Saturday, 9 April 2011

U3A Monday Reading Group

You may have noticed that I've added a new tab at the top of the page for my Monday afternoon reading group and I thought you might like to know a bit about us and the type of book that we read.

As the tab says we meet under the auspices of the University of the Third Age, which you may know is a world wide organisation through which people who for the most part are either retired or semi-retired come together to self-educate. Branches vary in size. My local group is around the 200 mark, but there are others which are smaller and others that are as big as 1400 or 1500. The study groups available will depend on the interests of the individual branch members and the expertise within the group in terms of people who can lead the learning. In my case I belong to the history and music groups in addition to the reading group and I teach two Shakespeare classes as well as running a literature Summer School each year.

I belong to three different reading groups, but this is the one that most makes me think. Almost all of the members have been English teachers up to at least 'A' level standard and all of them are really really intelligent readers. I learn so much just from talking with them about the books we choose to read. I love our Monday afternoons and always come home with my mind buzzing with new ideas.

Our group was set up to read award winners and for the past three or four years that is what we have done, choosing from amongst the Booker, Pulitzer, Orange, Costa, Commonwealth and Dagger Lists. Given the amount of 'bashing' that goes on after any prize is awarded, it's interesting that in all that time there has only been one book that we have unanimously agreed should never have had a sniff at any award. I probably ought not to say what that was in case the author is reading. I've been caught out that way before.

Despite our having so few failures, at our last meeting we decided that we would like to spread our nets a little wider and acknowledge the fact that in many instances there have been other books on short lists that have been every bit as deserving of the award as the title that actually won. So, with that in mind, we have been studying the runners-up for the Booker and I suspect that this is a project that will keep us busy for the next couple of years, if not longer. May is a special meeting because we have specifically been asked to read Iris Murdoch's The Bell. As we take a break in August, for the moment we have just selected titles for June and July, Penelope Fitzgerald's The Bookshop and Kazuo Ishiguro's When We Were Orphans. But before we break up for the summer we will decide what were going to read through the winter and I will post our choices here.

If you have any favourites that you know have run the Booker winners close and which you would like to recommend then we are always open to suggestions. What do you think we should read over the coming months? Or, if you are brave enough, are there any you think we should definitely avoid?



  1. I'd heard of U3A, but didn't really know what it was about... until now :)

  2. Oh what a tease! I would love to know which author did so badly :) Your group sounds great. From various things you have posted, it sounds like you are involved in lots of groups and discussions, and it all sounds very enjoyable!

  3. I stopped by your blog today. Sounds like you have a good group.

  4. Hi Annie,

    Many of the volunteers a my local hospice shop, where I also volunteer, belong to the U3A.

    The shop is in Warminster, Wiltshire, which seems to have a thriving community, with many active groups and a long waiting list.

    As membership is defined strictly by postcode, living over the Somerset border in a BA11 postcode and not BA12, I have been reliably informed, that I am unable to join their group.

    The local branch to me, based in Midsomer Norton/Radstock, Somerset, is not nearly as large, has very few groups and a very 'clicky' much smaller membership.

    Don't think I shall bother!!


  5. I love the sound of your group. More challenging books, which award winners often are, are great to read along with others. I used to be in a local book group and we did the same--took the summer months off but saved a more difficult book for August when we returned--having the summer months to work on it. I miss the group, but I've just run out of time these days. A coworker is reading Coetzee's Disgrace and she raved about it--so much so I've checked it out from the library and have no idea when I will be able to read it. Now sure which year he won the Booker, though. I hope you do share your reading list!

  6. Nikki-ann, if you're at a stage in life where you have the time, they are well worth looking out for. As well as keeping my brain on the hop, I've made a lot of very good friends.

    Dorothy, you know me better than that!

    Cozy, I'm lucky to have such a resource so close by.

    Yvonne, ah yes, I know this can be a problem. We have a couple of local branches that are over subscribed, in both instances because there isn't a meeting place that can take larger numbers. And, I've come across your other difficulty as well, although thankfully not in our branch. You could always think of starting a new one for all those people on the waiting list.

    Danielle, you sound as if you have the same problem I do, too many desires and not enough time to fulfil them all. I've actually read 'Disgrace' with both of the groups in which we select a book to discuss and both sets of readers thought it was superb. It isn't exactly the most comfortable of reads, but definitely worth moving high up the list.

  7. Your group sounds wonderful. I'm so curious to know which book got the thumbs down, but I understand your reluctance to reveal. I have no reading recommendations though. In spite of being interested every year in who makes the short list and who wins the Booker, a month later I have forgotten it all. That's why I keep lists, otherwise I'd not remember most of the books I want to read.

  8. Stefanie, if you really want to know drop me an e-mail and I'll get back to you privately.