Jenna Todd knows of one book club that broke up over Christos Tsiolkas’s novel The Slap. “It was just like, ‘Well, if you like this book then obviously we shouldn’t be in the same book club.’” Todd’s own book club will be joining with the about-to-be-launched New Zealand Listener Book Club to talk about our first selection, SJ Watson’s literary thriller Before I Go to Sleep (Text, $26), about an amnesiac wife who starts to discover discrepancies in what her husband tells her about her past. Who knows whether it will prove as divisive as The Slap?
Todd, 26, manager of Time Out Bookstore in Auckland’s Mt Eden, remembers always finding herself “in bars and other places talking to people about books, and thinking, ‘Oh gosh, we should have a book club.’ So I just started one.”
The Listener Book Club, in association with Booksellers New Zealand and supported by Creative New Zealand, is for people who similarly always find themselves talking about books (although not necessarily in bars), as well as those who crave a chance to talk about them but just don’t get one. The club launches on Friday, March 2, in our print edition of the magazine (which goes out to Auckland subscribers on that day) and online at this website.
Each month will feature four weeks of activity, beginning with an author interview about the book. The next Friday there will be an online podcast discussion of the book with booksellers around the country (for the first one, Carole Beu of the Women’s Bookshop in Auckland, David Hedley of Hedleys Booksellers in Masterton and Kiran Dass of Unity
Books in Wellington). The following Friday will see an online discussion of the book, featuring one of New Zealand’s hundreds of book clubs. To wind up, we will be running a reviewer’s take on the book in the magazine and online, as well as an online roundup of the comments received throughout the month on our website and via the club’s Twitter account (@nzlbookclub). In that final week, we will also be announcing the following month’s book.
The books we feature will include both fiction and non-fiction, mostly new but sometimes older, and a mix of New Zealand and overseas titles. For New Zealand books, we will where possible include a podcast of the writer reading from it. The club is being supported by independent booksellers, where you will be able to find each month’s book clearly promoted with the club’s distinctive livery. Please read the books and join the conversation on our website and Twitter (follow our account and keep an eye out for the hashtag #nzlbookclub). Our mission is to always choose books that will give you plenty to think and talk about.
Watson’s internationally bestselling Before I Go to Sleep is an edge-of-your-seat, fiendishly cleverly constructed first novel that raises thought-provoking questions about the nature of memory, imagination, love and identity – what it means to be a human rather than an animal. In his native UK, it won Watson the Crime Writers’ Association’s John Creasey New Blood Dagger and the Galaxy National Book Award for Crime Thriller of the Year, and it was one of the Listener’s 100 Best Books of 2011. Were we right? The book is newly available as a B-format paperback and e-book, and is awaiting your attention.
See you on March 2 to start talking about it.
Guy Somerset is the Listener’s Arts & Books editor. You can follow him on Twitter at @GuySomerset.