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The Book Club Review

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Kate and Laura on the books that get you talking. Every episode we sit down to chat about the books read most recently by our book clubs. What did we make of them? Did they spark debate? And whether we loved them or loathed them, we always try to answer the big question: were they great book club books?

Kate and Laura on the books that get you talking. Every episode we sit down to chat about the books read most recently by our book clubs. What did we make of them? Did they spark debate? And whether we loved them or loathed them, we always try to answer the big question: were they great book club books?


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Kate and Laura on the books that get you talking. Every episode we sit down to chat about the books read most recently by our book clubs. What did we make of them? Did they spark debate? And whether we loved them or loathed them, we always try to answer the big question: were they great book club books?




Second Place by Rachel Cusk

It's our latest Book Club episode, and we're discussing Rachel Cusk's latest novel, Second Place. It was longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize, but didn’t make the cut for the shortlist. Sally Rooney calls it ‘masterful’, saying it ‘achieves a kind of formal perfection’ while the Observer newspaper lauds it as ‘A landmark in twenty-first-century English literature.' But what did Laura’s book club make of it? And who would we rather have to dinner, Rachel Cusk or Deborah Levy? Listen in to...


104. Bookshelf: Back-to-school reads

We've shaken the sand from our flip-flops and put our suitcases away. Now it's back to business as Kate and Laura catch up on their recent reads, everything from this year's Booker International Prize winner to a fantasy romp about teenage wizards. Booklist Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop Mud and Stars by travel writer Sara Wheeler A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik Re-Educated by Lucy...


Close-up: Adam Ashton and Adam Jones

"Ashto" and "Jonesy" are two Australians who devour books on everything from self-improvement to business and marketing for their weekly podcast, What You Will Learn. They’ve recently launched their own book, The Sh*t They Never Taught You. They joined Kate to discuss what books have taught them, and provide her with some personal bibliotherapy to kick her out of her counter-productive ways. Listen in to find out what you can learn.


Bookshelf: Summer Reading 2021

It's our 2021 Summer Reading episode! What are we looking for in our summer reading? We want books that are going to carry us away, books that are immersive and compelling, books that take us places and teach us things. Sometimes we want short reads to suit our mood, others we want long immersive books that will last us through the summer. And as ever, we want books we can discuss and debate. Embracing our usual tendency to veer away from the obvious we've compiled an eclectic list....


Like a Sword Wound by Ahmet Altan

Looking for something a little off the beaten path for your reading pile? Join us as we discuss Like A Sword Wound by renowned Turkish writer Ahmet Altan. It's the first volume in a quartet and traces not only the social currents of the final years of the Ottoman Empire but also the erotic and emotional lives of its characters. Like A Sword Wound has been described as the Turkish War & Peace. Did Laura's book club agree? We're joined by journalist Philippe Chaffee to discuss it. Like A...


100: Kate and Laura answer your questions

In celebration of our 100th episode we turn the spotlight on ourselves a little more than usual to answer listeners' questions. From our favourite childhood reads to the books that shaped us as adults, from books which kept us up all night to books we disagree on (with a shocking mid-show revelation from Laura that threatens to derail the whole discussion), listen in to learn more about us as readers and how we came to make the podcast. Find our full show notes for this episode plus archive...


The Women's Prize 2021 episode

It’s here. After weeks of reading, tons of post-it notes and a WhatsApp group busy with thoughts flying back and forth we proudly present our 2021 Women’s Prize episode. We’re joined by returning podcast guests Elizabeth Morris and Sarah Oliver to review all six shortlisted titles. This is book club so expect the full range of opinions, find out what we loved, and what we didn’t, but we’ve also worked hard to keep the spoilers away so you can enjoy the show and still enjoy the books. Which...


98. The Happy Reader

A magazine that has always been dear to our hearts is Penguin's Happy Reader, an occasional publication that takes inspiration from the idea of a book club. In the early days of the podcast we were delighted to interview its editor Seb Emina. To celebrate the launch of The Happy Reader's latest edition we're releasing that interview again. From the thinking that goes into every issue, from treasure hunts to the perfect way to drink your tea, from book recommendations to unusual ideas for...


97. The Remains of the Day

Join us as we discuss The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. It's a modern classic, 1989 Booker Prize winner and the author is also the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature but none of this led Laura to hold back, calling it 'dull' and incredibly slow reading. But, of course, hers is not the only voice, so listen in to find out what Kate thought, and what Laura's book club thought. We've also got some book recommendations for your next book club read. Booklist Mrs Dalloway and To...


96. Bookbar, with Chrissy Ryan

We chat with Chrissy Ryan, founder of Bookbar, a new bookshop and bar in Kate's North London neighbourhood. Chrissy's vision is for Bookbar to be a social space where people can discover their next read and meet other readers in a place where conversation is encouraged. We loved hearing about everything from her in-house book club featuring authors like Ingrid Persaud, Brit Bennett and Curtis Sittenfeld to her shelf-medicate book subscription service – as Chrissy says, like having a literary...


95. Bookshelf: the rundown of our best recent reads

Listen in for Laura’s take on Matt Haig's bestselling The Midnight Library, which Kate hasn’t yet read. Should she? Meanwhile Kate gets swept into literary Paris with Samuel Beckett and Simone de Beauvoir. Laura takes us to Iceland with an immersive novel that she now wants everyone to drop everything and read, and we catch up with Deborah Levy with the third volume of her living autobiography, Real Estate. Also, we consider what it’s like to live in Iceland for two years with writer Sarah...


94. Mrs Death Misses Death

Join us as we tackle this unusual book that mixes prose with poetry and a play script, in which Death is embodied in the form of an old black woman. Mrs Death befriends a young writer, Wolf, who agrees to ghost-write her memoirs. Laura and her book club had strong reactions against this book. It’s up to Kate and our special guest author Gary Wigglesworth to see if they can make the others see it in a different light. But are they persuasive? Listen in and see what you think. Book...


93. Bookshelf: A little bit of Maas hysteria

Join us for this 'bookshelf' episode as we discuss the books we've been reading outside of book club. In this episode Kate gets tied up in existential knots over House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas and we consider the parallels between this 800-page fantasy bonkbuster and War and Peace. We explore the idea of ‘reading offsetting’ whereby we balance our guilty pleasures with books more worthy of our time. We rediscover the Queen of Fantasy Ursula Le Guin and remember why we think her...


92. Ella Berthoud and The Art of Mindful Reading

Bibliotherapist and author (with Susan Elderkin) of classic books about books The Novel Cure and The Story Cure, Ella Berthoud's most recent work is The Art of Mindful Reading, a practical guide that promises to help people to read more mindfully, bringing their lives to books and books into their lives equally. As you might expect we have a lot of book recommendations in this show, plus advice on everything from how to keep a successful book journal to what to do when you’re not enjoying...


91. The Mermaid of Black Conch

Join us as we discuss the 2020 Costa Book of the Year, The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey. ‘A fishy tale of doomed womanhood’, even Margaret Atwood got excited about it, tweeting ‘Not your standard mermaid. No comb and glass, no Lorelei hair. No catch and release…’ This unusual novel weaves together sex, misogny and race with love, music, magic and myth, plus it throws in a few spliffs, a virginal mermaid, a crooked cop, and a chorus of vindictive women. All that in one book? Yes,...


90. The Little Library Cookbooks, by Kate Young

What is a reader's dream cookbook? One that has delicious recipes but also a wealth of literary references to inspire your next read? It turns out these books exist! With her Little Library series of cookbooks Kate Young has carved out a particular niche intertwining her love of food with the books that have inspired her and shaped her life. And so you might find a recipe for French Toast inspired by Maria Semple’s comic novel Where d’You Go Bernadette? or lemon verbena lemonade to accompany...


89. Shuggie Bain

On the one hand 'bleak, meandering and depressing' on the other a beautifully written book that has touched the hearts of its readers – but what did Kate's book club make of Douglas Stuart's 2020 Booker winner Shuggie Bain? We're joined by friend and journalist Phil Chaffee to discuss it. Has Laura managed to make it through more than the first sixty pages? Listen in to find out, plus our usual recommendations for follow-on reads. Books recommended Poverty Safari by Darren McGarvey On...


88. Bookshelf: Spring reads

Catch up on what we've been reading outside of book club, the books we choose for ourselves. If you're looking for lockdown recommendations we've got a couple of brilliant suggestions here we think you'll love, plus one book we can save you the time of having to read. We also talk upcoming reads and our newly launched Bookshop on Booklist: Intimations by Zadie Smith A Start in Life by Anita Brookner Trio by William Boyd Memorial by Bryan Washington The Moth and the...


87. Writers and Lovers and Early Work

We’re welcoming in a new year of reading with not one but two books, Writers & Lovers by Lily King, and Early Work by Andrew Martin. Two aspiring writers, two messy love lives, two very different books that each take the craft of writing as their main theme, one from the female perspective and one from the male. How did they compare? What did Laura’s book club make of them? Should they be on your TBR? Listen in to find out. Plus a maximalist recommendations session at the end partly because...


86. The Postal Book Club

A book sent from friend to friend around the world, with a notebook full of comments. Have we found the perfect Covid lockdown bookclub? We're joined by podcaster and books blogger Simon Thomas who explains how it works. We also get some wonderful book recommendations from authors you may not have read or even heard of, and catch up about his Book of the Year club (in which all the books read come from a single year). Books mentioned in this episode: Once a Week by A. A. Milne, A House and...