I maintain that the best books for book groups are those that provoke discussion – titles that not everyone will like, or genres you don’t usually read for instance. Most important though is not to get stuck in a rut, by reading totally different types of books each month.
The book group I belong to is lucky enough to have several blokes in addition to us girls, and we read anything and everything:- from Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion to Iain Banks’ wonderful The Crow Road, and from a great old classic in Kipling’s Kim to a modern classic in the graphic novel Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
Being a good-humoured lot, we often deliberately choose books to wind us up … Arthur and George by Julian Barnes was picked as none of us had previously got on with him, but we couldn’t find enough to disagree about in this title and all thoroughly enjoyed it. A plan to get the guys to read a romantic novel also backfired when they couldn’t believe how sexy the particular one chosen was, (The Wedding Officer by Anthony Capella), - they liked it rather too much! The aforementioned God Delusion also found us all in agreement, all being pro-Darwin but also overexposed to Dawkins these days. Ah well – you can’t win ‘em all as they say.
One book that did give much heated discussion was Boy A by Jonathan Trigell, a novel about a child murderer that bears many parallels with the James Bulger case. In common with the rest of our group, I didn’t want to enjoy reading this book due to its subject matter – I didn’t want to admit that I could empathise with someone who was capable of doing such an awful act, but I did – particularly because he was only ten when ‘it’ happened and having to start life afresh when released into a world of which he has no experience requires real courage. Jack does well with the guiding hand of mentor Terry, but the media continually keeps nibbling away at the fact that a (child) child-killer is lose in the community – surely it can’t end happily ever after?
Things are never black and white, just different shades of grey and that’s what got us talking and talking… It was a really thought-provoking book that I’m glad I read.
The next book that we’re discussing is Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow, a modern werewolf novel set in LA and written in prose-verse. That’s almost guaranteed to get up someone’s nose – I’ll report back in a fortnight!