General book stuff, Reading and literacy, Women

A year in the life of a book club

As you know, the whole Book and Brew adventure is completed by a rather wonderful book club.

We meet once a month to share our thoughts on our latest read – and a plethora of other topics in between – and devour delicious coffees, teas and hot white chocolates with a (un)healthy serving of cake on the side.

I set up the book club in January 2015 but 2016 was really its year. In the last 12 months, we’ve achieved some wonderful things so I thought I give you a round up of our best bits.


January is always an interesting month for book clubs. Everyone makes a New Year’s resolution to read more and do something different, so guess what? They join a book club. We were inundated with new members in January, and a few more in February, but numbers settled as we headed towards spring.

This month was also the first time we received a book (Landfalls by Naomi J Williams) from a publisher to review. It was a trend that was set to continue throughout the year.


More new members, more fighting for space around the coffee table.


We knuckled down to read a long book, Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life (it’s 500+ pages). It was worth it though as it was a resounding hit.


We visited the wonderful Tynemouth Book Market in April – each coming home with bags full of bargain books. We washed them down with some good coffee and cake (what else?) afterwards, though. It’s exhausting carrying all those novels around!

Book market
Look how happy we are with our book swag.

This month also saw Gail, Katy and I listen to Laura Bates talk about her new book Girl UpShe’s an outstanding speaker and we were horrified by some of the statistics she shared about everyday sexism. Check her out if you get the chance.

Laura Bates
Just casually meeting an author.


Drum roll please…

…this was the month we became official shadow judges for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. Yup, we were one of just 12 book clubs in the country to be picked by The Reading Agency to review one of the shortlisted titles.

We got The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie and went to town on tweets, pics and chat about the book. We certainly championed our contender, that’s for sure.

We became a little bit obsessed with Baileys.

Our profile grew with our new role and we got enquiries from potential new members keen to come on board. One of those was Claire – and our lives have never been the same since! This woman is an unwavering ball of energy, fuelled by books and cake, who has cast a spell of life-affirming positivity over our group. She’s never leaving.


The Baileys prize was announced in June and we had a special book club meeting to discuss our contender. The girls also gave me sympathy after I got stuck on the bloomin’ train when I tried to visit the shortlist readings in London. It’s funny now…


We had another book to review for a publisher. This time it was some Nordic noir in the form of The Invisible Man from Salem


A few of us attended a wonderful evening with Jessie Burton to hear her talk about her second novel, The Muse. Jessie’s debut novel, The Miniaturist, was the first book we read at book club so this author holds a special place in our hearts. (That’s why we elbowed people in the ribs to grab seats in the front row.)

Jessie Burton
You don’t get this close to an author by being polite!


I ran a Book and Brew Takeover in September and gave you an assortment of articles from writers, publishers, readers and book lovers.

I was thrilled when Rebecca said she wanted to write something. She’d shared her desire to write with book club a while ago and I was honoured to host her first and second articles. Rebecca is a beautiful writer and I hope she’ll give us more of her words in 2017.


By the autumn, we’d secured our second book prize shadowing gig. Oh yes, we’re big names in the literary prize world.

This time it was for the uber prestigious Man Booker Prize and we once again threw ourselves behind our book, His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet.

Book and Brew Man Booker Prize review
Discussing our book over coffee and various sugary snacks.

Claire and I went to London to hear the six shortlisted authors talk about their books (this time there were thankfully no travel disasters). While we were there we visited some wonderful bookshops, and I discovered that Claire is my book-buying enabler. I came home with six books due to her encouragement, even climbing into the window of Oxfam in Marylebone to retrieve a must-read title I hadn’t seen. Yup, I have a problem.


We took book club on tour in November and headed to York. We bought Christmas gifts, explored the market and set ourselves up for Type 2 Diabetes in later life with a trip to the York Cocoa House. It was divine.


Our last meeting of the year is bittersweet as we’re moving from our usual home at Pink Lane Coffee. We’ve been at this lovely cafe since the start but we’ve outgrown it and need to move to somewhere more spacious.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe we’ve achieved this much in just a year.

Thank you to Alison, Rebecca, Gail, Katy, Claire, Ellen, and to our newest members Susan and Sarah, for their constant enthusiasm, never-ending book recommendations and devotion to cake.

Let’s see what 2017 has in store for us, ladies…


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