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The Next Best Thing

I am delighted about the return of TV Book Club. It is wonderful that time has been found in the programming schedule for a series dedicated to the love of reading. And I would watch it – I really would – if it weren’t such a chore.

What a pity that, with such a seemingly impressive panel, the show fails to ignite the imagination. I would go ask far as to suggest that Jo Brand looks – and sounds – bored. That may be enormously unfair. Perhaps I am expecting her on-screen persona rather than Jo Brand the reader. But we are competing with the attractions of gaming and slick TV drama. The show needs to deliver. The wasted opportunity leaves me seething. TV Book Club shouldn’t just be worthy, something we feel we should lend our support to: it should be wonderful.  I can’t help but wonder what Gareth Malone would do to the format if he got his hands on it. Throw Chris Evans, purveyor of joy; Broadcaster, Bettany Hughes, who suceeded in making the history of the Bible sexy; and if it’s dry wit you’re after, add Clive James or Ian Hislop. ‘There are winners, no doubt: the authors whose books are featured receive an enormous amount of additional advertising as Waterstones and W H Smiths set up TV Book Club display stands. But, sadly, not the show’s audience.

The Radio Times suggested that, if you don’t have time to join a book club, this might be the next best thing. As someone who has been a guest speaker at many local book clubs, I tell you this: it isn’t. All over the country, there are small groups of truly inspirational people who make time in their otherwise hectic lives to get together over a glass (or two) of wine and discuss their thoughts about a book that they have chosen. I often hear the phrase, ‘Hang on a minute, did we read the same thing?’ But that is precisely the point. In sharing the words of another, we all bring to the table our own experiences and different starting points, and therefore, our interpretations, may be very varied. 

My advice: find a book club and join it. If the groups I have attended are anything to go by, you will discover far more than a common love of reading.