Today I joined a book group

My name is Gemma and I’m a reading addict, so I have joined a support group. Well, I’ve joined Bee’s Bookshare in Margate, which I reckon will be kind of the same thing.

I love reading. When I’m organised, I can easily read a book a week, if not more. I achieve this by being generally antisocial (reading while eating, reading while travelling) and it makes me happy. It’s escapism and it slows my busy brain. But, I’m not an intellectual reader and I can’t abide any kind of book snobbery, so in the same way that I had avoided literary events until I got involved in the Margate Bookie, I steered clear of book groups assuming they would be for more highbrow readers.

Why would I give up an evening to plough through a set text that didn’t appeal to me when I could spend an evening on the sofa (or even better, in bed) with a book I couldn’t put down? Then I met Bryony Bishop.

Bryony started Bee’s Bookshare back in 2012 when she realised there were no book groups in her hometown of Margate. Like me, she didn’t fancy the idea of members reading the same book and then dissecting it by way of a group discussion. Instead, the Booksharers each bring a book they have loved, hated, struggled to get into or devoured in a single sitting and pass it on to someone else to try.

I arrived at Radio Margate, where the group meets every other month, with a copy of Galina Petrovna’s Three-Legged Dog Story, by Andrea Bennett in my bag. It’s a delightful tale of a group of spirited older people in Russia, who are trying to save an unfortunate dog from their town’s scowling and sweaty animal exterminator – a bonkers but touching tale of relationships. I chose this book because I had enjoyed it but also because Andrea is a local author, and that felt like a fitting offering for my first Bookshare. The person who took it home had a past connection to Andrea, remembered her talking about wanting to write a book but hadn’t read her work.

I nabbed Eizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, which tells the story of a supposed missing person from the perspective of an older lady with dementia. Despite the hype and awards it attracted at the time it was published, it had passed me by.

It was fascinating to hear people describe what they had been reading – everything from American classics to mass-marketed thrillers, biographies to cosy crime. The selection of books on offer today included thought-provoking reads which touched on sensitive social issues, real and imagined lives, and great humour. For me, the insights of the Booksharers were far more helpful than reviews you might read online or in a magazine, and the conversation flowed, rather than being forced by a list of pre-circulated questions.

In summary, it appears my addiction to books will continue abound, but I’m definitely in good company.

For info: The next Bee’s Bookshare is on Sunday 30 September at Beet Bar. It’s being run in conjunction with the Margate Bookie and author Elise Valmorbida will join the group to discuss and read from her latest novel The Madonna of the Mountains.

[Image kindly shared by Bryony Bishop]

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