Meet the Booker Prize 2020 Shadow Reading Groups

Large 200911 shortlist bookstack facebook

These twelve groups will be shadowing the Booker Prize by two groups each reading one of the shortlisted titles. 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 Thursday 19 November.

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi

Idle Readers

Medium screenshot 2020 09 24 at 21.21.30

Idle Readers is a Reading Community based in Manchester, launched by Lucy Wolinski & Rachel J. Hall in January 2019. Our collective aim is to be and to promote an inclusive, accessible and diplomatic culture. Our monthly Meet Ups are open to everyone. We come together to relax, socialise and share our reflections on the book we’ve read that month. We encourage each other to take the time to be present, to listen to one another with an open mind and an open heart and show kindness to others when they are sharing their thoughts.

We’re excited to be shadowing the Booker Prize 2020! We have a love for reading, books and sharing our reflections with each other. It means a lot to us to have the opportunity to share our perspectives even further by writing a review for Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi. Some Idle Readers have been following the Booker Prize for years, religiously reading the shortlisted books or winners (finding it a rewarding challenge and gets them reaching for new books, sometimes outside of their comfort zone), some of us are new to Booker Prize, but one thing we all agree on is that it is great to see such a diverse, inclusive and representative shortlist this year and that is something that we value and feel should be championed. We recently read Girl, Woman, Other by last year’s winner Bernardine Evaristo and this got us hungry for more! We can’t wait to dive into Burnt Sugar.

DSFC Reads

Small dsfc reads booker prize shadow group photo

We are a flexible reading group at Dereham Sixth Form College comprising both students and staff. Both are able to drop in and out of the group as certain reads interest them. For the Booker Prize shadowing we have a Year 12 and a Year 13 student, along with four members of staff. We feel honoured to have been chosen to take part in the shadowing. Whilst the country was in lockdown many of us found solace and inspiration in reading. Reading gives us an opportunity to relax. We are excited that the Booker Prize shadowing is giving us the first opportunity this academic year of sharing our reading together. Year 12 Abi is particularly looking forward to our read: “I chose to shadow the Booker Prize because I love to read and now I can read a different type of book by an author I may have not read or even heard of before.”

Real Life by Brandon Taylor

Books and Biscuits

Medium books and biscuits group photo

Books and Biscuits are a Staff and 6th Form Student Reading Group based at Wirral Grammar School for Girls. We meet once a week on a Friday, and choose a different book to read each month – no major spoilers are allowed until the last Friday of the month. Reading for Pleasure is important to us and, with this in mind, we try to choose books that make us think, but also remind us how much we enjoy reading. Our meetings are lively and loud, and if our discussions wander off-topic we don’t mind. As our group title suggests, food is important to us, and we have missed not being able to bring our own bakes to the weekly meetings due to Covid. We were thrilled to be selected as one of the Booker Shadowing groups and were so excited when we were told our chosen title was Real Life by Brandon Taylor. Our individual and group reviews will be appearing soon.

Bishopsteignton Bookgroup 2

Small image2 copy

We formed as a group 18 months ago in a village that had not previously had a book group and have gone from strength to strength with more and more people wanting to join us so the group has now divided into two. We have read a wide variety of genres and have all enjoyed books that we would not have chosen to read before. We are really thrilled to have been chosen to shadow the Booker Prize – not only for us personally but for a village in South Devon taking part in a small but significant way in such a significant event. Our group comes from a wide variety of backgrounds and professions and we really look forward to challenging our perceptions and beliefs and potentially even helping to support an aspiring author. We have both a brewery and a vineyard in the village so the author of our chosen book would be a very welcome visitor!

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Books and Banter

Medium books and banter blackborough

Our book club, Books and Banter, was born three years ago at a time when I needed to adjust my work-life balance a bit more in favour of my life! In March 2016 I had moved with my family halfway across the country to a beautiful, rural community on the edge of Mid-Devon’s Blackdown Hills. At times I felt quite isolated as it took a while for me to get to know people and I was overwhelmed with running two businesses from home as well as looking after my two children, my husband and a farmhouse. In September 2017, while on a snatched two night break in south Devon, I had a eureka moment. Why not combine one of my favourite things – books – with socialising and building better bonds with the women in my local area?

So I started the book club which meets monthly, usually in the conservatory of my holiday cottage business, but more recently we’ve got inventive and have had walking book club in the open air in the stunning woodlands and landscape of the Blackdown Hills AONB and with hot chocolate around the open fire at my yurt glamping business.

We have a core group of around 10 women who regularly attend meetings, although not usually all at once, which helps with sticking to the Rule of Six at the moment. We conduct lots of banter and book recommendations online too via our private Facebook Group which has more members – some ladies prefer to watch from the sidelines and occasionally engage online rather than come along in person and that’s fine.

We’ve read an eclectic range of books including fiction and non-fiction and quite a few Booker shortlisters. Over lockdown we sort of lost our way with reading a collective book or two each month and discussing it in a semi-serious way! We are looking forward to all reading Shuggie Bain together and doing “proper” reviews for a change. I think it will help us focus more on the books again (rather than the banter) and set us off on our fourth year in style.

Preschool Parents Book Club

Medium parents book club american marriage

We are a daytime book club for the parents of pre-schoolers who like to relax (when given the chance!) with a good book. This unique book club was set up 8 years ago by librarian and mother of two, Stella Chevalier, to reduce parental isolation and support parent readers, giving them an attainable book club to join, support their reading for pleasure, their wellbeing and parental literacy – many were unable to join or maintain evening book clubs with juggling the needs of small children.

We meet on the first Friday of the month in the children’s library at Wallington Library, South London where we supervise our children whilst discussing the previous month’s books. Two choices of books are often on offer: one a ‘normal’ sized book club book and a shorter book (such as a ‘Quick Read’ or a short story) differentiating the book choice allowing members to choose their following months’ read depending on their needs. Both books are then discussed at the following month’s meeting so everyone can talk about something that they have read. Reading and discussion about the book are central to meetings as this allows new members to join us anytime.

Meeting in the children’s library means that family reading can continue before and after meetings allowing the pre-schoolers to be around and read their books whilst we discuss ours. Members can then make the most of their library visit, borrowing books for the whole family. Members are seen as parent reading role models to their pre-schoolers, promoting the importance and benefits of reading as a family. Despite our recent lockdown, our library is getting back to normal and although meetings have not yet restarted, library visits to collect our reading matter has!

We are absolutely ecstatic about being chosen as one of the six book clubs to shadow a shortlisted book for the 52nd Booker Prize and are poised and ready to start shadowing…

The New Wilderness by Diane Cook

Methley Book Group

Small img 3852

Hello! We are Methley Book Club @ Rivers Meet, from Leeds. Our group was established in 2012 and we enjoy monthly book discussions at our local Rivers Meet cafe, although we are currently meeting via Zoom due to COVID-19. Leeds Library Service supplies our books and we enjoy reading a wide variety of genres, both fiction and non-fiction.

We enjoy taking part in literary events /campaigns (such as Read Regional and Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival) by hosting author events and reading the associated books, so we were very keen to put ourselves forward to shadow the Booker Prize and very excited to be selected! All group members are delighted to have the opportunity to read The New Wilderness by Diane Cook and we are looking forward to sharing our views.

Back to the Book 2

Small img 20200930 wa0013

Back to the Book 2 is a Glasgow-based book club that’s been running for the last couple of years. The name comes from the fact the group was resurrected after a lengthy hiatus and in the original group, we were always chatting so much off topic about all things books that one of our number often had to remind us to … ‘get back to the book being reviewed!’.

We’re a mix of original members and some new readers, coming together as friends or friends of friends. At present, we’re a group of 5, and at times, of 6. Opinions and reading tastes vary widely which is great for making recommendations and discussions. Used to meeting up every month or so for dinner and discussion of our chosen shared read, lockdown has actually seen our group go from strength to strength. We’ve moved onto a WhatsApp group for daily book chat and for our monthly discussions.

We’re delighted to have been picked to help shadow the Booker this year. It’s a real highlight of 2020 for us. @back2thebook2

The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste

St. Barbara’s Book Group

Medium st barbara s book group 1  copy

St Barbara’s Book Group originally grew out of a church bible study group. At some point in every discussion we would inevitably find ourselves talking about and recommending books we’d read, so we decided we really should form a spinoff book group and did!

We have enjoyed looking at a variety of books together from classics to contemporary, family dramas to thrillers, and even a children’s book. For many it has provided the encouragement to get back into reading, a habit which for many of us had become sidelined in our busy lives. As well as reading the books selected for discussion we often recommend other things we have read and lend each other books on a regular basis.

“I’m looking forward to it because it’s a chance to read one of the best books that has come out this year. I was excited that The Shadow King was the one chosen for us because it’s a period of history I’d only studied from the Italian perspective – I’m looking forward to seeing things through an Ethiopian lens.” – Victoria

“Although I have read some Booker prize nominated books in the past I have never engaged with the process or formed an opinion of the outcome. I am looking forward to challenging myself with The Shadow King, discussing it with the book group then comparing it to the eventual winner of the prize, if it doesn’t win itself!” – Andrea

“I am excited to be shadowing the Booker Prize as I love the Booker and have been trying ambitiously (for years!) to read all the winning books. There is always something to get your teeth into and our chosen book looks like it will prove a fascinating mixture of history, culture and girl power! It’s great to be involved.” – Alison

Books and Booze Bury

Small d089ebe7 a882 4ea1 9a3c 0aad307c9a99

We’re a group of women who love to read books and don’t take ourselves too seriously. The simple pleasure of enjoying a book and a glass of wine (or gin!) for an hour or so away from the stress of day-to-day life is something we all share. We’re excited to be shadowing the Booker Prize, as there’s always new and exciting voices to be discovered, challenging how we view our own individual stories and experiences.

This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga

The Writers Reading Group

Small screenshot 2020 09 30 at 16.30.02

The Writers’ Reading Group is what it says on the tin, a creative hybrid of a writing and a reading group. Led by the Hearth Centre’s artistic director and published writer, Polly Wright, the group selects novels, short stories, poetry and plays which will be great models for writing. The group has been running for over 20 years now.

Under lockdown the WRG immediately went virtual and addressed the virus/ incarceration theme head on by selecting Albert Camus’ The Plague and The Diary of Anne Frank. We went on to share thoughts on Zoom about Boccaccio’s Decameron, set in 14th century Florence, where young people escaping the plague ridden city, entertained each other with raunchy morality tales. We posted our own modern tales on our blog and asked for other submissions on themes of Living in Times of National Emergency- all of which are currently being posted on the blog.

We are thrilled to be taking part again in the Booker shadowing event and can’t wait to read our allocated book.

Warwickshire Libraries Shadow Readers

The Warwickshire Libraries Shadow Reading Group was set up to do what it says on the tin – we meet a couple of times a year to discuss books that have been shortlisted for various literary prizes such as the Booker. We usually gather in one of our libraries twice throughout this process – once when a shortlist is announced to discuss our initial impressions and then, having read through the shortlist, we meet just before a prize is announced to decide on our winners. We usually pick two – the book we think the judges will pick and the one we would like to win (sometimes they are the same, sometimes they differ). Our meetings this year have been virtual so we’re adapting to that – how to ensure we don’t talk over each other, how to unmute ourselves and what to do when the wifi drops.

Our members are drawn from various reading groups across the county who do the shadow reading on top of their regular reading group activity. They are joined by members of staff who co-ordinate the activity, read the books and then write up discussions to be published on the Warwickshire Libraries blog. Some of our members prefer to read or listen to eBooks/eAudio titles, others are committed to physical books, some like to judge a book by its cover while others delve into the depths of the novels we read, making for lively and very interesting discussions.

Get involved

What do you think of the shortlisted titles? Which have you read and what will be added to your TBR pile? Add your comments below, or click any title above to leave a review.

Download fantastic Readers’ Guides every one of the longlisted titles from the Booker Prize website. You can borrow the books from your local library, or buy books for you or your group from to support The Reading Agency and local bookshops at no additional cost to you.

Share your thoughts with us and with the shadow groups on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #2020BookerPrize. Keep up with all the latest news on the Booker Prize website.

Want to make sure you never miss the latest reading group news? Sign up for our free monthly newsletter.


Log in or Sign up to add a comment


Keeping your reading group active while social distancing

Are you wondering how your reading group can continue to meet, even while you’re social distancing? With many people at home with family, flatmates or on their own, we know that books are so important to provide comfort, solace and escapism. Staying socially connected, and keeping your regular reading group meetings in your diary, is going to be very important in keeping up morale and supporting everyone’s mental health as we adjust to a new way of living.

Medium screenshot 2020 03 27 at 12.24.50

How to start a reading group

Interested in joining a reading group or starting one of your own? Download our quick guide to getting started.

Thumb reading between the wines with books  2

Hive and The Reading Agency

The Reading Agency loves books, in every form, and we know you do too. We love it when people borrow books in every format from their brilliant local libraries. We love it when reading groups get exclusive free proofs from our publisher partners. We love it when readers pick up a pre-loved book from a second-hand bookshop for a song. And we also love it when you buy yourself or someone else a brand new book from a high street bookshop. We also know that buying online is quick and convenient...

Medium hive