The Booker Prize is the leading literary award in the English-speaking world, and has brought global recognition and readership to outstanding fiction for over 50 years. Each year, the prize is awarded to what is, in the opinion of the judges, the best novel of the year written in English and published in the UK.
But this year they launched an exciting opportunity for six book clubs to help rate and review the Booker Prize 2022 shortlist, and to have the chance to attend this year’s Booker Prize winner ceremony in London, as well as a host of other prizes.
Each group shared with us what makes them special – keep reading to find out what they had to say.
Our book group is an eclectic mix of individuals from disparate backgrounds. We are made up of a civil servant, two retirees, a steel worker, a shop worker and a dinner lady. This is reflected in our wide range of reading tastes, which run the gamut from Literary fiction to crime and all the way to the outer edges of science fiction. We are passionately committed to literature and love to communicate this whenever we can. Especially in the digital realm, so as to reach the widest audience.
The Scunthorpe Pageturners are reading Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan.
Casual Readers Club
Casual Readers Club is an inclusive and safe space for earnest and honest connection over books. It’s for avid and occasional readers alike! We celebrate and champion books written by Black, Asian and historically underrepresented authors.
The Casual Readers Club are reading The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka.
Shelter Cymru chwaeroniaeth
We are all passionate sisters and feminists, committed to social justice and making a difference; who happen to be avid readers. The book club for us is a shared experience which gives us the opportunity to get together and the freedom to speak freely, behave badly, and embarrass ourselves…free from identities as mothers, daughters, sisters, grandparents, professionals, carers, partners, neighbours, activists. Our book club gives us the opportunity to explore and be open to a wide range of ideas, and stories, some that resonate, some that feel completely alien. However, we try to find connections and build bridges between books, themes, protagonists and our lives – to maximise empathy, shared understanding and experience rather than difference. The book club gives us the opportunity to be enriched by the very different personal and individual perspectives and reflections offered and shared by us with sometimes wisdom and always humour. We are able to explore universal themes and stories of hope and disillusion that transcend time and experience, reinforcing life’s absurdity. We have kept the energy within the group by introducing an annual weekend break with a book link, challenges such as bringing a favourite poem, childhood poem, or a poem that resonates with the current headlines and we have even acted a scene from pride and prejudice (in ramshackle costume) on a short break in West Wales.
Shelter Cymru chwaeroniaeth are reading Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout.
The Royal Devon Culture Club
The Royal Devon Culture Club is a group for NHS staff who work for the Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. We are special because we comprise of two acute hospitals nearly 60 miles apart, plus community hospitals and community-based members.
In September 2021, myself (NHS Knowledge & Library manager for Northern services ) our Lead for Inclusion Sharifa Hashem and our Assistant Director of Nursing for our Eastern services Nolwenn Luke, bonded over a love of books and feminism on Twitter, and from there the seed of Culture Club was sown. We weren’t able to meet in person due to COVID restrictions and geography, so for a number of months we met via Teams and Twitter, and the first Culture Club was launched in November 2021. The most important thing about the Culture Club is that it is a wholly inclusive and safe space. There is no agenda, but each month we have a theme – we read books, listen to books, listen to podcasts and all who attend contribute what they feel able to. The club is run and organised by the three of us in addition to our jobs. It is really rewarding and has had a real positive impact on those that attend.
We would love to have the opportunity to read and review the Booker-shortlisted books as we LOVE books, we are super active on social media but more importantly, it will be a way for us to continue to raise the profile of reading and how books are beneficial for wellbeing (studies suggest that just 6 minutes of reading a day can improve wellbeing and mental health) and building empathy. As my colleague, friend and fellow culture club founder said ‘I would die of excitement if I had the chance to do this’ and I can only echo her comments.
The Royal Devon Culture Club are reading The Trees by Percival Everett.
Our book group is 20 years old this year! We started up in the book group boom of the early 2000s and since then members have come and gone, and come back again, but we still have several of the original members who have been there since those early days. We always had homemade cake at our meetings and since about 2003 we have tried to match the cakes to the books in some way, not simply location, ingredient or flavour, but trying to connect with an emotion or theme. We have also documented our book choices and analysed what kind of books we choose, genres, age and places of publication. We also recorded the cakes we’ve eaten and tried to work out if certain cakes go with certain genres! We’ve read at least 172 books and eaten at least 113 cakes over that time, and are looking forward to many more! We often have quite different opinions on the books we read, and we frequently find that we differ in our views from the literary critics. We do other book-related activities such as days out at book festivals – we’re lucky that Edinburgh, Glasgow (AyeWrite) and Wigton are relatively close – and we travelled to our most recent book group meeting up the River Clyde on the beautiful and historic Waverley paddle steamer. We also like to try new ways of choosing and reading our books; it would be really interesting to read a Booker shortlisted book selected for us. Sharing our views publicly would be a new challenge for us and give us a new way of interacting not only with the book, but also with each other. It would be a perfect 20th Anniversary celebration!
The Weegie BeeGees are reading Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo.
Bridge Books Book Club was formed only six months ago. We meet once a month in a local bar/restaurant (Boyles Of Dromore) as Bridge Books itself it’s much too small to accommodate. The owner of Boyles kindly gives us a space at no cost but, as a thank you, we pay him a small amount each month to cover tea and coffee. We have perhaps fourteen core members who attend each month, commitments permitting. Some months we can have up to twenty present. And yes, it gets very noisy! We try to cover a wide range of fiction, we all need pushed out of our comfort zones and this is the ideal opportunity. So far, our favourite has been Elif Shafak’s, The Island Of Missing Trees. Back in June, we welcomed the author Claire Allan to the group to chat to us about her latest book and about her work in general. Next month we have chosen She And I by Hannah King who has kindly agreed to join us for a Q&A session. I’m very much of the opinion that we should support local authors/businesses and our club is a great way to do it. Most members have signed up for three months in advance and the Christmas dinner has been booked!
Bridge Books are reading Treacle Walker by Alan Garner.
HMP Bristol LLRC Reading Group, Bristol
HMP Bristol LLRC Reading group is made up of prisoners and staff within a Category B prison in Bristol, with a range of readers from 18 to 80, and is open to anyone keen to participate in the shared reading experience. The club was established in the last few years as Covid rules impacted other parts of prison regime. Its members tend to be enthusiastic readers who wish to encourage those new to books to join them, and to help nurture a love of literature. They are open to trying new genres and discovering new authors – most recently they have read Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
HMP Bristol LLRC Reading Group were offered the chance to read any of the shortlisted books and chose Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo.
If your group would like to follow the Prize then you can share your thoughts with #BookerPrize2022 on social media. You may also want to tag @TheBookerPrizes and @readingagency.
The Booker Prize 2022 shortlist will be announced on 6 September from 7pm. Do tune into the livestream on thebookerprizes.com or The Booker Prizes’ social channels to hear which six books have made the list.
For more information, visit the Booker Prize website.
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