WHAT MAKES A GOOD BOOK CLUB READ?


I was thrilled to see The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood on this list of best book club reads which appears in today’s Woman and Home magazine. There are some cracking books on this list – I’ve read 12 of them. Oddly enough, only two of were for my book club, although there are others on the list that we’ve all read independently and so we’ve talked about them anyway.

So what makes a good book club read? This is what Woman and Home has to say:  ‘A great book club book is one That you don’t simply read and then place back on your shelf to gather dust, but thrust into the hands of your friends and family, urging them that they must read it, too, because you are absolutely desperate to talk about it with someone. These are the stories that lend themselves perfectly to being the very best book club books.’

I would agree with most of that, and I certainly hope that it’s the reason The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood often comes up as a great book club read. But I think another important factor is that  there needs to be something a little unusual, possibly even controversial about the book; something that’s going to spark a good discussion.

In my opinion, great book club book is not necessarily one that everyone has loved. It’s great to read a book that everyone loves, but it’s no good if you then just have another glass of wine,and says, ‘Cheers, great book, we’re all agreed.’

The discussions

There are seven of us in our book club, and while there certainly have been books we’ve all loved and have had great discussions about – Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus springs to mind, also, The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller. There have also been books that we’ve felt to be deeply flawed but which we’ve still enjoyed reading, and which have sparked long and interesting discussions.  Then there are the books we disagreed on, the ‘I loved it’ versus the ‘I couldn’t even finish it’ books.  It is perhaps these books that have sparked some of the longest and most stimulating discussions!

Once, we even had reasonably interesting (though obviously fairly short) discussion about a book we all hated so much we actually sacked it off before we even met for book club!  The very fact that we broke the ‘no discussion before the meeting’ rule is an indication of how much we hated this book. And no,  I’m not going to name it, because why would you?

our book club

A few other details about our book club: we usually meet in pubs so that no-one Feels they have to ‘host’ the meeting. Although we do meeting each other’s houses from time to time – if it’s tricky for someone to get out, for example, or special occasions such as Christmas or someone’s birthday. At the moment, of course, we are meeting virtually, through Skype. It’s still fun, and we still drink wine ( of course) but it’s not quite the same.

We take it in turns to choose the books, and we always supply a choice of three or four. Then everyone votes, and we go for the favorite.

I am enormously flattered that all of my books have been considered good ‘bookclub books’,  with  The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood perhaps being the most discussed, and The Things We Never Said  coming a close second.

I love hearing from book clubs who discussed my books – especially if they really liked them! I’ve also loved being invited To come along to book clubs and give a talk/answer questions about my books. Obviously, this was back in the days when we didn’t have to socially distance – let’s hope those days return very soon!

In the meantime, I’d love to know what you think makes a great book club book!

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MY WRITING LIFE

As many of you will know, this blog series started as a series of 10 posts following my progress on what I’m now calling the ‘zero draft’ of my third novel. The 10 weeks were up two weeks ago and I published an extra summing up post a few days later. I’ve had such great feedback on the series that I’ve decided to continue posting, although with shorter and less frequent posts right up until this novel is published – hopefully some time in the summer of 2015. While I’m still working on the draft I’ll post fortnightly. So, what’s been happening in the last two weeks? (Apart from eating cake and drinking coffee, that is…)
In the last post I asked whether other writers make a habit of doing ‘morning pages’ or any other warm-up before settling down to their work-in-progress. I was struck by one of the comments by a writer who says she writes for 10 minutes or so every morning as a sort of ‘good morning’ to herself, a way of connecting with the day. I liked this idea, and have taken it up, using it as a way of recording roughly what happened the day before and thinking about what I have to do on the coming day. I’ve found this helpful so far, especially as I’m using it almost as a writing journal where I record ideas I have for scenes I’m working on, or for new scenes that I need to write.
Looking back through that journal, I find that in the last 14 days:
  • There have only been three days where I’ve not worked on the novel at all. Two were because I was babysitting; no excuse for the other day.
  • My  current word count is only about 4000 words higher than it was in my ‘summing up’ post, because much of what I’ve done over the last two weeks has been rewriting.
  • I have written three completely new scenes, rewritten two existing scenes extensively and edited/tweaked two other scenes.
  • I have crossed three things off of my novel ‘to do’list.
  • I have added six things to my novel ‘to do’ list.
  • I had one lunch with a writer friend, one feedback session with three other writers, and two coffee shop writing sessions (alone – not as productive because I gave up sooner)
  • The day after my lunch with a friend, I typed up the 800 words I’d written by hand while on the train to meet her. It transpired that what I’d written was total rubbish. So annoyed that I then wasted an hour watching silly videos on Facebook. 
  • I had one brilliant idea and about 25 crap ones.
  • I did a reading and talked about my writing journey alongside four other writers at the Wakefield Literary Festival. We went out for a meal afterwards. I drank too much wine…

New Amazon reviews:
The Things We Never Said: three 5-star, two 4-star and two 3-star
The Secrets We Left Behind: one 5-star, two 4-star

Nice things that have happened since last time:
I was interviewed by Amanda Saint of Retreat West
I learned that the virtual book club @HelpMyBookClub are doing The Secrets We Left Behind as their September book and save asked me to do a Q&A on Twitter in early October.
I learned that The Secrets We Left Behind, had appeared on this Daily Express list of Best women’s fiction 
Autumn is happening! I couldn’t help myself – I brought these home….
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