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Episode 81: The Memory Police

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We discuss The Memory Police, a haunting dystopian novel that explores questions of power, trauma and state surveillance written by Yoko Ogawa, one of Japan’s leading contemporary novelists.  Set on an unnamed island, the narrator of The Memory Police describes how every so often something in the inhabitants’ lives will disappear. Birds, roses, books – […]

We discuss Yoko Ogawa's haunting dystopian novel The Memory Police, an uneasy read, but one that may well be our book club book of the year! Also some great recommendations for your next book club read.

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80. The Booker Prize 2020

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Wondering which Booker shortlisted book to read? Look no further as we have the complete rundown on all six shortlisted titles. We’re joined by previous podcast guests Sarah Oliver and Phil Chaffee for a proper, no-holds-barred book club discussion. So listen in to find out the things we loved, and the things we didn’t, the […]

In true book-club fashion (i.e., no holds barred) we debate the six shortlisted titles for the 2020 Booker Prize. We're joined by two previous podcast guests, and whether we loved them or loathed them, we can guarantee you're going to hear what we really think. Have you read them? Got a favourite? Listen in to see if we agree. We also run through our very favourite reads from past Booker years, perfect for your next book club pick.

Bonjour Tristesse cover

79. Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan

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Bonjour Tristesse is a classic of French novella literature, a tour de force that took France by storm with its publication in 1954 – when its author Françoise Sagan was only 18 years old. But has it stood the test of time? Did it still have resonance for Kate’s book club? Teenager Cécile’s summer holiday with […]

Achieving bestselling literary success before she reached twenty, Françoise Sagan could at one point reasonably be said to have been the most fashionable author in the world. But how does her 1954 classic Bonjour Tristesse fare in book club discussion? Kate's book club finds out. Listen in for the debate plus our book recommendations for follow-on reads.

78. Bookshelf: Autumn Reads

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Our Bookshelf episodes are the ones where we get to let our hair down and talk about the things we’re reading outside of our book clubs, the books that we get to pick and choose. So listen in as Kate is bewitched by the new Susanna Clarke novel Piranesi, charmed by Shirley Jackson’s memoir of […]

Our Bookshelf episodes are where you find out the books we choose when our book clubs aren't directing us to worthy choices. So listen in for everything from hot new releases like Piranesi by Susanna Clarke to riveting backlist titles, like Peter Robb's Midnight in Sicily, and some guilty pleasure reads we don't regret for a second.

77. The Vanishing Half

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The Vanishing Half is the latest book read by both Laura and Kate’s book clubs, and tells the story of two black identical twins, Stella and Desiree, whose lives diverge dramatically when Stella leaves everything behind to pass as a white woman in 1950s America. 2019 Booker winner Bernadine Evaristo is a fan. ‘The Vanishing […]

The Vanishing Half by Brit Benett has been one of the most-talked-about recent releases, but how did it fare in book club debate? Both Kate and Laura's book clubs try it out. Will they agree?

76. Emily’s Walking Book Club

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A breath of fresh air in the form of Emily’s Walking Book Club. Join us as we wander the green spaces of London’s Hampstead Heath, coming up with book recommendations along the way.

A breath of fresh air in the form of Emily's Walking Book Club. Join us as we wander the green spaces of London's Hampstead Heath, coming up with book recommendations along the way.

75. Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

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What if Hillary hadn’t married Bill? That’s the attention-grabbing hook of Curtis Sittenfeld’s latest novel, Rodham, which duly sent it soaring into the bestseller charts. In real life, Bill Clinton asked Hillary Rodham to marry him three times before she finally said yes. The rest is history. But in Sittenfeld’s alternative world, Hillary says no, and their […]

One of the most talked-about books of summer 2020, Curtis Sittenfeld's speculative take on Hillary Rodham Clinton's story gets the full book club treatment. But did it live up to the hype? Expect lively discussion and some steamy scenes.

74. Summer Reading

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Whether you made it to a beach this year or staycationed at home we’ve got the perfect selection of options for your summer reading. Fiction, non-fiction, highbrow, lowbrow, we’ve got it all covered. Plus we asked a few friends of the show to join in, so expect recommendations from Emily Rhodes of Emily’s Walking Book […]

Summer reading for us is all about finding the perfect book to suit your mood. So listen in as we bring you a pile of handpicked book recommendations from us and a few podcast friends.

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73. Bookshelf: Beyond Book Club

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It’s an eclectic mix in this episode as we work through what has been on our bookshelves recently, but we loved all of these reads. Listen in to find out why.BOOK RECOMMENDATIONSIn The Dream House by Carmen Maria MachadoUncanny Valley by Anna WienerMorning by Allan JenkinsWest with the Night by Beryl MarkhamA Drop of Patience by William Melvin KelleyThe Mirror […]

The books that have seen us through lockdown, from up-to-the moment read In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado to forgotten classic William Melvin Kelley's A Drop of Patience.

72. That Glimpse of Truth: 100 of the Finest Short Stories Ever Written

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Since the Covid Crisis went global, Laura’s book club has been working their way through That Glimpse of Truth: 100 of the Finest Short Stories Ever Written selected by the late literary agent David Miller. One short story, once a week, with a Zoom chat every Monday to discuss it. But what did Laura’s book club make […]

The short story. Sad sister to the novel? Or pinnacle of the literary form? Laura's book club delves into David Miller's compendium and discovers that even brief reading experiences can have a powerful effect on us.

71. The Beekeeper of Aleppo

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Sometimes the best thing about book club is that it prompts us to read things that we might otherwise turn away from. There are parts of the world that are in crisis, and it can be hard to know how to help. One thing we can do is to bear witness to the stories of […]

Sometimes we want books to take us out of our comfort zone. But that doesn't always make for easy reading. Listen in to decide if you should add this one to your reading pile.

70. The BritLit Podcast

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Lockdown kept us indoors, but in some ways it opened our horizons. With a little help from technology we crossed the Atlantic to catch up with Claire Handscombe, presenter and producer of BritLit, a fortnightly podcast that tracks what’s going on in the British publishing world. From Claire’s novel Unscripted to her favourite recent reads, […]

Claire Handscombe tells us about her mission to bring the best British books to America, plus what makes for the perfect beach read.

69. Where the Crawdads Sing

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A word-of-mouth sleeper hit, Where The Crawdads Sing stunned the publishing world when sales took off and the book shot onto bestseller lists. It was all the more surprising as the author was a 70-year-old scientist new to writing fiction. Barkley Cove is a quiet town surrounded by marshland on the coast of North Carolina. When a […]

One of our liveliest discussions yet. Beautiful writing, a suspenseful plot and an unforgettable heroine... Or poorly written, paper-thin characterisation and an ending you see coming a mile off. Which camp will you fall into?

68. Bookshelf: Beyond Book Club

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We love our book clubs, but our Bookshelf shows are all about the books we get to choose for ourselves. From comfort reads to intellectual challenges, we run through our recent picks. In this show we have a particularly eclectic mix, incorporating everything from hot new releases to out-of-print childhood favourites. Just what it is […]

When the world shuts down, what books do we reach for? We share the books getting us through lockdown, including 2020 buzz books Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell and Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid.

67. London Archives Book Club

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The London Metropolitan Archives collects, preserves, celebrates and shares the stories of London and Londoners. They also have a book group, open to all, that meets monthly to explore a range of London writing, fiction or non-fiction, for all periods in London history. Not only do participants get to discuss the book, they also get […]

Where history and literature combine, the London Metropolitan Archives book club tackles everything from Ben Judah's controversial This Is London to the surprisingly racy 18th-century journal of James Boswell. Archivists Charlie and Claire tell us more.

66. Lanny by Max Porter

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Part novel, part poem, Lanny evokes a typical English village whose residents are observed by an ancient spirit of nature – who in turn is taking a particular interest in one child. The Guardian called it ‘a fable, a collage, a dramatic chorus, a joyously stirred cauldron of words’, but what did Kate’s book club make of […]

With his debut Grief is the Thing With Feathers, Max Porter made a unique mark on the literary landscape. But did his second novel, Lanny, capture our hearts in the same way? We put it to the book club test.

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65. Bookshelf: Beyond Book Club

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Bookshelf is our regular show where we talk about books read in-between our book club books, the ones that we get to pick and choose. In this episode we begin in London with period drama Belgravia by Julian Fellowes, and urban fantasy Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. We escape to France, and sunny Provence with unreconstructed male-wish-fulfilment […]

What are the books getting us through lockdown? We may not be able to travel, but the books we're reading this month are certainly taking us places. Listen in as we run through our latest Bookshelf.

64. Crib Notes

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The early days of motherhood might not seem an obvious moment to expand your reading horizons, but for Elizabeth Morris the combination of night-time wake-ups and heightened emotional sensitivity led her to a new appreciation of the printed word. After the birth of her son she decided to build on her career in the book […]

When all you have are stolen moments, you want to be sure you're spending them with the right book. Enter Elizabeth Morris, creator of brilliant books newsletter Crib Notes. Listen in to hear her recommendations for new and busy mothers – and meet guest star baby Rose.

63. Stories of Your Life and Others

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Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang clocked in at number 80 on The Guardian’s list of the 100 Best Books of the 21st Century. And Barack Obama’s a fan too. But what about Laura’s book club? What did they make of this collection of eight sci-fi short stories, one of which formed the basis for […]

Sci-fi sceptics, this is the book for you. Chiang's sharply intelligent speculative stories are in a league of their own. Yes, you'll need to switch your brain into high gear but trust us, it's more than worth it.

62. Bookshelf: Beyond Book Club

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It’s another Bookshelf episode where we discuss the books we’re each reading beyond book club – the ones we get to pick and choose! We discover the world of Tana French, and her literary psychological thrillers, laugh and cry with John Boyne’s Heart’s Invisible Furies, are underwhelmed by Philip Pullman’s Secret Commonwealth, venture into frozen […]

Our round up of our latest reads beyond book club sees us dip into the latest Philip Pullman and some dark Norwegian fiction from Hanne Østavik, plus books to make you smile, from John Boyne's Heart's Invisible Furies to comfort-read classic Cold Comfort Farm.