How to set up your own book group - Cityread London

How to set up your own book group - Cityread London

On sitting down to write a blog post about how to set up your own book group for the wonderful We Love This Book, I rather wonder if I’m preaching to the choir.  It is more than possible that you’re part of one or more book discussion groups, meeting in pubs and libraries or taking part in a group online.

Is there anything more frustrating than reading the final chapter of the book that has consumed you for a fortnight, more often than not way past sensible bedtime, and having no-one to talk it over with?  

Book groups fulfil that need, with thousands already meeting across the country.  The Reading Agency’s Reading Groups for Everyone has started to map them – a great way in making a connection with a group already meeting near you.

I did a bit of internet trawling for some tips for those of you who might want to start your own book group. 

Radio 4 suggests “Monthly meetings work well because it gives everyone a chance to get hold of the book, or find it in the library, and to read it, no matter how slow a reader.”  To this point I’d like to add – most libraries will be able to provide sets of up to ten books to sort out your whole group. You don’t have to meet in the library, but will probably need a library card to get started. also has some great advice about creating a convivial atmosphere – wine might indeed act as a catalyst for discussion - and setting some rules from the outset.

But if that still sounds a little daunting, Cityread London is the perfect opportunity to strip the book group down to its most basic – for our 2014 title we’ve chosen Louisa Young’s First World War novel, My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You – and it’s a book that insists you talk about it to whoever will listen.  Maybe for April, instead of setting out to start a book group, you ask your dad, colleagues, bezzie mates or school-gate parents to give My Dear a go.  You can pick up a copy or download a free ebook from your library, or a bookshop.  Or, for those who need a bit more encouragement to get reading, a free, downloadable, thirty-page sampler created by HarperCollins and Quick Reads.

Your Cityread ‘book group’ can be as big or a small as you want it to be – a chat about characters over the washing-line, or a discussion about the birth of maxillofacial surgery over post-office drinks. And if the book piques your interest (I think it definitely will!), you can take part at one of our 700+ events, taking place across all 33 London boroughs this April.

Museums, book shops, cinemas and - first and foremost - London’s libraries come together for a month to bring reading to life, to celebrate our city and to explore our heritage.  We don’t just ask you to read the book – we want you to live it! 

I launched the first Cityread London in 2012 as part of the global Dickens bicentenary celebrations - our chosen book was the London classic, Oliver Twist. I’d always looked slightly enviously to similar campaigns in Dublin, Brighton and the States, and really wanted to create a literature festival for London that was inclusive, that created lots of ways in to reading for people who might think its not for them. It was also really important to me that libraries took centre stage. We are now about to launch our third Cityread, still with all 33 London library services hosting a huge programme of events in every corner of the capital.

This year, our programme includes free, pop-up immersive theatre events, devised by the magnificent Look Left Look Right; Music Hall performance and First World War sweets at our free family day at Museum of London Docklands on 5 April; kids comic book workshops on propaganda in libraries across the city; plus panel discussions, film screenings, writer workshops and more.

Read My Dear I Wanted to Tell You with Cityread London this April, meet Louisa at one of our events, then swing by our Facebook page or find us on Twitter and tell us what you think. We’d love to hear from you.