Bookclub

Bookclub

United Kingdom

Led by James Naughtie, a group of readers talk to acclaimed authors about their best-known novels

Episodes

James Naughtie talks to Deborah Levy  

Deborah Levy talks about her novel, Swimming Home.

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Hari Kunzru - Gods Without Men  

What could a UFO hippy cult, a British rock star, a Spanish Franciscan priest, the son of a Sikh, and his autistic son have in common? The Mojave Desert, in Hari Kunzru's novel Gods Without Men. Listed in Granta's 2003 selection of young British novelists, Hari Kunzru is one of our most socially observant and skilful novelists. Jumping around in time with episodes and characters from 1947 to 2008 to 1778 to 1958, Gods Without Men is about the power of a god-like force emanating from a rock formation called The Pinnacles. The novel's pivotal story is about an autistic child who vanishes in the Californian desert. Gods Without Men was widely regarded as one of the best novels of 2011. Presented by James Naughtie and including contributions and questions from a group of invited readers. Recorded at the Hay Festival 2017. Presenter : James Naughtie Interviewed guest : Hari Kunzru Producer : Dymphna Flynn July's Bookclub choice : Swimming Home by Deborah Levy (2011).

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Michael Chabon - The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay  

Michael Chabon talks about The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay with James Naughtie and a group of readers. The novel follows the story of the teenage Josef Kavalier, who makes a daring escape from the Germans in Prague in 1939, leaving his family behind. He travels across Europe and eventually arrives at his cousin Samuel Clayman's house in Brooklyn. There the pair discover a shared love of the burgeoning comic book world of Superheroes - Joe Kavalier is the artist, and Sam Clay, as he becomes, is the writer. Together they create a hero of their own, The Escapist, a Houdini-type figure who fights the Nazis, frees the enslaved and leads them home. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2001. Presenter : James Naughtie Interviewed guest : Michael Chabon Producer : Dymphna Flynn June's Bookclub choice : Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru (2011).

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Sunjeev Sahota - The Year of the Runaways  

Sunjeev Sahota discusses his novel The Year of the Runaways which was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize. The Year of the Runaways follows the stories of three undocumented Indian men who share a house in Sheffield. Tochi has fled India after his family were killed in a Caste-related massacre; Avtar arrives on a student visa, but intending to work. Randeep, Avtar's friend and neighbour, is the beneficiary of a sham marriage. In a flat on the other side of town lives Randeep's visa-wife, the British-born Narinder. Her cupboards are filled with his clothes, in case Immigration arrives. Sahota was named as a Granta Best Young British Novelist in 2013. Presented by James Naughtie and including contributions and questions from a group of invited readers. Presenter : James Naughtie Interviewed guest : Sunjeev Sahota Producer : Dymphna Flynn May's Bookclub choice : The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (2000).

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Jonathan Safran Foer - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close  

Jonathan Safran Foer talks about his acclaimed novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Set in the aftermath of 9/11, it is the story of a young boy coming to terms with the tragedy of his father's death in the World Trade Centre. hen he find s an envelope with the word 'Black' written on it in his father's hand he sets out to find everyone in the city called Black, to see if he can pick up a clue. After finding a mysterious key in a left behind in his father's closet, in an envelope labelled Black, nine year old Oskar sets out to find everyone in the city called Black, to see if he can pick up a clue. The search leads him through the five boroughs of New York and into history to the bombing of Dresden and as well as into the story of his grandparents' marriage. Presented by James Naughtie and including contributions and questions from a group of invited readers. Presenter : James Naughtie Interviewed guest : Jonathan Safran Foer Producer : Dymphna Flynn April's Bookclub choice : The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota (2015).

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Kamila Shamsie on Burnt Shadows  

James Naughtie and audience talk to Kamila Shamsie about her novel Burnt Shadows

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Barbara Trapido - The Travelling Hornplayer  

Novelist Barbara Trapido has been delighting readers over a forty year career. In The Travelling Hornplayer (1998) she spins a tale of betrayal, misunderstanding, coincidence and the passions of youth, all with her subversive and entertaining sense of humour. From its haunting start : "Early on in the morning of my interview, I woke up and saw my dead sister" to its grand finale at an Oxford College, The Travelling Hornplayer zips along with plot twists and character turns, shocking revelations and desperate reactions. Any attempt at summary and character explanation is dizzying, but here are a few hints: for three years, Ellen Dent has been devastated by the loss of her younger sister Lydia who had become an informal student of celebrated novelist Jonathan Goldman. Jonathan's daughter Stella, a precocious and difficult child, is unwittingly involved in Lydia's death, and Stella in turn befriends Ellen at Edinburgh University. Stella's mother Katherine, who had appeared as a dynamic character in Trapido's Brother of the More Famous Jack, becomes a passive mother in The Travelling Hornplayer. All their stories mesh together into a sparky, tragicomic puzzle. Barbara tells James Naughtie and the gathered group of Bookclub readers how the novel was inspired by Schubert's song cycles, with their lyrics by William Muller, and how her dry wit and acerbic observations, especially of Britain's class system, come from her being an outsider. Brought up under the apartheid system in South Africa, Barbara came to London in the early 60s and became a schoolteacher. Presenter: James Naughtie Interviewed guest : Barbara Trapido Producer : Dymphna Flynn March's Bookclub Choice : Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (2005).

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John Lanchester - Capital  

John Lanchester talks to James Naughtie and a group of readers about his novel Capital, which was a major BBC TV drama in 2015. The residents of an affluent street in London are busy getting on with their lives when one day something strange happens. Every house in the street has an identical, mysterious postcard pushed through their letterboxes that simply states "'We Want What You Have.' At first, the residents of Pepys Road, who are from mixed racial and social backgrounds, dismiss the notes as some sort of marketing campaign but gradually as events begin to escalate it becomes clear that there is more to this strange occurrence. John Lanchester is a successful financial journalist as well as novelist. The novel covers multiple contemporary issues in British life including the financial crisis of 2007-08, immigration, radical Islam, celebrity, and property prices. In Capital, there is always mystery at the back of the reader's mind. Presented by James Naughtie with contributions and questions from a group of invited readers. Presenter : James Naughtie Interviewed guest : John Lanchester Producer : Dymphna Flynn February's Bookclub Choice : The Travelling Hornplayer by Barbara Trapido (1998).

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Jay McInerney - Bright Lights, Big City  

American writer Jay McInerney discusses his debut novel Bright Lights, Big City with James Naughtie and a group of readers. Bright Lights, Big City not only cemented Jay McInerney as a superstar among debut novelists, but came to define the culture of 80s New York in all its gritty yet glamorous glory. We follow the young unnamed narrator - he's 'You' throughout the book - during a whirlwind week in New York. He is bored with his job on a Manhattan magazine, wants to be a writer, and has been abandoned by his fashion-model wife. By night he roams the brightly lit streets of the city, hanging out in clubs and loft parties, powered by "Bolivian Marching Powder". By the time his crazy week is over the emptiness returns. Presenter : James Naughtie Interviewed guest : Jay McInerney Producer : Dymphna Flynn January's Bookclub choice : Capital by John Lanchester (2012).

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Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson  

November's edition is a Classic Bookclub as presenter James Naughtie chooses Robert Louis Stevenson's adventure story Kidnapped as his favourite from his own reading life, as part of the BBC's #LovetoRead Season. In the absence of Stevenson, our guide to the book is author Louise Welsh, who has written an opera inspired by him. Kidnapped is one Stevenson's best loved titles. It's an historical adventure novel set in Scotland after the Jacobite rising of 1745 and tells the adventures of the recently orphaned sixteen year old David Balfour, as he journeys through the dangerous Scottish Highlands in an attempt to regain his rightful inheritance. James Naughtie says : "As a young boy Robert Louis Stevenson was my guide to adventure. Kidnapped was always at hand and, like Treasure Island, it introduced me to great story-telling. A boy alone in a country torn apart by war, betrayed by a sad but wicked uncle, and a coming-of-age through adversity. Reading it again, I can still feel the thrill of the first time. That's what great books do". Author Louise Welsh has said "I think if you were to stop any Scottish writer and ask them to list their top three writers that made them want to write they would mention Stevenson. He's always been number one for me." Bookclub's #LovetoRead on Kidnapped is recorded as always with an audience of readers, including members of the RLS Club, local school children and university students, at the Hawes Inn, Queensferry, where Stevenson is thought to have started the novel in 1866. Presenter James Naughtie Interviewed guest : Louise Welsh Producer : Dymphna Flynn December's Bookclub Choice : Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney.

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Bookclub - Helen Macdonald on H is for Hawk  

James Naughtie discusses H is for Hawk with Helen Macdonald

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Bookclub - Don DeLillo on Underworld  

James Naughtie talks to Don DeLillo about his novel Underworld

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Bookclub - Evie Wyld on After the Fire a Still, Small Voice  

James Naughtie talks to Evie Wyld about After the Fire a Still, Small Voice

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Bookclub - Maggie O'Farrell on The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox  

James Naughtie talks to Maggie O'Farrell about The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

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Bookclub - Tony Harrison's poem 'v'  

James Naughtie and Tony Harrison discuss the poem 'v'

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Bookclub with Javier Marias  

James Naughtie talks to Javier Marias about The Infatuations

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Bookclub with Elizabeth Strout - Olive Kitteridge  

James Naughtie and audience talk to Elizabeth Strout about Olive Kitteridge

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Bookclub with Michael Holroyd - A Strange Eventful History  

James Naughtie and audience talk to Michael Holroyd about A Strange Eventful History

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Bookclub with Kamila Shamsie on Burnt Shadows  

James Naughtie and audience talk to Kamila Shamsie about Burnt Shadows

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Bookclub with Richard Flanagan - The Narrow Road to the Deep North  

James Naughtie talks to Richard Flanagan about The Narrow Road to the Deep North

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