Meet the International Booker Prize 2020 Shadow Reading Groups

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We’re delighted to have six reading groups shadowing the International Booker Prize 2020. Since the shortlist was announced in April, these groups have each been reading one of the shortlisted titles. The group members are sharing their thoughts and opinions in their meetings and on social media, leaving reviews for their books and will be sharing a blog of their experience in the summer. We can’t wait to hear their thoughts on these books! Scroll down to find out about each group.

About the International Booker Prize

The International Booker Prize is awarded every year for a single book that is translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. It aims to encourage more publishing and reading of quality fiction from all over the world and to promote the work of translators. Both novels and short-story collections are eligible. The contribution of both author and translator is given equal recognition, with the £50,000 prize split between them. Each shortlisted author and translator will receive £1,000, bringing the total value of the prize to £62,000. See the 2020 longlist and shortlist.

Good Readers

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We are a group of avid readers who originally met online via the Goodreads website but then realised we all lived within a reasonable distance of one another and could actually meet up physically to discuss books. This means that we talk a lot online still, but we also meet periodically in a London restaurant for an evening of discussion. Mostly, our discussions focus on some of the long and short lists for the major prizes (both Booker prizes feature heavily, but also the Women’s Prize for Fiction, the Goldsmiths Prize and the Republic of Consciousness Prize). While as a group we focus on books that are in the running for prizes, as individuals we bring a wide range of influences from translated fiction through to the Great American Novel, from experimental small press fiction through to the classics.

Good Readers are reading Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann, translated by Ross Benjamin.

Hythe Remainers

We are a relatively recently formed group located in a small South East coastal town in Kent. A group of residents formed an activist anti-Brexit group “Hythe Remainers” in 2018 – which campaigned to remain in Europe. As an off-shoot of that group, some of us developed a Book Group and decided to focus on reading contemporary books set in European countries, written by European authors or with a Brexit theme. Since our formation in September 2019 we have read a wide ranging selection of titles borrowed from Kent Public Libraries – Jonathan Coe’s Middle England, Aminatta Forna’s The Hired Man, John Le Carre’s Agent Running in the Field, Fredrik Backman’s A Man called Ove, Simon Mawer’s Prague Spring. 10-14 of us usually meet each month in each other’s homes. Plans are now afoot for a Zoom virtual group meeting along with making use of our Facebook group to communicate how we are getting on with our shortlisted book. Future reads we plan to read include Michel Houellebecq’s Submission, Amor Towles’s Gentleman in Moscow, and Leila Slimani’s Lullaby.

Hythe Remainers are reading The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, translated by Michele Hutchison.

Birmingham Mobile Library Service Reading Group

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Three times a year or more whenever possible, the Mobile Library Service Reading Group meet at the Library of Birmingham. The group is made up of 12 adults from across Birmingham. Books are selected by Jackie using Birmingham Libraries vast selection of stock — we really do like reading any genre, and love trying books out of our comfort zone. Jackie co-ordinates the books and group, making sure that everyone gets their books at the library stop they visit. All Reading Group members fill out a review sheet for each book and these are then typed up ready for the meeting. We also have a blog and keep in via email, on Twitter (@bhammobilelib), Facebook and WhatsApp. Anyone can join at any of our Mobile Library stops across the city.

Birmingham Mobile Library Service Reading Group are reading Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, translated by Sophie Hughes.

Altofts Readers Group

Altofts Readers Group has been meeting monthly since 2004. We currently have a dozen members, including one or two who have been with us from the start. Although we are mainly female and all over 50, we have wide tastes in reading. We meet at our local community hub, where our community library is housed. Many of our reading group also help to run the library as volunteers. The fact that the bar is open on readers group nights is an added bonus! We also enjoy theatre trips, visits from authors and social events throughout the year. We will be discussing the book by email and WhatsApp, which may prove a challenge for some of our less technically-minded members!

Altofts Readers Group are reading The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara, translated by Iona Macintyre and Fiona Mackintosh.

Caerwys WI Book Browsers

We are a new group of (currently) 12 women who all belong to Caerwys Women’s Institute. The Browsers was set up in January 2020 as one of a series of subgroups to try to increase interest, diversity and membership of the WI and certainly worked as we have had 3 members join specifically to come to the book group. The group follows no particular genre or authors or time period but members suggest books to read and we select from that, we particularly welcome suggestions from outside and will give most things a try. So far we have read The Familiars by Stacey Halls, The Salt Path by Raynor Winn, Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce and The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd. We meet monthly in member’s homes.

Caerwys WI Book Browsers are reading The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar, anonymous translator.

Found in Translation

Found in Translation was created when long-time friends Rae and Helen met in a café in Birmingham in March 2019 and started talking about books and book groups. Helen was currently not a member of a book group, so they decided to start a group together. Keen to have a theme to structure the group around, they chose ‘fiction in translation’ as an opportunity to read more work from writers working in other languages and cultures. They meet once a month.

Found in Translation are reading The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, translated by Stephen Snyder.


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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.

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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.

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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...

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