Meet the Man Booker International Prize reading groups for 2018

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Meet the 2018 Man Booker International Prize reading groups. These six groups will be shadowing the shortlist process by 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 Tuesday 22 May.

The Writers’ Reading Group

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The Writers’ Reading group has been going for about 15 years and is a hybrid of a Creative Writing and Reading group. Set up and managed as a course at the Midlands Arts Centre in Birmingham, the group has developed its own strong identity over the years, and still includes some of its original members, whilst always welcoming new people. The group was set up by course leader, and published writer, Polly Wright, to select books which were not only enjoyable, but also good models for writing, and our sessions alternate between discussions of the texts and those in which we share our creative responses and spin offs.

We have shared many wonderful novels over the years, which range from the classics to modern classics to new works on the Man Booker and other shortlists. Sometimes we have selected books thematically, such as a whole term of books on childhood, or comic writing. Group members have also shared many of their own rich, moving and hilarious responses to the books we have read and enjoyed – or hated!

Group members reflect the wide ranging diversity of Birmingham’s population, and our ages have ranged over the years from people in their 20s to their 80s. At the moment the age range is from 30s to 70s, so some people are retired whilst others are deeply occupied in working and parenting lives – but everyone manages to make some time to read and share thoughts about the books and take inspiration for writing. Mostly people write for their own amusement, but some people have published stories and poetry and a few people have been awarded prizes in competitions.

Given the diversity of our group, we have always been interested in translated works, and have enjoyed work by Italian, Swedish, German and Finnish/Estonian writers. For that reason we are thrilled to be shadowing the Man Booker International Prize – and to be part of the buzz building up to the award in May. We are particularly pleased to be reviewing Despentes’ Vernon Subutex 1 – as our reading of French work to date has only been of the classics, so the opportunity to discuss such a vision of contemporary France is brilliant. We also include some fluent French speakers in our group, who may be able to comment on the quality and nature of the translation. And, who knows, perhaps the energy of Despentes’ vision will trigger us to respond in kind with our own visions of contemporary life in Birmingham!

We’ll be reading Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes (France), translated by Frank Wynne.

Wine, Women and Words

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As a group of nine well-read, like-minded women, we started our club some nine years ago when we met through the school playground. It all began because we wanted to get together and talk about books as well as put the world to rights over a glass of wine (or two).

Bookclub meets monthly and we always relish the opportunity to discuss what we have read. What is fascinating is that every book we read touches each of us in a different way and we always enjoy discussing our perspectives and thoughts with each other.

We are super excited about shadowing #MBI2018. We are particularly excited to be challenged by the thoughts and ideas of these international voices.

We’ll be reading The White Book by Han Kang (South Korea), translated by Deborah Smith.

Haggerston Reads Book Group

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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 (which some of us read in Italian!) and Sebastian Barry’s Days Without End. We also attend book-related events, including author and book prize readings and an Italian Cultural Institute event on Elena Ferrante. We shadowed the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2015 and the Man Booker Prize for Fiction last year and are very much looking forward to this one.

We’ll be reading The World Goes On by László Krasznahorkai (Hungary), translated by John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet & George Szirtes.

Our Book Group

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Our Book Group began in 2005 with membership varying over the years but half of us there from the beginning. We tend to meet in convenient central London locations for drinks and food alongside the book chat. We read an eclectic mix of works both fiction and non-fiction.

Currently we number eight, all in our 30s and 40s, and including married and single people, parents and non-parents. Also, English born and bred as well as those who have made London their home from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Germany. We have a wide variety of professions and other interests; including singing, dj-ing and poetry writing.

The picture shows our Christmas gathering where we always weigh up the books we have read over the year and decide the best in each of a series of often outlandish categories.

We are looking forward to reading one of the fascinating sounding books from the Man Booker International 2018 shortlist. Reading translated novels that bring us insight into other cultures and points of view is something we all want to do more. We also enjoy the added value that comes from being part of the shadowing process and ‘talking’ on social media with the other Book Groups involved.

We’ll be reading Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi (Iraq), translated by Jonathan Wright.

The Three Horseshoes Reading Group

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Our group was created in 2014 in our village pub. There were three founder members and additional members have joined mostly through word of mouth so we are up to our full contingent of ten. We use Twitter for our news and general communication. We are all ladies who enjoy the opportunity to lunch and love reading and lively, diverse discussions spawned by various aspects of the books.

The joy of shadowing a book prize will be reading and reviewing new books by well-accomplished writers we may not have considered, in parallel with the judges and other groups. It is an amazing opportunity to be part of something so widely respected.

We’ll be reading Like a Fading Shadow by Antonio Muñoz Molina (Spain), translated by Camilo A. Ramirez.

Gloucester Book Group

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Gloucester Book Club was formed in January 2014 after our founder decided she needed to talk to others about the books she was reading! There’s just something comforting about getting together with like-minded people to share a love of words and stories.

Our group has grown in number and we now have around 30 active members, mixed gender and ranging in age from 25 to 65. We read across genres, sometimes throwing in non-fiction for good measure. We enjoy each other’s company, have made some good friends and we love talking about books. We read somewhere that belonging to a book club can prolong your life, so we don’t plan to stop any time soon!

Having been lucky to be involved in a few Reading Agency projects over the last couple of years, we thoroughly enjoy the challenge, and look forward to shadowing the Man Booker International Prize. Most of all we have fun!

We’ll be reading Flights by Olga Tokarczuk (Poland), translated by Jennifer Croft.

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 for every one of the longlisted titles from the Man Booker Prize website, and themed reading lists for each of the shortlisted titles.

Listen to the shortlist announcement podcast from the prize, hosted by Joe Haddow.

Share your thoughts with us and with the shadow groups on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #MBI2018. Keep up with all the latest news on the Man Booker Prize website.

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