Like many book lovers I am a member of a book group, two in fact, and I am keen to know how many of my blog readers also are book group members? Book groups are really popular just now with an estimated 50,000 in the UK alone, interestingly with most attracting just women. You can take part in so many ways from a group meeting in your local library or pub, being part of online groups (eg on Mumsnet or GoodReads), reading a book so you can listen to a radio discussion (Radio2 Book Club for example), or joining in on social media such as Twitter or Facebook.
The great thing about book groups is that you read books you might never have chosen yourself or books you might not otherwise have come across.
Take the book I’m reading now for example, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I don’t read very much non-fiction and when I do it tends to be travel books. But I am finding this book fascinating and very readable. I had never heard of Henrietta Lacks and yet she has had a huge influence on modern medicine. She was a young black American woman who died from cervical cancer in the 1950s. Cells from a biopsy of her tumour were grown in a lab and found to be ‘immortal’. They have been dividing ever since, into more cells than Henrietta ever had in her body, and have been used by countless scientists in countless ways. Her cells have been sent into space to study the effects of space travel on human cells, they have been involved in developing vaccines, and have been used for studying how cancer develops and working towards a cure. This book tells of journalist Rebecca Skloot’s investigation into Henrietta’s life, explains what her cells have been used for and reveals how her family knew nothing about the cells. They continued to live in poverty, often unable to afford health insurance, despite the money that her cells have made for pharmaceutical companies ever since. So many ethical questions are raised as you find out about Henrietta. It’s probably not a book I would have picked up but I am really enjoying it.
Other books my book groups have read recently which I enjoyed are Us by David Nicholls, The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin, The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion and The Magpies by Mark Edwards. Books I haven’t been so keen on include The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, and the Farm by Tom Rob Smith (and I chose that one!). I’m just about to start My Brilliant Friend for my next book group meeting. There is rarely a book that everyone in a book group agrees on and I am often amused to find that books which I have loved, others have hated and vice versa!
So tell me, what’s your book group reading just now? What hidden gems have you found? And what did you just not get on with at all?