Claire O’Sullivan joined Book and Brew book club last May and has been supplying us with a regular stream of book recommendations, chat and love ever since.
She’s written this wonderful article about the joys of being in a book club, and why finding people that share your bookish passions is so important.
If you want something done give it to a busy person. That saying certainly seemed to dominate my life in 2016. I was a mum, full-time worker, like many in a stressful and demanding job, with an ongoing Research Degree which meant living part of the year in Cambridge thrown into the mix. Life was amazing but hectic. Time away in Cambridge was ‘thinking time’; thinking about what mattered in life to me and finding out what I really enjoyed and wanted to do with my time. Time here in the north east was ‘doing’ time, spent on working and studying. I wanted to bring the feelings of these two worlds together – the thinking and the doing.
Talking about books
I came to understand that the thing I actually enjoy doing most is talking about books. Not just reading them – I already knew that having been a lifelong prolific reader, with the overflowing shelves, and stairs and tables, to prove it – but talking about books. Simple enough you say, but actually I thought it might be hard to find a group of readers similar to me. How wrong I was! A little research led me to Blackwells Bookshop in Newcastle and the amazing Mariana. Joining her group gave me confidence to read more widely and to find my book voice. Mariana led me to Dawn of Book and Brew, which in turn led me to my current frenetic reading life.
And what an amazing reading life this is. Not only have I found an amazing group of people with whom I can share my reading experiences, good and bad, but I have increased my TBR pile beyond all reason. I now realise that this wasn’t about finding people who like to read the same books as me, but about spending time with people who read different books to me, with some developing overlaps as we get to know each other better. Recommendations have taken my reading far and wide, around the world and indeed the universe. I have read modern and classic fiction, crime, science fiction, non-fiction, books in translation; all genres I had never explored before.
There is a whole reading world out there and the people around me have the maps.
As important as the reading has been, the development of an amazing book social life has included meeting authors, attending readings and events, and exploring the bookshops of York and London. Following book prizes, including the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, Costa Book Awards and Man Booker Prize in 2016 has allowed me to develop the skills of comparative reading. Social media has expanded my network of book allies and improved my technical skills and confidence. I have a whole world of bookish information at my fingertips.
Who would have thought that so much joy could come from the thought one cold and wet night in 2016, “I wonder if I should join a book club?” I didn’t think I could fit any more into my busy life but time can stretch and shift to accommodate the things that bring you the greatest joy. So if you’re reading this thinking “should I?” my advice is “absolutely!”.
Brilliant! Being in a book club is awesome. But I’m biased.