A few months ago a friend and I were bemoaning the fact that we never seemed to read very much any more.  That when we did read, our book choices were a little off and our general reading habit was more than a little un-inspired.   So we set up a Book Club.

Our book club isn’t academic, we don’t spend the evening critiquing the sentence structure or the use of a specific word, we don’t even all read the same book.  It’s just five, sometimes six, fairly well educated ladies who have a love of books and who relish the challenges that reading presents.

Our book club is one of personal recommendations.  Books that have moved us.  Books we have loved, books that made us cry, books that made us laugh and even books that made us angry.  In short, books that have made us feel.

There are several fabulous things about our Book Club.  For a couple of hours once a month I get to feel like I actually have a brain.  I get to talk about books that aren’t aimed at children.  (Not that there is anything wrong with talking about books aimed at children but…). Then there’s the fact that I get to taste a tiny bit of sweet anxiety when it’s my turn to present a book.  Most of my recommendations are books I read years ago and I can’t quite remember the detail, but I know that they contain tales I have enjoyed and that have left a lasting impression.  That moment when I start talking about why I have chosen to share this particular book makes me panic ever so slightly – will the others think it’s rubbish? will they think I am an idiot with no command of the English language? will they think that I have no place at Book Club?  All these questions flit through my brain in a nanosecond.  The relief I get when the other ladies don’t point manically at the door whispering ‘out, out, out’ is immense.  Talking about these old favourites makes me want to re-visit them but then another member will present their book and momentarily it will be forgotten.

As an adult it is very difficult to make new friends; we settle into our routines and forget that not everyone around us is at the same point in their lives.  Our social circles become comfortable and newcomers are often regarded with suspicion and fear.  Having moved houses, indeed moved countries, twice in as many years I have become aware of the difficulties faced by newcomers in breaking into existing social arrangements.  Book Club had enabled me to make new friends.  Friends who aren’t in my life simply because their Jonny is friends with my J.  They are friends with whom I have relatively little in common and yet for a short few hours once a month we enjoy each others company, give time to each others opinions and, I have to say it, go away feeling interesting and valued.  If reading takes you on a journey, Book Club has become our transport.

This month I have read these brilliant books:

My Own Story by Emmeline Pankhurst.  This actually amazed me.  I knew about hunger strikes and the Suffragette movement but I really did’t appreciate just what this amazing group of women went through to get the Vote.  I read this and yes there was a bit of politicking and yes Mrs Pankhurst could ramble a bit but it was fascinating.  The aspect I really enjoyed was the comparison to the fight for male suffrage, the numbers of women arrested compared to the number of men arrested.  The fight to be held as political prisoners rather than common thieves.  The length of time it took for women’s suffrage to be granted.  A truly remarkable period in British history and I have left this book knowing that I will ALWAYS use my vote to honour these outstanding women.

From A to Bee by James Dearsley (aka the Surrey Beekeeper).  Having realised that we have a patch of land that would be suitable for keeping chickens, but not actually liking chickens very much, I have arrived at the idea of keeping bees.  So my research has begun.  From A to Bee was a really light read that followed the first year of The Surrey Beekeeper’s adventures.  I now feel a little more clued up about the whole process (there is a lot more to it than I initially thought) and my interest has been piqued, so much so I might even book myself on a course…

The Elegance of The Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.  I have to confess that I am still reading this one.  It is a translation from French which does amaze me because some of the passages I wouldn’t have been capable of writing in English, so hats off to the translator who has retained the essence of the book and is worth a read for this achievement alone.

Love Cuts by John Hegley.  This is a short collection of poetry which is a form of writing that I would never normally choose to read.  In the spirit of pushing boundaries and trying new things though I thought I would give it a whirl.  Whilst this media is conducive to a quick hit of literature, which is perfect for busy parents, and this is a collection of amusing verses, I remain unconverted to the love of poetry.

What have you read this month?  Do you have any recommendations?  Feel free to share your favourites in the comments.

Disclaimer:  all opinions in this post are my own.  I have not received payment or products in exchange for this post.