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Illustration: Dave Bain

Brilliant book clubs in London

Have a natter over literature with other budding bookworms at these brilliant book clubs across the capital

By Alexandra Sims
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Tired of solo Kindle sessions? Gather with other bookworms across the capital at one of London’s many book clubs and groups. Whether you’re into dystopian fiction, music biographies, translated texts, radical history or want to read works by black female writers there’s a group out there with stimulating conversation to suit every kind of lit lover. Here’s our pick of the best places to natter over literature in the capital. 

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Brilliant book clubs in London

20150221 Books
20150221 Books
Photograph: Caligula1995/ Flickr

Best for champions of black women writers

In less than three years, Black Girls Book Club has grown from a brunch where women of colour gathered to chat books over mimosas into mammoth events. Their talks and debates have taken place at venues like the Houses of Parliament and included icons like Roxane Gay and Malorie Blackman. Set up by best friends Melissa Cummings-Quarry and Natalie A Carter, it flouts the rules of conventional lit events, ditching panel talks for author Q&As and even raves, all the while decolonising the bookshelf and creating a safe space for Black women to connect over books.

Illustration: Dave Bain

Best for left-leaning readers

Launched by lefty publisher Victor Gollancz in 1936, the Left Book Club has since been rebooted for the twenty-first century and counts Jeremy Corbyn among its fans. Each title, usually non-fiction  about radical politics, is selected by an expert panel. If you like, you can start up a group in your own area – and get a free tote as a thank you. Find out more here

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Photograph: Courtesy of Books without Boarders

Best for those who want variety

Don’t limit your literary horizons to great American novels and the British canon. Whether it’s a bit of Nordic noir or classic Korean fiction, this collective is entirely focused on international and translated reads. After a few sessions you’ll be able to impress your mates with obscure book suggestions of your own. Next event: Deepa Anappara’s ‘Djinn Control’. Location revealed to members of Books Without Borders Meetup page. Sun Mar 8. Free.

Illustration: Dave Bain

Best for archive diggers

Can’t keep up with the ‘cover reveals’ flooding your Instagram feed? Take time out from the onslaught of new publications by reading lesser-known works from big-time authors like Toni Morrison or one-time hits that fell out of public consciousness like Vera Caspary’s ‘Laura’ at the Forgotten Fiction book club. Don’t expect anything that was on your GCSE English reading list. Next event: Waterstones Gower St. Tube: Goodge St. Mar 25. £8 incl free cocktail.

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Illustration: Dave Bain

Best for radical self care

On the third Thursday of the month, a collective of black women (trans, intersex and cis) meet among the shelves of Housmans to discuss black feminist literature at the Self-Care as an Act of Warfare: A Black Woman’s Reading Group. The bookshop stocks the largest range of radical pamphlets of any shop in Britain, so expect to leave with a bag stuffed full of protest flyers. Next event: Housmans Bookshop. Tube: King’s Cross. Mar 19. Free, email in advance.

Best for those who want more than a book club

Literature and plays by African, Caribbean and Afro-Latinx authors are the focus of Okha: The Queer + Black Book Club. Okha means story or tales in the Edo language of Nigeria. It’s more than a book club, mixing it up with art exhibitions and Q&As. Next on  the agenda is ‘Sista!’, an anthology of writing by same-gender-loving women of African and Caribbean descent. Next event: see www.instagram.com/prim.black for info.

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Illustration: Dave Bain

Best for political history buffs

Every month the Radical Readers gather at The Meeting House in Newington Green to read works by revolutionary figures associated with the building. It’s having a refurb, so they’ve decamped to The Alma pub in Islington. Free copies of the upcoming book are provided at every meeting, so there’s no excuse not to keep up. Next event: ‘Unitarian Women: A Legacy of Dissent’, edited by Ann Peart. The Alma. Canonbury Overground. Mar 10. Free.

Illustration: Dave Bain

Best for lovers of dystopian fiction

If you’re the kind of person that has a zombie apocalypse contingency plan tacked to your wall, then the Post Apocalyptic Book Club, a literary league focusing on decaying civilisations, will be right up your tumbleweed-strewn street. The group’s been meeting at the Star of Kings pub for more than a decade. If ‘Shaun of the Dead’ is anything to go by, the best way to tackle dystopian scenarios is from the inside of a bar. Next event: Vicki Jarrett’s ‘Always North’.  Star of Kings. Tube: King’s Cross. Mar 31. Free.

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Illustration: Dave Bain

Best for those who want to argue about Marx

Want to relive your uni seminars? The London Marxism
Reading Group
is 
dedicated to the father of socialism promises intense debates but no exams. Time to lecture your Hinge matches on late capitalism. Next event: see www.facebook.com/londonmarxism

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