May 25, 2022

Why book clubs should be heard and not seen

So this is the scene in which Graham Norton’s new book club podcast comes into play. And Norton being the consummate entertaining broadcaster that he is, that’s a lot of fun. The podcast adopts a magazine format run by Norton and one of his co-hosts, alternating passages from novelist Sara Collins and literary journalist Alex Clark.

Norton, a novelist himself, has a habit of interviewing writers on his old Radio 2 show and new radio house at Virgin, and he was at home interviewing detective writer Denise Mina for the first episode. After the interview, the “book clubbers” – literary enthusiasts and people working at different levels in the book business – discussed Mina’s novel, The Less Dead, and then gave marks out of 10 for the probability that they recommend it to others.

I had predicted that, since the author herself was participating in the program, these notes might be massaged a bit to complete the book; but in fact, those who were less enthusiastic made no secret of their criticisms, and there was a real sense of fair and open discussion. As you would expect from Audible, there was also a focus on audiobooks and an interview with Maxine Peake recalling her audiobook reading of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Norton can be an anarchic presenter, especially in his late-night TV show and wickedly conspiratorial comments on Eurovision, but here he looked a lot more grown-up, even to the point of being frustrating at times in the script. . Hope he relaxes more, as he clearly wants. But there was room for a few laughs, especially when he bounced off his co-host Clark and enjoyed the more explicit elements of Chatterley. Together, the book clubbers have created a warm, welcoming, and bookish atmosphere, and the podcast is a happy new addition to any bookworm’s subscription list.