5 free resources for reading groups

5 free resources for reading groups

If you run a reading group, you need these five free resources in your life.

1. Reading Groups for Everyone noticeboard

Reading Groups for Everyone is a fantastic resource set up by The Reading Agency. You can list your reading groups in its directory and get the latest news and information about book club reads.

The hidden gem is the noticeboard – a place where you can apply to receive review copies of upcoming and published books for your group. All you need to do in return is share your reading journey on social media and provide a review of the book. It’s also the place where The Reading Agency puts out calls for book clubs to shadow judge literary prizes and get involved in other bookish activities. What are you waiting for?

Check out the noticeboard here.

2. Book Riot book club in a box

Book Riot’s book club in a box guide is a great introduction to starting a book club – including how to find a good venue, what to read and how to get the conversation started.

You can also sign up to its reading group newsletter for ongoing advice on keeping your club going.

Find out more here.

3. Love Reading recommendations

Love Reading has a searchable database to help you find your next reading group read. You can register on the list to build your own online TBR pile and can print off extracts from your favourite titles to preview with your group.

Start searching here.

4. Penguin Random House reading group guides

PRH is one of the biggest publishers in the UK so you’ll probably be reading one of their titles at your book club soon. They have a fantastic directory of reading group guides to accompany their bestselling books, which includes extracts and talking points for each title.

Search the guides here.

5. Simon and Schuster book club favourites

Another huge publisher with a great online repository of bookish content. Find book club-friendly books, browse reading guides, enter competitions and get the chance to bag some free e-books.

Check it out here.

Find out how I did it…

I set up the Book and Brew book club in 2015 and we’ve been going strong ever since. Find out how I set it up and get my tips for running your own book club here.

The Flatshare review

Review: The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

Beth O’Leary’s debut novel The Flatshare is a comfort blanket of a book filled with warmth, humour and lots of heart.

This book is everywhere at the moment. From the BBC Radio 2 Book Club to all of our Twitter feeds, O’Leary’s first novel is getting tonnes of attention.

What’s it all about?

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…

What’s good about it?

O’Leary takes a very real problem for many people in their 20s and 30s – trying to find somewhere to live without going bankrupt – and turns it into the premise for an unapologetically feel good rom-com.

Tiffy and Leon share the most intimate of spaces (a bed) without ever meeting; they know each other’s smells, sleeping patterns and mattress indents but have never spoken or looked each other in the eye. In this forced familiarity, O’Leary has discovered a unique premise on which to explore a burgeoning relationship.

And it’s that developing connection that provides the heart of this book. While there is lots of other action taking place, from violent relationships to the search for a longlost love, it’s the growing relationship between Tiffy and Leon that really held my attention. By communicating through Post-It notes and interpreting the household signs of troubled minds (unwashed dishes and uneaten food), they learn to understand each other more than the other characters with whom they have full contact.

What’s not so good about it?

The plot is pretty predictable and the climax at the end won’t come as a surprise to most readers. The book was also too long in my opinion and would have benefited from a tighter edit to maintain its pace to the end.

Overall, this is a warm and funny novel that looks at the highs and lows of human connection.

The Flatshare is published by Quercus on 18 April. Thanks to Quercus and The Reading Agency for our proofs.

10 ways to read more

10 ways to read more

Whether you’re failing to get through your to be read pile or you haven’t picked up a book in ages, here are ten tips to help you squeeze more reading into your day.

When I was at university studying for a BA in English, I only had eight hours a week of seminars and lectures on my timetable. The rest of the week was free for reading.

Can you imagine that now? I literally work more hours in a day than I spent in formal learning in 2001. All that time for reading was a luxury I didn’t appreciate then but would probably kill for now.

So, if you don’t have the leisure time, waistline, energy or hangover recovery speed of a 21-year-old (these are the things a 36-year-old married woman misses the most), how can you fit more reading into your already very busy day?

Here are my ten tips for getting more reading in your life.

1. Use your commute

Commuting is effectively dead time so use it to your advantage. If you’re on the train, bus or ferry, stick a book in your bag and rattle through several chapters to and from work. If you’re driving, why not try audiobooks to get your fix? They’re great for longer journeys, too.

2. Early rising

I’m always first up in my house and love the 30 minutes or so I get on my own before the world joins me. If you have the luxury, get a few chapters read before the day starts and head off to work wearing the smug grin of reading accomplishment.

3. Late nights

Similarly, you can grab a few minutes after everyone has hit the hay. A quiet house is the perfect place to read so get a coffee and curl up for a twilight reading session. (As in after dark. Not of the vampire kind. I hate those books.)

4. Diary it

The only way I get things done is by scheduling time to do them. The same goes for reading. Stick it in your diary, making space for a half hour or so during the day, and you’re more likely to get some reading done.

5. Set a target

Give yourself a reading goal. Set a target for how many pages you want to read or a date for which you want to finish the book and you’ll get there one page at a time

6. Read with friends

Find a friend to partner you on the read and you’ll encourage each other to get to the end. You’ll also have someone to compare notes with once you’ve finished.

7. Use your lunch breaks

Getting away from your desk is important at the best of times but even more vital if you’ve got a book to finish. Set aside some time in your lunch break or set up a lunchtime book club with your colleagues to really make use of your midday break.

9. Follow a literary prize

Reading books shortlisted for literary prizes gives you both a reading list and a deadline by which to finish. You can get involved in related chat on social media and engage in loads and loads of content about the prize before the winner is announced.

10. Join a book club

The best way to read more is to join a book club. It gives you the impetus to read at least one book a month and provides inspiration for lots of other reading. You’ll also indulge in loads of book chat, which feeds your inner bookworm and fuels your reading mojo. Perfect.

Dawn McGuigan book reviews

New books for February

February may be the shortest month but there’s still plenty of time to pack in some awesome books. Here are my picks for four great new books for February.

The Familiars

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Release date: 7 February

This sumptuous book has been described as the “most spellbinding debut novel of 2019”. It’s getting lots of buzz from preview reviewers and will appeal to those who like their historical fiction with a dollop of feminism and witchcraft on the side (like me!).

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn’t supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.

Then she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife. Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong.

As Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the North-West, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye?

Soon the two women’s lives will become inextricably bound together as the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood’s stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake.

Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.


Adele by Leila Slimani

Release date: 7 February

We read Slimani’s previous book Lullaby at book club last year and adored it. She’s a master of suspense and manages to pack a punch in her tightly written, wryly observed prose. Plus, it oozes Frenchness which is always a hit with me.

Here’s the blurb from the publisher: