Why librarians love Radio 2 Book Club

Since 2013, The Reading Agency has worked with BBC Radio 2 to select books for their Book Club.

Each season, publishers submit their best forthcoming titles. The books are then read by a panel of librarians from all over the UK. The library panel meet to discuss their favourites, and a shortlist is chosen for the BBC.

In February 2021, the BBC Radio 2 Book Club moved to Steve Wright in the afternoon. Every month Steve discusses a different book with both the author and with celebrity guests.

Steve has said about the Book Club: “Books have boomed in lockdown, with thousands of people rediscovering the joy of reading, so it’s great news that the Radio 2 Book Club will move to afternoons where it will get the full bells and whistles Big Show treatment!”

Here some of our brilliant panellists tell you in their own words why they take part.

Emma Scott

Head of Literature and Audio Book Production, Calibre Audio Library

“As a librarian I am passionate about promoting reading and recommending books and being on the panel gives me a platform to do just that. There is a time commitment involved as each panel member can be sent up to eight titles to read and review within a six week period and then asked to attend a meeting at the end of the process to discuss the books that make the longlist. The hardest part of the panel is remembering to keep everything secret until the final books are chosen to be aired on Radio 2!

For me it is a real treat to get a preview of what the next big thing in publishing could be and potentially discover something new. It also feeds into my current job working for national charity Calibre Audio Library, as I can see what books are coming and obtain them for the library so that our members can enjoy them too.

I still view being on the panel as a privilege and can thoroughly recommend the experience. The fact that someone may be inspired to pick up a book that I endorsed as a book group contender is ultimately one of the main reasons that I became a librarian.”

Sorrelle Clements

Service Development Manager, Coventry Libraries

“Being part of the Radio 2 panel is a brilliant experience. It challenges me to read all sorts of books, many of which I would never have considered or chosen to read. It’s not always an easy or pleasant experience to be taken out of your comfort zone but has proved to be such a valuable experience for me.

It’s also a really good exercise to write the reviews thinking about the wider audience. We all have our own individual responses to books but on the panel the aim is to think of that wider audience, to put the story into the context of life today and how the story will be received by the general public.”

Sarah Salmon

Norfolk Community Directory Coordinator

“I greatly enjoy being a member of the Radio 2 panel. As an avid reader it is great to know that other people are reading the same books as me (at the same time) and that then there will be a chance to discuss them while they are recent in my mind.

The importance of reading on a person’s health (mental and physical) was brought home to me recently when a sudden and serious illness robbed me of all confidence (and the ability to read for a while). The support of the Radio 2 group helped me regain both my reading stamina and overall confidence and I really don’t know what I’d do without it.”

Sarah Davis

Greenwich Libraries

“I have been part of the Radio 2 Book Club selection panel for a number of years and have really found the experience beneficial in my workplace role as the reader development coordinator for Greenwich Libraries. My favourite part of being involved is having the opportunity to spread my love of reading and books to a radio audience. It is always exciting when my parcel of books arrives as I never know what to expect and it is so rewarding to have access to books by debut authors that will eventually become bestsellers.”

Peter Hughes

Stock Team Libraries NI

“I feel incredibly privileged and honoured to be a part of the judging process. I’ve been a librarian for almost 30 years now and read thousands of books and still, the thrill of opening page one of a new, unread novel is as great as ever.

Not only do I get to read novels that are as yet unpublished, but also get the chance to mix with a group of similarly minded people from all over the UK. It almost feels like being a part of a top secret group or panel.

Very often I end up reading and falling in love with novels that I wouldn’t normally touch with a barge pole or get to read titles by brand new authors or authors I’ve never heard of before…and like any worthwhile secret club or society, what happens in Book Club selection stays in Book Club selection!”

Get involved

Head to Reading Groups for Everyone for more information on this season’s books.

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