World Book Club

World Book Club

United Kingdom

World Book Club invites the globe's great authors to discuss their best known novel. Presented by Harriett Gilbert, includes questions from World Service listeners.


Elizabeth Gilbert: Eat, Pray, Love  

American writer Elizabeth Gilbert talks about her phenomenally successful novel Eat, Pray, Love. On a self-confessed ‘search for everything', Eat, Pray, Love charts the year in which Elizabeth Gilbert, aged 34, left behind her unfulfilling marriage, a volatile fling and life as she knew it, to embark on a spiritual voyage of discovery. The memoir brings together humour, eccentricity and honesty as the author documents the trials and triumphs of her travels through Italy, India and Indonesia in search of pleasure, peace and personal growth. With meditations on the culinary delights of Rome, spiritual development in an Indian ashram and passionate lovers in Bali, the enduring appeal of this bestselling memoir has drawn readers from all around the world as the author struggles to break free from the pressures of modern life and to find a deeper meaning and happiness. (Photo: Elizabeth Gilbert)

Leila Aboulela - Minaret  

This month World Book Club talks to Sudanese writer Leila Aboulela about her award-winning novel Minaret. This poignant and lyrical tale traces the journey of a young woman, Najwa, who is forced to flee her native Khartoum in Sudan, amidst conflict and political turmoil and exchange it for the anonymity of London. Drawing on her own experience, Leila Aboulela creates a rich and moving narrative, exploring the fault lines between traditional Islamic culture and the modern, cosmopolitan life of Western Europe. This beautiful, challenging novel traces Najwa’s struggle with bigotry and faith; isolation and love as she attempts to make sense of her new life and surroundings whilst not losing sight of her roots and heritage.

Jonathan Franzen - Freedom  

US literary superstar Jonathan Franzen talks about his hugely acclaimed novel Freedom. An epic of contemporary love and marriage, Freedom charts the exploits of the Berglund family, capturing the temptations and burdens of liberty, the thrills of teenage lust, the frustrations of trying to change the world, and the sobering compromises of middle age. In fixing his unflinching gaze on the memorable trio of characters, Patty, Walter, and reprobate rockstar Richard Katz and on how they struggle to live in an ever more confusing world, Franzen has produced an indelible and deeply moving portrait of 21st Century America. (Photo: Jonathan Franzen. Credit: Getty Images)

Deborah Moggach - Tulip Fever  

This month World Book Club talks about the acclaimed international bestseller Tulip Fever with its British author Deborah Moggach. It's 1630s Amsterdam, and tulip fever has seized its inhabitants. Everywhere men are seduced by the exotic flower. But for wealthy merchant Cornelis Sandvoort it is his young and beautiful wife Sophie that he desires above all, hoping that she will bring him the joy that not even his considerable fortune can buy. An heir. He commissions a talented and dashing young portraitist to immortalise them on canvas, but as the portrait unfolds, so does a passion that breeds a grand deception – and as the lies multiply, events move toward a thrilling and tragic climax. (Photo: Deborah Moggach) (Credit: BBC)

Andrey Kurkov - Death and the Penguin  

Andrey Kurkov discusses his darkly comic novel Death and the Penguin with Harriett Gilbert, and responds to listeners' questions from around the world. The book is set in the grey and deeply surreal world of the former Soviet republic, in which aspiring writer Viktor, who lives with his pet penguin Misha, is asked to write obituaries for Ukrainian VIPs. But the VIPs are still alive - for now. His pride turns to terror as he realises that both he and Misha have been drawn into a trap, from which there seems to be no escape. The programme is recorded live in his native Ukraine, at the historic Mikhail Bulgakov Museum in Kiev.* *(Bulgagov was a Kiev-born Russian writer and playwright from the first half of the 20th Century) (Photo: Andrey Kurkov sitting next to his literary hero, Mikhail Bulgakov, in Kiev. Credit: Daniel Simons)

Jeanette Winterson - Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit  

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is Jeanette Winterson's searing yet ultimately uplifting coming-out, coming-of-age tale, in which a young girl learns to rebel against her fanatical, cult-like upbringing, and set out on her own path in life. To mark thirty years since its publication, here's another chance to hear the memorable World Book Club in which Jeanette Winterson discusses where fact meets fiction - there are distinct parallels to her own life. Hear how important this ground-breaking novel has been for readers around the globe. British writer Jeanette Winterson is in conversation with Harriett Gilbert. (First broadcast in 2012.) (Picture: Jeanette Winterson. Photo: Sam Churchill)

Mark Haddon - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time  

British author Mark Haddon discusses his astonishingly successful novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Published in 45 languages around the world, it is a murder mystery like no other. Fifteen-year old Christopher knows a very great deal about maths and very little about human beings, and when he finds a neighbour's dog murdered with a garden fork, he sets out on a terrifying journey which will turn his whole world upside down. Mark Haddon answers readers’ questions from places as diverse as Iceland, Egypt and the Philippines, as well as in the studio in London. (Photo: Mark Haddon. Credit: Nicky Barranger)

Yasmina Khadra - The Swallows of Kabul  

The Algerian writer Yasmina Khadra discusses his novel, The Swallows of Kabul - a portrait of life under a tyrannical theocracy. Khadra is actually a man, and took a pseudonym (his wife's!) during his career in the Algerian Army during the civil war. His book follows a group of people struggling to hold on to their humanity in a world where pleasure is a sin and death awaits anyone who breaks the rules. Khadra answers questions from BBC listeners worldwide, in discussion with Harriett Gilbert. (Photo: Yasmina Khadra. Credit: E.Robert-Espalieu)

Marian Keyes - Rachel's Holiday  

World Book Club talks life, sex, drugs, if not rock ‘n’ roll to chart-topping Irish writer Marian Keyes about her best-selling novel Rachel’s Holiday. She answers BBC listeners' questions from around the world, and also reads several passages from her novel, about feisty 27-year-old Rachel, who is sent to a rehab clinic because of her addiction to drugs. Both funny and moving, Rachel’s Holiday examines the pain of addiction and depression, revealing a darker than usual side to Marian’s writing. The programme is presented by Harriett Gilbert. (Photo: Marian Keyes. Credit: Barry McCall)

Guenter Grass - The Tin Drum  

On Monday, Guenter Grass, German Nobel literature prize-winner and author of The Tin Drum, died aged 87. Before his death he had been described as "the world’s most important living writer". We look back to 2009 when Guenter invited World Book Club into his home in Germany to put listeners' questions to him about his internationally-celebrated novel The Tin Drum. Bitter and impassioned, the book charts the rise and fall of Nazism through the mischievous eyes of Oskar Matzerath, a dwarf who decided to stop growing at the age of three. First published half a century ago, The Tin Drum was re-published in new translations all over the world to mark its 50th birthday in 2009. Image: Guenter Grass. Credit: Reuters

JD Salinger - The Catcher In The Rye  

Harriet Gilbert discusses JD Salinger's classic novel The Catcher in the Rye with a studio audience, including questions from BBC World Service listeners as far afield as Nepal and the Czech Republic. She's in New York's Algonquin Hotel, long-time hangout of our reclusive writer, and answers your questions with the help of authors David Gilbert and Joanna Rakoff. JD Salinger wrote the book in 1951, and died in 2010. (Photo: JD Salinger) (Credit: AP)

Anne Tyler  

World Book Club visits the home of the Pulitzer-Prize winning author Anne Tyler, in the city of Baltimore. From her spare, elegant writing room Anne talks to Harriett Gilbert about her own personal favourite novel Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. Abandoned by her salesman husband, fierce, sometimes cruel matriarch, Pearl is left to bring up her three children alone - Cody, a flawed charmer, Ezra, a flawed saint, and Jenny, errant and intense. Now as Pearl lies dying with her children around her, the past is unlocked, each character with their own searing take on it.

William Gibson  

This month World Book Club talks to cult American-Canadian writer William Gibson about his much garlanded novel that launched the cyberpunk generation with one of the last century’s most potent visions of the cyberspace future. The first winner of the science fiction ‘triple crown’ of awards for the genre, Neuromancer conjures a nightmare world of concrete megacities trapped under geodesic domes and run by shadowy megacorps. Washed-up computer hacker Case longs to escape by jacking into the technicolour but terrifying virtual reality of the Matrix, and is glad to be hired by a mysterious employer and his alluring sidekick Molly to pull off the ultimate hack.

Daniel Kehlmann  

This month World Book Club talks to bestselling German writer Daniel Kehlmann whose entertaining, and internationally acclaimed novel Measuring the World took the literary world by storm nine years ago. In it he reimagines the lives of German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss and German geographer Alexander von Humboldt and their many groundbreaking ways measuring the world. Vividly bringing both very different geniuses to life Kehlmann captures their balancing acts between loneliness and love, absurdity and greatness, failure and success. Photo: Daniel Kehlmann. Credit: Sven Paustian.

Marilynne Robinson  

Gilead is an epistolary novel that is the fictional autobiography of the Reverend John Ames, an elderly congregationalist pastor in the small, secluded town of Gilead, Iowa, who knows that he is dying of a heart condition. An intimate tale of three generations from the Civil War to the 20th Century, Gilead tells a story of fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America's heart. In the luminous voice of Congregationalist minister John Ames, the novel takes the form of a letter to his young son and is a hymn of praise and lamentation to the God-driven existence that the Reverend loves passionately – and from which he will soon part. (Photo: Marilynne Robinson. Credit: Nancy Crampton)

Herman Koch  

This month World Book Club talks to bestselling Dutch writer Herman Koch whose hugely controversial and entertaining novel The Dinner took the literary world by storm five years ago. Since then, it has not left the bestseller lists in its native Holland. The Dinner explores a contemporary moral dilemma when two couples meet in a fashionable restaurant to discuss their children’s involvement in a horrendous crime. How far will a parent go to protect their son? The answer that gradually emerges seems to be very far indeed. Hear Herman Koch, Harriett Gilbert and readers in the studio in London and around the world discuss The Dinner - and confess what they might have done in similar circumstances!

Kathy Reichs - Deja Dead  

World Book Club talks to award-winning American writer and forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs, about the first in her Temperance Brennan detective series, Deja Dead. A nerve-jangling thriller that took the literary scene by storm when it was published in 1997, Deja Dead was the most successful crime-fiction debut ever. In it Kathy Reichs launches her intrepid heroine, a fearless forensic anthropologist and wannabe detective, Temperance Brennan. When the remains of a dismembered body of a woman, bagged and discarded, are discovered near an ancient burial ground Brennan suspects the work of a serial killer. The police disagree, but Brennan sticks to her guns despite, or perhaps because of, her dark forebodings. Picture: Kathy Reichs, Credit: Ben Mark Holzberg

Pat Barker - Regeneration  

This week, as part of the continuing global commemorations of the First World War, World Book Club is in sombre mood with another timely chance to hear multi-award-winning British writer Pat Barker. She talks about her internationally renowned novel Regeneration, the first in the trilogy of novels which culminated in the Booker Prize winner The Ghost Road. Also shortlisted for the Booker Prize and now recognised twenty-two years after its publication as a modern war classic, Regeneration is a part historical, part fictional exploration of how the traumas of the so-called Great War brutalised a generation of young men. Picture: WW1 patients recuperating in hospital in 1918. Credit: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images.

Janice Galloway  

Harriett Gilbert talks to award-winning writer Janice Galloway about her novel The Trick Is to Keep Breathing. Recorded at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Harriett discusses her novel about a drama teacher, Joy Stone, who is losing her grip on reality as she struggles to cope with the loss of her married lover and her mother. Through the wit and irony that helped gain her international acclaim, Galloway crafts a picture of modern life and depression. Yet even as she sees her family and friends metamorphose into suspicious characters, Galloway's protagonist and the reader find the trick in living rests with the simplest things. Photo: Janice Galloway (left) and Harriett Gilbert

Jostein Gaarder  

In this edition of World Book Club on BBC World Service, Jostein Gaarder talks to Harriett Gilbert about his novel Sophie’s World at The House of Literature, Oslo. A chart-topping global surprise bestseller Sophie’s World draws us into the world of the great philosophers through the intriguing character of 14-year-old Sophie and her mysterious teacher. As their relationship develops a story emerges which raises profound questions about the biggest questions of all: where we come from, the origin of the universe and the meaning of life. The prolific and prize-winning Norwegian writer explains to a room full of his readers how amazed he was by the phenomenal success of the novel and how attached he got to his characters as he created his multi-layered tale.

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