- IoI Forum
- IoI Book Club
- Venue: London
- Date: Ongoing
The Institute of Ideas Book Club meets monthly in central London and is open to all IoI associates. Meetings are usually on a Tuesday from 7-9pm. We discuss contemporary fiction and the social and political issues that this fiction touches upon.
Books previously discussed by the club are: On Beauty (Zadie Smith), The Seymour Tapes (Tim Lott), The Sea (John Banville), The Night Watch (Sarah Waters), Cell (Stephen King), The Plot against America (Philip Roth), Small Island (Andrea Levy), The History of Love (Nicole Krauss), Labyrinth (Kate Mosse), Mailman (Robert Lennon), Saturday (Ian McEwan); Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro); Notes on a Scandal (Zoe Heller); The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown); Oracle Night (Paul Auster); Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood); Death and the Penguin (Andrey Kurkov); Star of the Sea (Joseph O’Connor); Judge Savage (Tim Parks); The Book Against God (James Wood); Snow (Orhan Pamuk); Vernon God Little (DBC Pierre); Millennium People (JG Ballard); State of Fear (Michael Crichton) and Everything is Illuminated (Jonathan Safran Foer).
The IoI BookClub is open to IoI associates. If you do not regularly attend the BookClub and would like to come along please email Geoff Kidder. There is a £5 charge for room hire. Any queries please call Geoff on (020) 7269 9224.
Forthcoming Book Clubs
Monday 15 April 2013
Neil Davenport will introduce NW by Zadie Smith.
Zadie Smith's brilliant tragi-comic NW follows four Londoners - Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan - after they've left their childhood council estate, grown up and moved on to different lives. From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, their city is brutal, beautiful and complicated. Yet after a chance encounter they each find that the choices they've made, the people they once were and are now, can suddenly, rapidly unravel. A portrait of modern urban life, NW is funny, sad and urgent - as brimming with vitality as the city itself. Read Neil's review
Previous Book Clubs
Tuesday 5 February 2013
Rob Killick will introduce Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel.
Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2012.
With this historic win for Bring up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel becomes the first British author and the first woman to be awarded two Man Booker Prizes, as well as being the first to win with two consecutive novels. Continuing what began in the Man Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall, we return to the court of Henry VIII, to witness the irresistible rise of Thomas Cromwell as he contrives the destruction of Anne Boleyn.
By 1535 Cromwell is Chief Minister to Henry, his fortunes having risen with those of Anne Boleyn. But the split from the Catholic Church has left England dangerously isolated, and Anne has failed to give the king an heir. Cromwell watches as Henry falls for plain Jane Seymour. Negotiating the politics of the court, Cromwell must find a solution that will satisfy Henry, safeguard the nation and secure his own career. But neither minister nor king will emerge unscathed from the bloody theatre of Anne’s final days.
Wednesday 2 May 2012
Jane Sandeman will introduce The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt.
Oregon, 1851. Eli and Charlie Sisters, notorious professional killers, are on their way to California to kill a man named Hermann Kermit Warm. On the way, the brothers have a series of unsettling and violent experiences in the Darwinian landscape of Gold Rush America. Charlie makes money and kills anyone who stands in his way; Eli doubts his vocation and falls in love. And they bicker a lot. Then they get to California, and discover that Warm is an inventor who has come up with a magical formula, which could make all of them very rich. What happens next is utterly gripping, strange and sad.
Tuesday 28 February 2012
David Bowden will introduce The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides.
Are the great love stories of the nineteenth century dead? Or can there be a new story, written for today and alive to the realities of feminism, sexual freedom, prenups, and divorce? With devastating wit and an abiding understanding of and affection for his characters, Jeffrey Eugenides revives the motivating energies of the novel, while creating a story so contemporary and fresh that it reads like the intimate journal of our own lives.
Tuesday 17 January 2012
Penny Matheson will introduce the Man Booker Prize winning novel The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes.
Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life. Now Tony is in middle age. He's had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He's certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer's letter is about to prove.
Tuesday 20 September 2011
Neil Davenport will introduce Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada.
Berlin, 1940, and the city is filled with fear. At the house on 55 Jablonski Strasse, its various occupants try to live under Nazi rule in their different ways: the bullying Hitler loyalists the Persickes, the retired judge Fromm and the unassuming couple Otto and Anna Quangel. Then the Quangels receive the news that their beloved son has been killed fighting in France. Shocked out of their quiet existence, they begin a silent campaign of defiance, and a deadly game of cat and mouse develops between the Quangels and the ambitious Gestapo inspector Escherich. When petty criminals Kluge and Borkhausen also become involved, deception, betrayal and murder ensue, tightening the noose around the Quangels' necks...
Tuesday 7 June 2011
Brid Hehir introduced Brooklyn by Colm Toibin.
It is Ireland in the early 1950s and for Eilis Lacey, as for so many young Irish girls, opportunities are scarce. So when her sister arranges for her to emigrate to New York, Eilis knows she must go, leaving behind her family and her home for the first time. Arriving in a crowded lodging house in Brooklyn, Eilis can only be reminded of what she has sacrificed. She is far from home – and homesick. And just as she takes tentative steps towards friendship, and perhaps something more, Eilis receives news which sends her back to Ireland. There she will be confronted by a terrible dilemma – a devastating choice between duty and one great love.
Tuesday 29 March 2011
Richard Stubbs introduced Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
A father and his son walk alone through burned America, heading through the ravaged landscape to the coast. This is the profoundly moving story of their journey. The Road boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which two people, ‘each the other’s world entire’, are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.
Tuesday 8 February 2011
Brenda Stones introduced American Rust by Philipp Meyer
Set in a beautiful but dying Pennsylvania steel town, American Rust is a novel of the lost American dream and the desperation that arises from its loss. It is the story of two young men bound to the town by family, responsibility, inertia and the beauty around them who dream of a future beyond the factories, abandoned homes, and the polluted river. Isaac is the smartest kid in town, left behind to care for his sick father after his mother commits suicide and his sister Lee moves away. Now Isaac wants out too. Not even his best friend, Billy Poe, can stand in his way: broad-shouldered Billy, always ready for a fight, still living in his mother's trailer. Then, on the very day of Isaac's leaving, something happens that changes the friends' fates and tests the loyalties of their friendship and those of their lovers, families, and the town itself. Evoking John Steinbeck's novels of restless lives during the Great Depression, American Rust is an extraordinarily moving novel about the bleak realities that battle our desire for transcendence, and the power of love and friendship to redeem us.
Tuesday 14 December 2010
We discussed The Weekend by Bernard Schlink.
Old friends and lovers reunite for a weekend in a secluded country home after spending decades apart. They plumb their memories of each other and pass quiet judgments on the life decisions each has made since their youth. This isn't, however, just any old reunion, and their conversations of the old days aren't typical reminiscences. After 24 years, Joerg - a convicted murderer and terrorist, is released from prison on a pardon. A former member of the Red Army Faction (or Baader-Meinhof Group), the announcement of Joerg's release is sure to send shock waves throughout Germany. But before this happens, his group of friends - most of whom were RAF sympathizers - gather for his first weekend of freedom. They are invited by Christiane, Joerg's devoted sister, whose suffocating concern for her brother is matched only by the unrelenting pull of Marcko, a dangerously passionate young man intent on using Joerg to continue the cause.
Tuesday 10 August 2010
Helen Birtwistle introduced Solar by Ian McEwan.
Tuesday 11 May 2010
Nathalie Rothschild introduced The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.
Tuesday 2 February 2010
Penny Matheson introduced Home by Marilynne Robinson
Wednesday 25 November 2009
Angus Kennedy introduced The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize
Tuesday 8 September 2009
David Bowden introduced Something To Tell You by Hanif Kureishi
Tuesday 7 July 2009
Jane Sandeman introduced Netherland by Joseph O’Neill
Joseph O’Neill’s critically acclaimed novel is currently being read by President Obama. Is it really a great modern novel or just the latest fashion? How can a novel about a Dutchman playing cricket in America capture the contemporary mood?
Tuesday 19 May 2009
Shirley Dent introduced The Broken Word by Adam Foulds
Set in Kenya in the 1950s, The Broken Word is a poetic sequence that animates and illuminates a dark, terrifying period in British colonial history. Written with rigour, intelligence, and a fierce, unsparing clarity, this is profound, lyrical work with that rare confidence and thrilling originality that announce the arrival of a significant new voice.
Tuesday 31 March
Ed Barrett introduced The Damned United by David Peace.
Overachieving and eccentric football manager Brian Clough was on his way to take over at the country's most successful, and most reviled, football club: Leeds United, home to a generation of fiercely competitive but ageing players. The battle he'd face there would make or break the club - or him. David Peace's extraordinarily inventive novel tells the story of a world characterised by fear of failure and hunger for success set in the bleak heart of the 1970s. The film of the book is due to be released on 27 March 2009.
Tuesday 3 February
Brenda Stones will introduce The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell.
Set between the 1930s,and the present, Maggie O'Farrell's new novel is the story of Esme, a woman edited out of her family's history, and of the secrets that come to light when, sixty years later, she is released from care, and a young woman, Iris, discovers the great aunt she never knew she had. The mystery that unfolds is the heartbreaking tale of two sisters in colonial India and 1930s Edinburgh - of the loneliness that binds them together and the rivalries that drive them apart, and lead one of them to a shocking betrayal - but above all it is the story of Esme, a fiercely intelligent, unconventional young woman, and of the terrible price she is made to pay for her family's unhappiness. This is vintage Maggie O'Farrell: an impassioned, intense, haunting family drama - a stunning imagining of a life stolen, and reclaimed.
Tuesday 2 December
Patrick Hayes will introduce the 2008 Man Booker Prize winner The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.
Tuesday 23 September
Sara Hinchliffe introduced The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen.
Nine-year-old Louis Drax is a problem child: bright, precocious, deceitful, and dangerously, disturbingly, accident prone. When he falls off a cliff into a ravine, the accident seems almost predestined. Louis miraculously survives - but the family has been shattered. Louis' father has vanished, his mother is paralysed by shock, and Louis lies in a deep coma from which he may never emerge. In a clinic in Provence, Dr Pascal Dannachet tries to coax Louis back to consciousness. But the boy defies medical logic, startling Dannachet out of his safe preconceptions, and drawing him inexorably into the dark heart of Louis' buried world.
Why is this dark tale of family life so compelling? Is it just well written or has Jensen managed to tap into the zeitgeist and reflect our own fears?
Tuesday 8 July
Shirley Dent introduced Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris.
They spend their days - and too many of their nights - at work. Away from friends and family, they share a stretch of stained carpet with a group of strangers they call colleagues. There's Chris Yop, clinging to his ergonomic chair; Lynn Mason, the boss, whose breast cancer everyone pretends not to talk about; Carl Garbedian, secretly taking someone else's medication; Marcia Dwyer, whose hair is stuck in the eighties; and Benny, who's just - well, just Benny. Amidst the boredom, redundancies, water cooler moments, meetings, flirtations and pure rage, life is happening, to their great surprise, all around them. Then We Came to the End is about sitting all morning next to someone you cross the road to avoid at lunch. It's the story of your life and mine.
Wednesday 7 May
Timandra Harkness introduced Digging to America by Anne Tyler.
Friday August 15th, 1997 - The night the girls arrived, two tiny Korean babies are delivered to Baltimore to two families who have no more in common than this. First there are the Donaldsons, decent Brad and homespun, tenacious Bitsy (with her 'more organic than thou' airs, who believes fervently that life can always be improved), two full sets of grandparents and a host of big-boned, confident relatives, taking delivery with characteristic American razzmatazz. Then there are the Yazdans, pretty, nervous Ziba (her family 'only one generation removed from the bazaar') and carefully assimilated Sami, with his elegant, elusive Iranian-born widowed mother Maryam, the grandmother-to-be, receiving their little bundle with wondering discretion. Full of achingly hilarious moments and toe-curling misunderstandings, "Digging to America" is a novel with a deceptively small domestic canvas, and subtly large themes - it's about belonging and otherness, about insiders and outsiders, pride and prejudice, young love and unexpected old love, families and the impossibility of ever getting it right, about striving for connection and goodness against all the odds. And the end catches you by the throat, ambushes your emotions when you least expect it, as only Tyler can.
Digging to America reviewed on Culture Wars
Tuesday 18 March
David Bowden will introduce Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones.
Bougainville. 1991. A small village on a lush tropical island in the South Pacific. Eighty-six days have passed since Matilda's last day of school as, quietly, war is encroaching from the other end of the island. When the villagers' safe, predictable lives come to a halt, Bougainville's children are surprised to find the island's only white man, a recluse, re-opening the school. Pop Eye, aka Mr Watts, explains he will introduce the children to Mr Dickens. Matilda and the others think a foreigner is coming to the island and prepare a list of much needed items. They are shocked to discover their acquaintance with Mr Dickens will be through Mr Watts' inspiring reading of Great Expectations. But on an island at war, the power of fiction has dangerous consequences. Imagination and beliefs are challenged by guns. Mister Pip is an unforgettable tale of survival by story; a dazzling piece of writing that lives long in the mind after the last page is finished.
Mister Pip reviewed on Culture Wars
Tuesday 22 January
Brendan O'Neill, editor of spiked, will introduce the Booker Prize shortlisted The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid.
At a cafe table in Lahore, a Pakistani man begins the tale that has led to his fateful meeting with an uneasy American stranger...Changez is living an immigrant's dream of America. He thrives on the energy of New York, his work at an elite firm, and his budding relationship. For a time, it seems that nothing will stand in the way of his meteoric rise to success. But in the wake of September 11, Changez finds his relationship crumbling and his exalted status overturned. Allegiances are subsequently unearthed, proving themselves more fundamental than money, power and maybe even love.
Tuesday 20 November
The Book Club will discuss Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
The sweeping novel from the author of 'Purple Hibiscus' won the Orange Prize and Commonwealth Writers Award. This highly anticipated novel from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is set in Nigeria during the 1960s, at the time of a vicious civil war in which a million people died and thousands were massacred in cold blood. The three main characters in the novel are swept up in the violence during these turbulent years. One is a young boy from a poor village who is employed at a university lecturer's house. The other is a young middle-class woman, Olanna, who has to confront the reality of the massacre of her relatives. And the third is a white man, a writer who lives in Nigeria for no clear reason, and who falls in love with Olanna's twin sister, a remote and enigmatic character. As these people's lives intersect, they have to question their own responses to the unfolding political events. This extraordinary novel is about Africa in a wider sense: about moral responsibility, about the end of colonialism, about ethnic allegiances, about class and race; and about the ways in which love can complicate all of these things.
Tuesday 18 September 2007
Brenda Stones introduced Restless by William Boyd.
It is 1939. Eva Delectorskaya is a beautiful 28-year-old Russian emigree living in Paris. As war breaks out she is recruited for the British Secret Service by Lucas Romer, a mysterious Englishman, and under his tutelage she learns to become the perfect spy, to mask her emotions and trust no one, including those she loves most. Since the war, Eva has carefully rebuilt her life as a typically English wife and mother. But once a spy, always a spy. Now she must complete one final assignment, and this time Eva can't do it alone: she needs her daughter's help.
Tuesday 17 July 2007
Martin Summers introduced A State of Denmark by Derek Raymond.
This book breaks our Book Club rules for only discussing contemporary fiction. Originally published in 1970 and republished this year, it has been argued that A State of Denmark contains a more insightful account of modern Britain than much contemporary fiction. See what you think?
England has become a dictatorship, governed by a sly, ruthless politician called Jobling. All non-whites have been deported, "The English Times" is the only newspaper, and ordinary people live in dread of nightly curfews and secret police. Richard Watt used all his journalistic talents to expose Jobling before he came to power. Now in exile in a farmhouse amid the cruel heat of the Italian countryside, Watt cultivates his vineyards. His remote rural idyll is shattered by the arrival of an emissary from London. Derek Raymond's skill is to make all too plausible the transition from complacent democracy to dictatorship in a country preoccupied by consumerism and susceptible to media spin.
Tuesday 5 June 2007
Ion Martea introduced On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
Listen to Ion's introduction:
Tuesday 8 May 2007
Helen Birtwistle introduced The Secret River by Kate Grenville.
Tuesday 3 April 2007
Tuesday 20 February
Martin Summers introduced Everyman by Philip Roth.
Listen to Martin's introduction in streaming media:
Tuesday 16 January
Ion Martea introduced Without Blood by Alessandro Baricco.
Listen to Ion's introduction:
Monday 20 November
Dr Peter Martin introduced Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany
Tuesday 25 July
Josie Appleton introduced 'The Sea' by John Banville, the winner of 2005 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
Tuesday 13 June
We discussed 'The Night Watch' by Sarah Waters.