I’ve just taken part in the first ever Chiswick Book Festival, sitting on a panel chaired by the brilliant author and lecturer Celia Brayfield debating the perfect book group book.  Like many of you out there I ostensibly belong to a book group.  I say ostensibly because I hardly ever manage to make it along.

This is not because of any lack of love of books but rather the result of an intense burst of writing that has seen me publish a trilogy and start two completely new projects in a short space of time.  Compared to the other members of the panel and the audience, however, I classify as a wimp.  In one small area of West London there are eleven known book groups and probably many more beavering away anonymously.  Judging by the discussion that ensued, they are well-read, positively keen to overlook hyped up bestsellers and hungry for excellent writing both classic and new.

The debate bore out the old adage that you should never underestimate your audience.  Publishers sometimes make the mistake of thinking that dumbed down sells.  Maybe in Dan Brown’s case but then he is an exception to every rule.  What was apparent is that people everywhere, from all walks of life, still love and appreciate a good book.  We need more festivals like this to bring together such passionate bibliophiles. 

All praise to Torin Douglas (pictured) for his superb organisation of the event which attracted such luminaries as Michael Frayn, Jacqueline Wilson, Antonia Fraser, Anthony Horowitz, Sir Ian McKellen, Michelle Paver…and me.  All the money raised went to support three worthy charities.

For more about the festival visit:  http://chiswickbookfestival.org

As for that perfect book club book…there isn’t one.  The book club members I met were far too diverse, erudite and interesting to be pinned down to a genre, never mind a single book…