Meet the Man Booker Prize reading groups

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Meet this year’s Man Booker Prize for Fiction reading groups. These six groups from across the UK will be shadowing the shortlist process by reading one of the six shortlisted titles and sharing their reviews and experiences. You can follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as they discuss their books and chat with each other over the coming weeks leading up to the prize announcement on Tuesday 17 October.

Our Book Group

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Our Book Group began in 2005 out of the ashes of another book group. Membership has varied but the bonds have grown over the years to strong friendships. This is to the extent that we have taken several holidays together; these include a marvellously booky trip to Hay on Wye in 2011 and a weekend seeing opera in Buxton earlier this year.

The current nine group members are in their 30s and 40s; include married and single people, parents and non-parents. Some English born and bred with others who have made London their home from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Germany. There are a wide variety of professions and other interests; including being members of London choirs, bee-keeping and poetry writing. The group is predominantly female but we do have our token boy, Athos.

We are really pleased to be part of the Man Booker Prize shadow process because we value the way shadowing enhances the health of literary awards. More than anything, we are looking forward to reading and talking together, and with others, about the books.

We will be reading Exit West by Mohsin Hamid.

Haggerston Reads

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We are a local women’s book club in Haggerston, East London, reading all kinds of fiction in kitchens, living rooms and bars while our children have been growing up. We meet monthly and take it in turns to choose our reads. Some of our favourites have been Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love, Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend and Sebastian Barry’s Days Without End. We also organise book-related events, such as going to hear authors reading from their work, including David Mitchell and Amy Liptrot. We have several members who have moved away but still read the books and stay in touch.

We will be reading 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster.

The Last Monday Book Club

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The Last Monday Book Club has been meeting monthly in the Olde White Harte pub in the riverside town of Burnham on Crouch in Essex since 2013. We’ve had various members come and go over the years, but currently number eight – seven women and one man, with the youngest member in their 30s and the oldest in their 70s. We’re quite democratic in choosing what we’re going to read and our choices often divide the group, which makes for a great discussion.

As we mostly get our books from the library we don’t tend to read the very latest bestsellers, so shadowing the Man Booker Prize is a great opportunity for us to read and share something hot off the press! We were lucky enough to shadow the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction a few years ago and particularly enjoyed the excitement of seeing whether ‘our’ book had won. It was The Bees by Laline Paull, which didn’t win – but was still a great read! One of our favourite books this year has been Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernières and we’re currently reading The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.

We will be reading Elmet by Fiona Mozley.

Red Door Bistro Book Group

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We’ve been meeting at The Red Door Bistro for about 3 years now but as a book club we’ve been together much longer. Originally we started out at Waterstones but the store changed its opening hours and we had to relocate. Not that we’re complaining! Wonderful food, a nice glass of wine and a chat about a good book is a lovely way to spend an evening. We meet at 6pm on the first Thursday every month. December starts a little later as we settle in for Christmas Dinner.

There are usually 10 of us but we have just welcomed 2 new members, a lovely lady who found us through The Reading Agency and the owner of The Red Door who is normally too busy cooking our supper. Our ages range from 30 to over 60 years People pop in and out as holidays and other commitments allow; we tend to be very informal. We choose our own books, taking turns in making recommendations. We’ve read everything from modern classics to science fiction, poetry to non-fiction; nothing is ruled out as we all believe that the real purpose of a book club is to open up your reading experience to new genres. We don’t always like each other’s choices which can lead to some lively but friendly debates but it’s all done with a giggle. That’s definitely one thing we do at The Red Door Bistro Book Club – laugh.

We will be reading Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.

Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust All Staff Group

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The story behind our group is that two of us were the Royal College of Midwives Union Learning Reps for several years during which time we received Quick Reads from The Reading Agency. We also won a TUC Call2Learn Fund, which we used to fund staff learning. We had asked all staff what they wanted to learn and how, and then Krzystof, a very friendly chap who is always trying to improve his English, asked for simple English language reading books, which we supplied. We then learned that he has been sharing them out with others around the hospital and bringing them back to Allie at reception where they’d have a quick discussion about which ones they liked. There is a TUC case study all about it online!

Last Christmas I asked our Learning Fund Committee if we could use our fund to buy Krzys books which would stretch his English skills further and they agreed. This was for education and as a gift for running the group.

When I saw the opportunity to enter the Man Booker Prize project I asked all those who had been reading the Quick Reads and who I knew to like books if they’d like to become a group who met up to discuss a book after reading it. The prize provided us with the opportunity and here we are!

We will be reading History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund.

Drake the Bookshop

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Our group is the Wednesday evening bookshop group, who have been meeting for about 8 months. The group are all customers of the shop and generally love reading. At our last meeting we discussed Zadie Smith’s Swing Time.

We are really excited to be part of the prize shadowing as it will give us chance to feel part of the action; we will get the opportunity to read another book on the list that will allow us to compare and contrast; it will give us at the shop another chance to back a winner (we have failed every year of the shop so far); and of course it will give us another excuse to nip to the pub!

We are really looking forward to being able to tell everyone what we think of the book!

We will be reading Autumn by Ali Smith.

Get involved

Tell us which book you think should win the prize this year. Share your thoughts using #ManBooker2017 or comment below. Don’t forget to leave your reviews on the books by clicking on any title above.

Read our quick guide about the shortlisted books and let us know what you think.

Download the free Readers’ Guides for all of the Man Booker Prize titles on our resources page.

Listen to the brilliant Man Booker Prize podcast audio series on Soundcloud with Joe Haddow from Radio 2.

Keep up with the latest news on the Man Booker Prize website and join in the conversation online. You can share your pictures on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #ManBooker2017 and #FinestFiction.


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