June 26, 2022

The first book club rules

We may not know if we’re that good at them, but over the past year our skills on Zoom, Teams, Google Hangouts and the like have skyrocketed (especially if we like seeing inside the homes of our friends and colleagues).

Like many activities, in-person book clubs have been suspended until restrictions are lifted, but have you considered a virtual book club? If your friends are all over the world or even around the corner, an online book club can mean a chance to see friends and family and – briefly – not talk about everything we hear at news. Online book clubs have flourished during the pandemic, but for those hesitant to make a reservation, why not give it a shot?

For anyone using this time to really invest in reading time – and lockdown has offered many an opportunity to reconnect with reading – an online club could be an opportunity to discover new genres/authors through recommendations.

If you’re exploring the possibility of a book club, keep in mind that some virtual meeting options are limited in numbers and times – if you’re particularly invested in a read, you don’t want to cut in the middle of a sentence.

Choose a book

Finding something that everyone is likely to have or easily downloaded to an eReader can be difficult. More than likely, members will have different literary tastes, so we suggest everyone pick a read and rotate it. Yes, you’ll probably read books outside of your comfort zone, but it can make for some interesting conversation. Still can’t find the “perfect” book? Choose a classic (most are free downloads) or something off the bestseller list – or make it interactive with a social media poll to vote on what the next book will be.

keep it casual

It’s meant to be fun, not a lesson, so enjoy time with like-minded friends who are all looking for a way to get through another lockdown together. By laid back, we also mean being gentle with club members. Even though most of us are at home, that doesn’t always mean there’s enough time or inclination to enjoy a solitary pastime, even if it’s a hobby that someone would have already loved. For all those who have rediscovered a taste for reading, there are also former readers who cannot settle into reading. If someone hasn’t finished the book, be indulgent. Anyone can always be involved and contribute to the discussion. It is not a competition.

What should I say?

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone if the conversation starts seriously on books and moves on to relationships, the good, the bad and the ugly of homeschooling or what everyone ate for dinner. This is natural and expected, but what can happen is that the novelty of agreeing to talk about a specific reading can cause what we call book club fear. You do not know where to start ? A simple “I liked it because…” or “I didn’t like it because…” may be enough to open a conversation, but qualify your point of view. It’s not necessary or expected that everyone has the same opinion, nor are you looking for a synopsis of the book in forensic detail – especially if there are members who don’t have it. finished – but it’s enough for everyone to give an opinion on what they read.

To start

Everyone has given their opinion and now there is a lull in the conversation.

You want to keep the momentum going, so if you get stuck, here are some questions you could ask the group.

• Which scene marked you and why?

• Would you like or have you read another book by this author?

• Did this book remind you of others you have read?

• What impact has reading this book had on your mood?

• Did your opinion of the book change during your reading?

Celebrity Book Clubs

Some stars take their reading very seriously – here’s who to follow:

Hello Sunshine by Reese Witherspoon

Each month, the Oscar-winning actor chooses a book with a woman at the center of the story.

She also suggests a young adult read, perfect if you have a budding or blooming bookworm at home.

Launched in 2017, Reese has chosen readings from Lucy Foley, Denise Mina and Jojo Moyes, among others.

Richard and Judy Book Club

With regular picks from the worlds of historical fiction, romance, crime, non-fiction, and literature, the duo select books that mean something to them.

Just buy/read one of the books they recommended and visit the website to share your thoughts.

Our shared shelf

Her Harry Potter character, Hermione, loved to read and learn, so it’s no surprise that Emma Watson started a book club by leaving books on public transport and in spaces around the world. Although the club’s Goodreads page is no longer moderated, the actress still uses #oursharedshelf on Instagram to recommend readings.

Readers’ corner: what we recommend this week

young adult

The Island by CL Taylor, HQ, £7.99

Six teenage friends – some more united by necessity than desire – are vacationing with their parents in Thailand. The six will stay on an island for a week, the opportunity to have fun without their elders and to make memories. But within 24 hours their guide died, leaving the friends alone. But since they grew up together, no one knows them better… However, one member of the group knows everyone’s worst fear, which is a mighty hand to hold. One by one, these fears manifest themselves. It’s supposed to be paradise but it quickly turned into a nightmare. Can they figure out what is going on and who is responsible for all these strange occurrences?


Shiver by Allie Reynolds, title, £12.99

With a mix of elements from Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None set against a snowy backdrop, it’s an unsettling read. Milla has been invited to a reunion in the French Alps, a place where she has spent most of her snowboarding career, so there is no doubt that she will attend. She has many memories, good and bad, of the place and her friends she hasn’t seen in a decade. Although there are some changes in their dynamic, they have to trust each other when they realize they are isolated on a mountain top. It’s the perfect time to reveal secrets as they piece together current events with what happened on the snow ten years ago.

Gothic style

The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell, Raven Books, £12.99

Based in Victorian Bath, Agnes is a silhouette artist, collecting what she can of an art form that is going out of style. She needs the money to care for her nephew Cedric and her sick mother and although she has help – in the form of her brother-in-law – things still don’t add up. The same could be said for the life of Agnes as her clients continue to be murdered shortly after sitting down for their pictures. Wanting to know the answers to the questions she’s afraid to ask, she visits a child psychic, Pearl, whose sister keeps tight control over her charge of prizes. Agnes wants Pearl to contact the dead, but Pearl also has something (or someone) she wants to see.

Fairy tale reimagined

The Charmed Woman by Olga Grushin, Hodder & Stoughton, £17.99

We know the story: Cinderella meets Prince Charming and after a few twists involving glass slippers and pumpkin carriages, they get married. But more than a decade later and now a family of four, their relationship didn’t have the happy ending they expected. Her husband is arguably no longer Prince Charming material, and the marriage hasn’t turned out to be wonderful. So Cinderella has a plan to forge her own path and needs the help of the witch, someone who usually gives housewives love potions.

toxic friendship

Murder of My Best Friend by Polly Phillips, Simon & Schuster, £7.99

Bec and Izzy have been best friends through thick and thin – and while Izzy’s life always seems to have been a winner, Bec’s hasn’t been so lucky. Not everyone considers their friendship to be wonderful, however, and when Izzy’s body is discovered – after a series of incidents that make you wonder just how friendly the two really are – Bec knows she might be considered the prime suspect. Don’t the police always look at a victim’s loved ones before extending the net further? It’s a dark and sometimes uncomfortable story about friendship and how easily it can be manipulated for the gains of others.

Past injuries

The Survivors by Jane Harper, Little, Brown, £14.99

Kieran Elliott has returned home with his partner and their baby girl, but his community has not forgotten an event from his teenage years that changed their locality forever. It may be home, but it’s not very welcoming. When a young woman’s body is discovered on the beach, old wounds are ready to open. It’s just a little too similar to what happened before… Kieran sets out to unravel the real story, but will he like what he finds?

A must read in 2021

Girl A by Abigail Dean, HarperCollins, £14.99

Lex Gracie has a good reason why she doesn’t want to think about her family. Not the parents who supported her, but the House of Horrors she grew up in with her siblings. Lex is Girl A, the eldest daughter of parents who caused untold damage to her and her siblings in their home. Separated later, Lex continued to lead the life one would expect of a young woman…until her birth mother died in prison and left the house to her children. Lex, understandably, wants to turn this time in his life into something positive for others, but will his siblings agree? Does everyone share the same feelings and experiences with Lex? How have their lives been since that fateful day?

Readers’ corner What we recommend this week