An update on Off the Record Book Club

A while ago we shared some lovely testimonials from the Off the Record book club, which we supply with sets of books. Off the Record is is a charity which provides free mental health support and information to 11-25 year olds in Bristol and South Gloucestershire.

We recently received this lovely report from one member of the book club:

What brought/ attracted you to the group? I first heard about the book club through someone who is involved in other workshops and projects at OTR. I joined because attending a book club has been something I’ve always wanted to do and reading is something I am passionate and excited about … I also wanted to use this opportunity to meet new people with similar interests as my own.

Book Club

What was your first experience of the group like and what brought you back to the group? My first experience of the group was really positive, I was quite nervous to go initially as I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I felt very comfortable as everyone was really welcoming. There was a good mix of conversation, questions and also there was time to listen. I came back as I enjoyed the process of reading the book and coming back to the following meet up to have a space where I can share my views and feelings regarding the book and also hear and have a discussion with other attendees. This process I really enjoy as it is a good structure for me to have and it is something to look forward to each month.

What do you like about the group? I like that it is a very inclusive space and everyone’s views and conversations are welcome and encouraged. I like that there is a structure to the meetings but also random sparks of conversations are encouraged. I like that if there is a difference in views they are both equally heard and I also really enjoy how friendly and fun the meetings always are.

Do you think the group has supported your wellbeing? Have there been benefits from attending the group if yes what are they? I think the group has definitely supported my wellbeing, to be able to attend something where I can fully be myself and share my feelings and views and there be nothing but support in return has been very helpful and beneficial to me. Attending the group has encouraged me to do more of the things I am passionate about such as starting my own book review blog which I wouldn’t have done without book club. There is also the element of financial support as the books are bought and given to attendee which is very helpful. I also love discovering new books by hearing about what everyone attending is interested in through the poll voting system which works very well in deciding the next month’s book club choice.

Is there anything you would like to change about the group/any ideas? I think it would be good to have more info on the book were reading and the author, maybe interviews/reviews or facts that can be read at the end after everyone shared their thoughts. I think it could be interesting to learn more after we have discussed our own takes and then hearing the take of the author. It would also be helpful as if there are people coming who haven’t read the book maybe there can be a hand out so they can get a brief overview before discussions start.

All group members bring something to the group – what do you think you bring? I think I bring a bit of listening and sharing my thoughts, I do really enjoy what comes out of hearing various views of the book as they are all different and allow me to gain a new perspective on what the story may mean to me and everyone else. I also like to share my own views too seeing if that brings something new to the view of the book and I do tend to also have questions on various moments in the book and love to hear everyone’s responses and takes.

How would you describe the group to someone who hasn’t been yet? I would describe it as a welcoming friendly environment that lets you use the space to share your thoughts and views on a book that was voted for on a monthly poll. The book club encourages people to attend who have and haven’t read the book to have interesting discussions around the book in a really friendly chilled way.

What would you say to someone thinking of attending the group, especially if they are anxious about coming? I would say that it is a very friendly safe space to share your thoughts on a book that we have read for the month. I would also say there is absolutely no pressure to have read the book or even have anything planned to say as coming and listening to people there or just going with the flow of the conversation and throwing in something at any point is great and very much encouraged. It is a fun relaxed place to have lovely chats and actually a great place to meet new people.

Anything else you would like to say? I have found book club so helpful in giving me confidence in areas of meeting new people and sharing my views and opinions which I have found difficult previously. It is also really fun and has re lighted my passion around reading and I’m excited to attend the next meeting.