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Meet the group: The Reading Lyst

Meet The Reading Lyst, a book club for employees of Lyst, who are sharing with us how they run their workplace reading group for National Reading Group Day.

1. Tell us a bit about your group – who are you and what brought you together?

The Reading Lyst is a book club for employees of Lyst, a fashion tech company. Our book club spans different teams and seniority levels across the company, as well as different nationalities and ethnicities.

The book club was initially set up a few years ago but by 2020 it had been inactive for a long time. It was revamped during the pandemic as a way to connect with employees outside our teams and to socialise remotely. Since the re-launch in November 2021 we have been meeting once a month, sometimes online and sometimes in person. We select our reads based on members’ suggestions, and we have carried out themed reads for occasions like Black History Month and the holiday period. Our reads are as varied as our members are, but we do lean towards female authors.

2. What do your members enjoy about being in a reading group?

We love the different perspectives we get when discussing the books. It’s refreshing to hear everyone else’s opinions, which many times help us see the books in a new light and appreciate them better. Our sessions always enrich our own views of the book. And it is particularly interesting when we disagree, which happens often!

Also, since we normally pick our books at random from a pool of members’ suggestions, we have all read books that we wouldn’t necessarily have chosen ourselves, and we have been pleasantly surprised. It has been a great way to get out of our comfort zone and explore new genres.

From a socialising perspective, thanks to the book club we interact and build relationships with colleagues outside our teams. Our company grew a lot during the pandemic and many of us were hired when everything was still fully remote, so we did not get the chance to socialise and meet new colleagues in a normal office environment. Being in the book club brought us together and expanded the scope of our relationships at work.

3. Does being a fashion tech company influence your book choices and discussions?

There is a degree of influence stemming from the fact that our industry (fashion) is very women-dominated, and we have a large number of women in the group. As such, we have been in general very biased towards female authors.

4. What books would your group recommend that you’ve read and discussed together?

It’s hard to choose a book that we all agree on, I think the only one that has reached that status is What Red Was by Rosie Price. We all enjoyed it and rated it very highly, it is actually the highest-rated book for our club! We were fortunate enough to get to meet Rosie and have her join our book club meeting. She talked about her inspiration for the book, why she wanted to tell that particular story, and her writing process. This made for a fascinating and different discussion.

5. Do you have any tips for people looking to set up a reading group at work?

Our main tip would be to be flexible. This is work, after all: people are busy, there are different schedules and agendas, and not everybody has time to finish every book. That’s fine! We allow anyone to join in our discussions, whether they have finished the book or not (as long as they don’t mind some spoilers). Same with the meetings: we enjoy meeting in person, but to fit everyone’s agendas sometimes meeting online allows for more people to join.

We would also highly recommend choosing books from the members’ suggestions. We have a “spinning wheel” app, and at the end of each meeting each member suggests a book and we spin the wheel. This makes the choices more inclusive since everybody is welcome to suggest a book.

6. How has being part of a reading group changed your wider reading habits (E.g. do you enjoy it more, do you read more regularly, have you found a love of new genres)

Most of us have been reading more since joining the book club than we normally would have. Having a monthly goal to reach, and knowing there is a discussion to look forward to, makes finishing a book a lot more exciting. In some cases, knowing that the book club meeting is coming has been a push to finish a book we would normally abandon.

Being in a reading group has taken us out of our comfort zones, and expanded the genres and types of books we read. There are books we have read that some members would have never picked up if it wasn’t for the group, and most of the time we have been pleasantly surprised with these unusual choices.

We also find that knowing we will be discussing a book encourages us to consider our thoughts and opinions more fully while we read, and this expands to non-book club reads as well. And, for some of us, it has helped us to be disciplined in finishing books before starting the next one!

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