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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 […]

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?

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.

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.

69. Where the Crawdads Sing

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

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?

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.

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.

61. Fleishman is in Trouble

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Fleishman is in Trouble tells the story of Toby, a successful NYC doctor whose almost ex-wife Rachel has vanished, leaving him alone with their two children. But is she the selfish, self-absorbed, neglectful mother he portrays? Finally free from his nightmare marriage, Toby Fleishman is ready for a life of online dating and weekend-only parental […]

A Trojan Horse of a novel, this provocative portrait of a marriage on the brink was the Summer Read of 2019. But does it live up the hype? Listen in to hear what Laura's book club made of the trials of anti-hero Toby Fleishman and his elusive wife, Rachel.

57. The Silence of the Girls

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Pat Barker’s retelling of Homer’s Iliad from a female perspective proves a surprisingly marmite read. The Silence of the Girls was shortlisted for the 2019 Women’s Prize and received widespread critical praise but what did Kate’s book club think? Our narrator is Briseis, a Trojan queen who witnesses the destruction of her city at the hands of […]

Despite its many accolades, this feminist retelling of The Iliad proves a surprisingly marmite read. Are Kate's book club just being contrary?

55. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

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We delve into the whirlwind story of Elizabeth Holmes and her biotech company Theranos. At its height it was valued at 9 billion dollars. At its heart was a product that didn’t work. In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup […]

An astonishing web of fraud, charisma and intimidation, with the startlingly duplicitous Elizabeth Holmes at its heart. Investigative journalist John Carreyrou digs deep to unravel this story of Theranos, a bio-tech company built on lies.

52. Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz

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A sweeping and evocative portrait of an Egyptian family at a time of great social change, from Nobel Prizewinning author Naguib Mahfouz. ‘Writing worthy of a Tolstoy, a Flaubert or a Proust’ said The Independent newspaper but what did Laura’s book club make of it? Listen in to find out, plus lots of great recommendations […]

Egypt’s answer to Tolstoy, Naguib Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize for his intricate portrait of an Egyptian family at a time of great social change. But could Laura’s book club cope with all the misogyny?

50. My Sister, the Serial Killer

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My Sister, the Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite’s superbly titled debut novel, has been one of the literary sensations of 2019 – nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and long listed for the Booker. But what did both our book clubs make of it? Does it merit all the acclaim? Listen in to find out. Heads up: it’s […]

A dynamite title, but does this award-winning bestseller live up to the hype? Laura's book club aren't convinced.

48. I Will Never See the World Again

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It’s a slight volume but Ahmet Altan’s memoir I Will Never See the World Again packs a powerful punch. Each of its short essays was smuggled out of the prison where Altan serves – and continues to serve – a life sentence. The book has been championed by author, international human rights lawyer and general real-life Mark Darcy […]

‘Read this – it will explain why you ever read anything.’ So writes A.L. Kennedy and we couldn't agree more. But this collection of essays by Ahmet Altan, each one smuggled out of a Turkish prison where he remains on trumped-up charges, isn't an obvious book club choice. Can we convince you to go for it?

44. Golden Hill

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We discuss Francis Spufford’s Golden Hill, a rollicking historical novel set in 18th-century New York. Its plot is full of more twists and turns than a slide at Centerparcs so we’ve split the episode into two. The first half is the safety zone where we won’t spoil the plot for you, but if you have read […]

We defy anyone not to enjoy this rollicking historical caper through 18th-century New York. But does it work for book club?

43. Milkman by Anna Burns

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Masterpiece from the contemporary heir to Samuel Beckett or demanding endurance read with not nearly enough paragraph breaks? We debate Anna Burns’ Booker-Prize winning novel Milkman – a tale of one young woman’s struggle to retain her sense of self during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Suffocating gossip, ever-present violence and a surprising amount of humour. […]

A masterpiece from the heir to Samuel Beckett? Or a demanding endurance read with not nearly enough paragraph breaks? We debate Anna Burns' Booker-Prize winning novel.

41. A Different Drummer + If Beale Street Could Talk

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What happens when all the black people in a Southern town decide to pack their things and leave? First published in 1962, A Different Drummer by William Melvin Kelley had been largely forgotten until rediscovered by journalist Kathryn Schulz. Her New Yorker article put it back on the map. Laura’s book club were intrigued by […]

What happens when one day every single black person in a Southern state leaves? That’s the startling premise of William Melvin Kelley’s forgotten 1962 classic. Much better known, James Baldwin’s 1974 novel is no less a classic, though the tragic injustice at its heart is all too familiar.

38. Why We Sleep

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We discuss Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology, whose compelling book offers us the chance to be more attractive, slimmer, happier and healthier – all thanks to a good night’s sleep. Critics have called this international bestseller ‘accessible’, ‘compelling’ and ‘enlightening’. But what did Kate’s book club make of […]

Sleep. It will make you healthier, happier, slimmer and even more attractive. Or so says Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology. Are we convinced?

35. Normal People by Sally Rooney

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Normal People was named Waterstones book of the year, longlisted for the 2018 Booker Prize and most recently won the Costa Novel Award. Sally Rooney’s editor at Faber & Faber dubbed her a ‘Salinger for the Snapchat generation’, while praise has been heaped on the book by the critics. But did it make for a […]

‘Salinger for the Snapchat generation’, Sally Rooney has fans aplenty. Is this the love story of our time? Or just a case of two clever kids unable to use their words? Kate and Laura square off.

33. The Haunting of Hill House

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‘Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more.’ Andy Russell of London’s Horror Book Club joins us to discuss Shirley Jackson’s classic. A total terror? Or just the right side of thrilling? Listen in to hear what […]

A total terror? Or just the right side of thrilling? Andy Russell of London's Horror Book Club joins us to discuss Shirley Jackson's classic.

30. Lullaby by Leïla Slimani

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‘The baby is dead. It took only a few seconds.’ So begins this bestselling thriller by French author Leïla Slimani, and the winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt. Unmissable? Unreadable? Listen in to hear Laura report back on what her book club made of Lullaby – and whether she made it out intact. With much, much […]

'The baby is dead. It took only a few seconds.' So begins this bestselling thriller by French author Leïla Slimani. Unmissable? Unreadable? It’s our most divisive episode yet.

27. The Unfinished Palazzo

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The story of three extraordinary women – Luisa Casati, Doris Castleross, Peggy Guggenheim – and the Venetian Palazzo that captivated them. A fascinating biography but did it make for a good book club book?

The Unfinished Palazzo is the story of three extraordinary women – Luisa Casati, Doris Castleross, Peggy Guggenheim – and the Venetian Palazzo that captivated them. Judith Mackrell's biography is a fascinating read but did it make for a good book club book?

24. Less + The House of Impossible Beauties

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We discuss Pulitzer-prize winning comic novel Less by Andrew Sean Greer, and Joseph Cassara’s The House of Impossible Beauties, a novel of drag queens and drag balls in 1980s New York. Both received rave reviews from the critics, but did they make for good book club books? Listen in to find out. We end with […]

23. The Faraway Nearby

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We’re joined by Vogue culture editor Chloe Schama to consider The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit, the latest book read by Kate’s book club. We consider the genre of ‘anti-memoir’ (and if you’re unfamiliar with the term you will find yourself among friends) and come up with some light alternative reading in case it all […]

Vogue culture editor Chloe Schama join us to weigh in on Rebecca Solnit’s ‘anti-memoir’ and its meandering musings.

22. Educated by Tara Westover

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From no formal education before the age of seventeen to a PhD from Cambridge ten years later, Tara Westover’s transformation is the stuff of Hollywood. And that’s before you learn about the violence and brainwashing that tainted her upbringing within her Mormon survivalist family. Westover’s ‘remarkable memoir’, Educated, made Barack Obama’s summer reading list. But what did […]

From a perilous childhood with no formal education to a Cambridge PhD at 27, Tara Westover’s memoir is the stuff of Hollywood. Moving, memorable and shocking. Is it also the perfect book club book?

21. A Far Cry from Kensington

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A Far Cry From Kensington has many fans amongst the critics but what did Kate’s book club make of it? Did they fall in love with Muriel Spark’s genteel farce set in the postwar London publishing industry? Or did they need more convincing of Spark’s genius? For an informed opinion we interview Hannah Griffin of […]

Muriel Spark’s short, sharp farce set in the publishing world of 1950s London is much admired. But as former book editors ourselves, what did we make of her indomitable narrator and editor with a capital E, Mrs Hawkins?

20. Do Not Say We Have Nothing

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The New York Times called it a ‘powerfully expansive novel’ and it was shortlisted for the Booker, but what did Laura’s book club make of Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien? For our regular book club interview, we get radical with London’s Radical Reading Group. And we finish as always with some […]

A lyrical and ambitious novel that deftly weaves together a story of family, friendship and music across the tapestry of 20th-century Chinese history. Laura loved it. Her book club? Listen in to find out.

19. Swing Time by Zadie Smith

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It has been called her finest novel yet, but what did Laura’s book club make of Zadie Smith’s Swing Time? In our regular interview, we talk to The Divas, a close-knit group of women based in north-west London, about books, friendship and travel. And we finish as always with some fresh recommendations for your next […]

18. East West Street

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East West Street is the gripping memoir by prominent British barrister Philippe Sands. It’s a history of atrocity combined with a relentless search for the truth, with Sands digging deep into both his own family history and the legal framework that eventually brought Nazi war criminals to justice. Powerful stuff, but what did Kate’s book club […]

A powerful and important book, but did East West Street make for good book club discussion? Join us to find out.

17. Dr Fischer of Geneva

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We find out what Kate’s book club made of Dr Fischer of Geneva, or The Bomb Party, by Graham Greene. Alfred Jones, a widower who works as a translator for a chocolate company in Switzerland, meets Anna-Luise Fischer in a restaurant. Despite the difference in their ages the two fall deeply in love. They marry […]

This curious novella from Graham Greene is one of his lesser-known books, but did it give our book club a taste for more?

16. Call Me By Your Name

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Proustian mediatation on love and desire? Atmospheric beach read? What did Laura’s book club make of André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name? First published in 2007 and recently made into an Oscar-nominated film, the story follows 17-year-old Elio’s obsession with charismatic Oliver,  a summer guest at his parents’ cliffside mansion on the Italian Riviera. […]

First published in 2007, the movie adaptation of Andre Aciman's novel Call Me By Your Name put the book on everyone's bedside tables. But for Laura's book club did it live up to the hype? Journalist Phil Chaffee joins us for some suitably steamy discussion.

14. Two Serious Ladies + A Horse Walks Into A Bar

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We debate Two Serious Ladies, the neglected 1940s ‘cult’ classic by Jane Bowles, and David Grossman’s A Horse Walks Into A Bar, which won the 2017 Man Booker International Prize. For our regular interview, we talk to Kat Brown about how she started the Jilly Cooper Book Club. Booklist To The End Of The Land by […]

Do cult classics and funny fiction ever live up to their reputation? We debate the merits of Jane Bowles' strange and unpredictable 1940s novel, as well as David Grossman's award-winning portrait of an Israeli comedian coming apart on stage.

13. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

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When we’re not reading books, what’s our dream publication? A magazine that takes the book club as its form and runs with it. And so it is with great delight we bring you an episode inspired by The Happy Reader, Penguin’s very special publication that has a cult-following amongst those in-the-know. We discuss their winter […]

We go behind the scenes at The Happy Reader magazine and take a look at their book of the season, Russian sci-fi classic We by Yevgeny Zamyatin.

12. All Passion Spent

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We take recommendations from our friend Emily Rhodes of Emily’s Walking Book Club seriously, and so it was with much anticipation Kate’s book club read All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West, one of Emily’s all-time favourite reads. After the death of her husband, Lord Slane, everyone assumes his eighty-eight-year-old widow will slowly fade away in […]

We knew she was good at gardening, but what did we make of Sackville-West as a writer? Kate's book club delve into her novel All Passion Spent to find out.

11. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

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We delve into The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy. Longlisted for the Booker Prize (2017), it didn’t make the shortlist, but did it make for a good book club read? Meanwhile for fans of horror and Halloween enthusiasts alike we meet up with Andy Russell of London’s Horror Book Club to find out […]

The 2007 Booker Prize judges may have overlooked The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy, but did it make for a good book club read?

10. The Snow Leopard

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For Kate’s most recent book club, we set off to the high Himalayas in search of snow leopards and spiritual enlightenment with Peter Matthiessen’s cult classic The Snow Leopard. But what did we make of it? Is it a ‘man’s book’? And did it make for good debate? Meanwhile our regular interview feature sees us […]

Never say we don't read 'man books'. This classic memoir about hiking in the high Himalayas has Kate's book club asking whether spiritual enlightenment and selfishness go hand in hand.

9. This Is London

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When we idly check our podcast stats this is the episode that had been downloaded more than any other. Just what is it about This Is London by Ben Judah that makes people so curious? It’s a spare and unflinching investigation into what life in London can be like for the migrants who make up over […]

This is London? Says who? Ben Judah’s unflinching interviews with some of the immigrants who make up 40% of the city’s population are gripping. But it’s Judah’s own blindspots that have Laura’s book club up in arms.

8. Lincoln in the Bardo

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Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders is a ghostly story that unfolds in a graveyard over the course of a single night. Narrated by a chorus of voices and historical sources, it’s an innovative novel that invites discussion. Listen in to find out what Kate’s book club made of it. We also speak to Michelle and Claire from the […]

Lincoln in the Bardo

The winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize is not for everyone. You either love it. Or you hate it. A cacophony of ghosts narrates this extraordinary story about the death of President Lincoln's young son, Willy.

7. The Underground Railroad

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We find out what Laura’s book club made of The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In this alternate history novel we meet Cora, a young slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia, dreaming of freedom. Learning of the Underground Railroad from Caesar, a newcomer from Virginia, she […]

A real-life railroad, deep underground, helps escaped slaves flee north to safety. That's the historical twist in this Pulitzer-winning page-turner, but it's not the only one. Laura found herself the lone voice of dissent when her book club took this one on.

6. The Prophets of Eternal Fjord

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Kate’s book club read Kim Leine’s historical novel The Prophets of Eternal Fjord and discover they have wildly differing opinions. ‘My front teeth are quite fallen out but for five that dangle like scoundrels of the night from a gallows’ complains the main character, Morten Falck, as we follow his experiences attempting to convert the Inuit to Christianity in late-18th-century […]

A visceral novel that brings home the perils of life in 18th-century Greenland. It's historical fiction unlike anything you'll have read before – but is that such a good thing? Kate thinks so. Get ready for a lively debate.

5. The Trouble with Goats and Sheep

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In this episode Laura’s book club are reading The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon. The novel is set in 1970s England, during an unusually long heatwave. In an ordinary suburban neighbourhood a woman goes missing. For two ten-year-old girls, Grace and Tilly, searching for God is a way to find her and bring […]

Laura's book club curls up with Joanna Cannon's Sunday Times bestselling novel, but is it the 'unique and unforgettable' debut they were expecting? Listen in to find out.

4. Border + Hag-Seed

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Laura’s book club have been reading the travel memoir Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe by Bulgarian emigrée Kapka Kassabova. She explores the borderzone between Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece in the company of border guards and treasure hunters, entrepreneurs and botanists, psychic healers and ritual fire-walkers, refugees and smugglers, and traces the physical and […]

We go wandering through Eastern Europe with Kapka Kassabova as our guide, while Margaret Atwood retells Shakespeare's Tempest with mixed results. Or so Kate thinks, anyway, but her book club don't necessarily agree. Listen in to hear the debate.

3. The Left Hand of Darkness + Secondhand Time

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Can a sci-fi novel make for a good book club book? We find out with The Left-Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin. The novel is set on a planet called Winter where all the inhabitants are all of neutral gender. Much like Earth they are unaware of life in the universe beyond their own planet and so […]

Two potentially challenging books win over our book clubs entirely. Don't be put off by the subject matter. We admit gender-bending fantasy and post-Soviet documentary might sound a bit tricky, but not at all. Let us convince you.

2. The Vegetarian + The Reader

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Kate’s book club picked The Vegetarian, translated by Deborah Smith, as it won the 2016 Booker International Prize. Yeong-hye and her husband are ordinary people. He is an office worker with moderate ambitions and mild manners; she is an uninspired but dutiful wife. The acceptable flatline of their marriage is interrupted when Yeong-hye, seeking a […]

It's a translation treat of an episode, as we delve into Han Kang's The Vegetarian, an unusual tale of a young woman who stops eating meat, and The Reader, the bestseller of yesteryear by Bernhard Schlink. Very different novels. Very different book club discussions? Listen in to find out.

1. The Sellout + Hillbilly Elegy

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It’s two books back to back this week. We begin with The Sellout, Paul Beatty’s satirical novel that won the Booker Prize in 2016. The narrator of The Sellout spent his childhood as the subject in racially charged psychological studies. He is led to believe his father’s pioneering work will result in a memoir that […]

Our book clubs report back on The Sellout, Paul Beatty's Booker winning satire and Hillbilly Elegy, the memoir by J.D. Vance that commentators claimed made sense of the election of Donald Trump. Two politically charged books, but what did our book clubs make of them? Listen in to find out if you should add them to your reading pile.