Despite the demands of modern life and the distractions of social media, many people still love nothing better than curling up with a good book. The benefits of reading are well documented - reading can reduce stress and give the brain a good workout as it processes the many strands of a story.
A good way to get yourself reading or push the boundaries of your literary tastes is to join a book club. Barrow Book Club is a friendly and active group that meets at the Hunting Lodge, Sileby Road, on the last Monday of every month at 7pm. You meet people with a common interest, whether you’re a bookworm or occasional reader.
Group co-ordinator Lucy Elms says each month, everyone reads the same book, then it is discussed at the meeting and rated.
“The reading list is planned six months in advance and members recommend titles. This means that sometimes we read books we would not normally read. Discussions are very informal and it is a social occasion where we talk books and chat over drinks or coffee.”
The book under discussion at the January meeting was Hilary Mantel’s Bring up the Bodies, the second in a planned trilogy on the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, minister in the court of Henry V111.
Some loved it, others didn’t finish it. The February read was The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman.
I asked some members about their favourite books.
Laura Pearson’s was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, which she first read as a teenager at school. “I’ve probably read it a handful of times since. It's about race, courage, empathy and injustice and it always makes me cry.”
Pat Moore, a founder member, said her top pick was Dominion by C J Sansom.
“It is set in post-war Britain, based on the theory of what would have happened if Britain had not won WWII. It is powerful, intriguing and very atmospheric. Chris Cleave, another favourite, writes good page-turners and for classics you can't fault the Brontes.”
Lucy’s favourite was Atonement by Ian McEwan.
“Set in the 1940s, it follows the members of a wealthy family who witness a series of incidents but all interpret them in different ways. This has a catastrophic impact on two of the characters, whose lives take a turn for the worse. It has some romance but the suspense keeps the reader hanging until the very end. I have read it at least five times!”
Some readers, like Pat, prefer hard copies to digital downloads. She enjoys the visual look of the book, the reviews and facts about the author.
Laura, however, loves the Kindle and having 500 books in her handbag!
Lucy became a convert to Kindle when travelling and didn’t want to carry heavy books. However, despite this group’s obvious love of the written word, many people in Britain do not read. A survey by Booktrust, Britain’s biggest reading charity, showed that nearly one fifth of people in the UK never read or buy a book, 27% said they preferred the internet and social media to reading books and in the 18 to 30 age group, that figure rose to 56%.
Among those who did read, however, three-quarters said it improved their lives and made them feel better. Onethird said they read every day and, among readers, the average number of books owned was 200.
When do busy people find the time? Laura, a mother of two and part-time copywriter, says she read 52 books last year, despite having a newborn and health problems. She also listens to audiobooks while doing chores. Lucy takes the train to work and reads her Kindle at the station and on the train. If you’re a reader, you will find the time to read, no matter how busy life is.
For more information or to join the club, email Lucy on firstname.lastname@example.org or see the Facebook page.