Let’s talk about book clubs

Are you in one? Do you run one?

As an expat, I’ve found book clubs to be a terrific way to meet like-minded people. As an author I’ve spoken at plenty of book clubs and have found them all so different: some are really strict and have specific questions, discussion points and ratings for all the books they read. Others are far more about the social side than the reading…

I first joined a book club back in the late 1990s. It was difficult to get hold of the latest books in Dubai back then, so it was a brilliant way to share books we’d picked up on our travels.

I set up my own book club after a while. It’s a bit different to most in that there’s no pressure to read a specific book each month – it’s more like a mobile library curated by us.

We take it in turns to host the club, and the host that month chooses a couple of books to put into the battered suitcase that gets heaved from house to house. Ideally, although not always, the host will have read the books she’s introducing and she’ll tell us why she chose them.  The book that made the most splash was probably The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop – purely because we all loved it so much we went on a book club holiday to Cyprus to see Famagusta, where it was set.

After the new books have been introduced, we’ll each talk about which books we read from the suitcase that month and, at the end of the evening, we each choose what we fancy taking home from the suitcase that month – we can take as many or as few books as we like depending on what we have on that month. And there’s no penalty if we bring them back unread the following month (and, trust me, that happens).

I know that probably sounds slack compared to the stricter book clubs, but it’s the way I like it. Reading should be a pleasure not a chore. And the book club is as much about the company of my reading friends as it is about ticking books off a list. Cheers to that!

The picture is me talking about my newest book The House of Whispers at the Dubai Festival Plaza book club in May – one of the first live events I’ve done in a while. If you live in the area, check it out – it’s free to attend and the book chat was great.

Book-club reads

Are you in a book club?

I’ve run one for the best part of 15 years, but my book club doesn’t follow the usual format. It’s more like a mobile library. Each month, one member hosts the club at her house. We don’t go for fancy cuisine like some book clubs do – just wine, cheese, crackers and grapes – though, lately, chocolate has sneaked in, too – and, all too often, we find an excuse to pop open a bottle or two of bubbly.

We meet once a month. The hosting member introduces 3-4 new books to the club. Ideally, she’s read them – sometimes she hasn’t, but that’s fine: we’ll still love her. Those exciting new books are added to the book-club suitcase, from which the members choose however many books they want to take home that month.

After the hostess has presented the new books, everyone takes turns to talk about the club books they read that month and we all chip in with discussion.

There’s no pressure to read a certain number of books a month, and no pressure to read any specific book. I don’t have the time or energy to struggle with a book I’m not enjoying so my book club is all about sharing good books with friends, and enjoying the pleasure of reading, not forcing yourself through something you don’t want to read.

On Saturday 3 November, I’ll be introducing my top five book-club choices on ‘Talking of Books’ on Dubai Eye 103.8. Tune in from 11.20am (GMT +4) or listen online.

What are your favourite book-club reads?