My Critical Reading Group

If you enjoy reading and discussing what you have read but haven’t enough time to plough through a whole novel, you’ll love this group. Unlike a traditional book group, it’s writer-led and there’s no homework (except for me!). I bring photocopies of a couple of short, self-contained texts – stories, poems, sometimes essays (not my own work) – for everyone and read them out aloud before we explore them in depth.

I set up my group in 2015, under the auspices of the Royal Literary Fund. For the past year I’ve been running it on a private basis. It’s still going strong, thanks to a wonderful hardcore of original members – including our mascot, my retriever Leila – and many lovely newcomers (and perhaps thanks to the lure of coffee, tea and biscuits, celebratory croissants and cheesecake). We’re all passionate about the written word and keen to expand our reading horizons. We laugh, we cry, we’re stunned into silence. We agree, we disagree. We agree to disagree. We have fun. Lots of fun.

By now we must have read well over a hundred texts by authors as diverse as Sherman Alexie, Donald Barthelme, Lucia Berlin, T C Boyle, Ray Bradbury, James Lee Burke, J M Coetzee, Annie Dillard, Anne Enright, Ernest Hemingway, Ted Hughes, Liz Lochhead, Norman MacCaig, David Malouf, Lorrie Moore, Edwin Morgan, Alice Oswald, Grace Paley, Jean Rhys, Ali Smith, Muriel Spark, William Trevor, John Updike, Joy Williams, Tobias Wolff, to name but a few.

Our discussions range far and wide. We consider why an author uses a particular word, sentence structure, overall structure, voice, point of view or image; whether a phrase/sentence/paragraph could be cut or edited; what the effect is on the reader. Of course, we also talk about the themes and issues raised, and share the occasional personal anecdote.

So, next time you’re passing Boroughloch Lane off the Meadows in Edinburgh, watch out – the uproarious laughter from our meeting room could trip you up in mid-stride!

  • The Royal Literary Fund calls this fantastic reading-group project ‘Reading Round’. You can learn more about it here:
  • If you’re interested in my group, just drop me an email.

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