Image: Bee Rowlatt and the winning book. Credit for author photo: Laurie Sparham
17 June 2016: Ahead of National Reading Group Day on 18 June, The Reading Agency and The Booksellers Association have revealed the non-fiction title reading groups most want to read and champion this year according to a UK-wide online poll.
Bee Rowlatt's travelogue In Search of Mary (Alma Books) won this year's National Reading Group Day Real Life Read poll, which focused on non-fiction reads. This theme was chosen after a recent Reading Agency report found that 66% of reading groups read non-fiction titles, alongside the 95% who read fiction - an unexpected statistic and one that challenges popular assumptions that reading groups are only interested in reading fiction.
The winning book in this Real Life Read poll received over a quarter of the total votes registered via our Reading Groups for Everyone website, which hosts reading group resources and publisher offers for over 4,000 registered groups of all ages and interests. 19 titles, all published between June 2014 and June 2015 in paperback, were submitted overall by the charity's publisher partners.
Reading groups were also invited to enter a competition via the Reading Groups for Everyone site to win a set of the most popular title. The three winning groups are today announced as St Helen's Central Library Reading Group, Hayes End Library Reading Group and Bookbags from south east London. Their reviews of In Search of Mary will be posted on the Reading Groups for Everyone website and they will put their questions to the author in a Q&A hosted on the website later this year.
Bookbags from south east London, one of the winning groups
About the book
In Search of Mary tells the story of its author's search for the life and legacy of pioneering eighteenth century feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. Her journey takes her through Norway, Paris and California as she discovers what motivated Mary and how much has changed - or hasn't - in the centuries that followed.
Author Bee Rowlatt says:
"Book clubs represent the height of civilisation and all that is good in the world, so it's a massive honour to be voted as a reading group book choice. I'm pretty blown away, and have to keep re-reading the email to be sure that it's true.
"In Search of Mary is a very personal book, which made the publishing journey slightly terrifying, but I'm delighted that readers are connecting to its themes of escapism, the conflicts around gender and motherhood, and of course, to my hero Mary Wollstonecraft. She understood the power of the written word, and lived out her revolutionary ideals - but she paid the price. Talking to audiences all the way from Glasgow to Moscow about my adventures retracing Wollstonecraft's footsteps has been a huge buzz. I like to think she's finally winning the friends she deserves!"
Katy Mendham, Partnerships Programme Co-ordinator, The Reading Agency, says:
"Here at The Reading Agency our goal is to create innovative reading opportunities that inspire more people to read more. We hope the Real Life Read poll has achieved just that. We were delighted with the nominations put forward by our publisher partners and the response to the poll from readers. Congratulations to Bee Rowlatt and Alma Books, this year's winners. I hope all the great books on the Real Life Read list go on to be read and enjoyed by many more reading groups."
Elisabetta Minervini, Founder and Publisher, Alma Books, says:
"We are so happy that In Search of Mary has been selected in the Real Life Read poll by the Reading Agency. I hope it will inspire many women as much as it inspired me."
Find out how you can take part in National Reading Group Day
We are launching a monthly newsletter especially for reading groups on Friday 17 June ahead of National Reading Group Day, with the latest publisher offers, news and competitions from Reading Groups for Everyone. Sign up here