members are all women of a certain age, keen yoghurt knitters and instead of discussing a book they drink wine and gossip. They may exist, but I have never been in a book group remotely like that cliché. But I am having difficulty, partly because I belong to too many book groups.

kiki_b on Visualhunt.com / CC BY

Why belong to a book group?

What’s not to like? We talk about books. This is not something we can do just anywhere. With the odd exception (that is people who have read The Master and Margarita) on buses and trains people don’t expect to talk about books. The opportunity to indulge in these discussions is my main reason to be in a group.

I also enjoy reading other people’s choices, books I might have missed, or may have rejected for any number of reasons: I read it before; someone I know didn’t respond well to it; I’ve heard not good things about it; I am a book snob.

I like to be social, and meet new people, especially when I moved to Devon several years ago.

Book Group wars

There are some things to guard against in book groups, I have heard. There are people who speak too much. There are people who pronounce on a book’s qualities or weaknesses and will not listen to the views of others. And there are people who are downright nasty to other members, have secret meetings, and plot to make someone leave a group. I have never been in a group like that. But I know people who have been.

My book groups

I attend two face-to-face book groups. We meet in people’s houses and drink wine in the one that meets in the evening. Both groups are serious about discussing the books.

On my blog I join in readalongs, currently Muriel Spark’s centenary #ReadingMuriel2018 hosted by Heavenali. Recently there was the 1977 Club hosted by Stuck in a Book and Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings. In the past I joined a year of Virginia Woolf. I like the on-line community, the different views of the bloggers, the slow conversation on-line and the sense of involvement in a project with others.

I have my own projects, the older women in fiction series, the women in translation series and the decades project. I also occasionally support the celebrations of birthdays of neglected women novelists.

I receive monthly novels from the Asymptote club that aims to promote fiction from around the world.You could try it.

Books about Book Groups

The Prison Book Group by Ann Walmsley

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

These first three are all non-fiction. The next three are novels.

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler: a clever book, a fun and creative spin-off for ‘Janites’.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The Readers of Broken Wheel recommend by Katarina Bivald. Translated from the Swedish by Alice Menzies

No! I don’t want to join a bookclub by Virginia Ironside, about much, much more than bookclubs.

And for a list of nine (including some of the ones I have mentioned) you could check out this article from bustle.

Book groups – so what’s the problem?

Recently I have been thinking that all this book clubbery is too much. Already I schedule my reading to meet the demands of my groups and blog plans. But this is making me feel under obligation about my reading. I want my choices back again.

The tension mounted and it became still more difficult when my blog was playing up recently. I have fixed the blog but the requirement to read certain things by certain dates remains with me.

Fortunately the resolution is in my own hands. It’s simple – I may not keep to my schedules. I don’t believe many people will notice or that anyone will suffer from this decision. But you have been warned!

Do you ever suffer from book-reading-obligation blues?

Tell us about it.

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