The Self-Isolated Book Group is the third of our official 2020 book clubs to follow our #ReadingWomen campaign, which celebrates 25 years of the Women’s Prize for Fiction by rediscovering a quarter century of winning books, from Zadie Smith’s On Beauty to Naomi Alderman’s The Power.

The Self-Isolated Book Group was formed the day before lockdown was announced in the UK as an attempt to forge a community during the Covid-19 crisis, and an opportunity to discuss topics and ideas unrelated to the pandemic. Their weekly meetings take place on Zoom. The group is made up of seven young women who are in their early twenties with varied reading tastes, and whose common interests include – but are not limited to – politics and writing by women. The group chose to discuss the books featured in our Changing Worlds podcast episode, which includes 2000 winner When I Lived in Modern Times by Linda Grant; Small Island by Andrea Levy, which won in 2004; and The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver which won in 2010.

The group say:

“We are so excited to be involved with the #ReadingWomen initiative and cannot wait to begin reading the books we have chosen. The books we selected are relevant to our group and our collective reading tastes, as they are so grounded in their historical and political context, something we are always interested in; and are written by women of diverse backgrounds, which is a priority for our group in what we decide to read.”

“We’re planning on discussing the books individually monthly for the next three months on Zoom and, as is usually the case, we are sure each member of the group will have diverse insights and thoughts on the texts, because of our different backgrounds and interests. We feel really honoured to be involved with the Women’s Prize, as the ethos of the prize and the books it has commemorated are very much in line with who we are as a Reading Group.”

The Book Group came together in the face of immense upheaval and challenges as a result of the pandemic:

“Our reading group is made up of students and recent graduates, so for all of us, our lives are in a state of limbo, even more than they would be in usual circumstances. The large majority of the group had to move out of their homes in March to move across the country and back into their parents’ homes, after living independently for at least three years. We did not have the chance to knowingly experience our last university classes, nights out, or, in some cases, say goodbye to friends. Our graduation ceremonies have been cancelled and most of the jobs we have spent long hours applying for are no longer available due to Covid-19. These are very strange times to have completed our dissertations and final assignments in, as well as look for jobs, which is why we decided to start our reading group in March 2020.”

They started their informal digital book club as a means of connecting to new and familiar friends, and as a weekly opportunity to take their minds off the stressful aspects of life that materialised as a result of Covid-19.

“We are now a group of women with varied backgrounds, living all over the country (Liverpool, Yorkshire, Northern Ireland, London, Bristol) who have come together on a weekly Zoom meeting to enjoy each other’s perspectives and share our love of reading. We’ve all found this reading group to be a real tonic during these times, as a means of entertainment, distraction, routine and it is certainly something that we will continue when Covid-19 is no longer such a significant part of our lives.”