What I learnt from (another) year running a book club

When I was a child and asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was a reporter and writer. Ironically my grasp of the English language and handwriting that looked like a spider running across the page (thanks, Dad) closed that door firmly shut.

My love of reading didn’t really kick in until my 20s and the point I was doing it on my terms.

I now feel like things have gone full circle, as setting up and running a book club was never high on my agenda. My focus on all things ageing led me to set up my own business focused on this area, and the book club was a bi-product of this focus. I started in lockdown in 2020; it has become more than I ever thought. It has helped me meet some fantastic authors, had me read some great books and helped bring the experience to more people globally.

My book club is more a conversation with the author than a more classic read and discuss style club. I pick a book I have read/am about to read/want to read, approach the author and see if they will participate.

Thankfully I’m yet to have a rejection! Last year I was again lucky enough to read and talk to some fantastic authors.

Anna Dixon was at the time CEO of the UK’s Centre for Ageing Better. Her book The Age of Ageing Better covers a comprehensive range of topics and helps to spotlight some of the many areas we haven’t come to terms with.

To have her join us on a February evening to share her perspectives was both stimulating and uplifting. There is a part of her book where she outlines a pretty grim scenario (The Age of Ageing Badly) where adverse outcomes around health and employment hit society hard; there is also an interesting take on housing and homes for the future and what could happen if we plan for it.

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Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

Next up, we had Andrew Steele’s Ageless. Andrew as a scientist, brought a very different viewpoint. What if we can slow/stop the process of ageing and therefore avoid some of the things that restrict quality of living. The phrase how to live long enough to live even longer is one I’m pretty sure I will be using for as long as I’m in business. Andrew is a fantastic presenter, and his slideshow and Q&A were welcomed by all who watched. The importance of diet, exercise, dental care and sunscreen were all broken out in detail. The idea that we could live longer in better health certainly got the group thinking.

I sometimes have to pinch myself when I talk to authors and ask them to participate. Ashton Applewhite was firmly in this category. Those who have heard Ashton speak will know she is an excellent public speaker, and I can say from first-hand experience a delightful person to talk to. Her book This Chair Rocks — A Manifesto Against Ageism is one I knew had inspired many people. I was also pleasantly surprised to hear she was an EDM fan which led to me taking the Q&A down a quite different path. As someone who enjoyed the second summer of love, any chance for a bit of raving/thumping bass and arms in the air cannot be missed!

Her take on Ageism and persuasive/challenging style led to a lively discussion and got me thinking a lot.

We went off-piste next up and went for a film rather than a book with Sky Bergman’s Lives Well Lived. Sky kindly shared a viewing link, and we had people from all over watch the film and then get together for a Q&A with the Director. Aside from being able to milk the book club goes film club line, there was a lively discussion on the film and how it got people thinking. Seeing and hearing the life stories of a series of older adults and the portrayal of people living extraordinary lives in as matter of fact way as possible was another reminder that getting older presents all manner of possibilities.

Lastly, in 2021 we had Mike Drak, author of Retirement Heaven or Hell: 9 Principles for Designing Your Ideal Post-Career Lifestyle. Another quite different take Mike’s book focused on planning for finishing full-time work and how retirement in its current form has had its day. A common theme from the ageing community is the need for purpose as we get older. His book indeed focused attention on this in an efficient manner.

I love to speak with authors beforehand, and all the books, authors and events have got me thinking about areas I thought I understood but rapidly realised I hadn’t.

The possibility (or is it already a reality) of extended lifespan struck a particular tone with me. I’m always fascinated by the positivity around the longevity community — what can we do now to expand lifespan vs a less enthusiastic response to those living longer now and the negative language and imagery and, in many places, rampant Ageism.

Very much looking forward to running more events this year and sharing future thoughts on what I have learned.

You can get the books mentioned above in all good bookstores — some links (affiliate) are included if you would like to buy from an independent UK bookstore.

You can help me in my work by following me here and on social media and the book club is welcome to all with an interest in the topic please get in touch if you want to hear more.

Main photo by Leah Kelley from Pexels