Reading Groups – Bury’s Secret Santa!

Bury Libraries’ Reading Groups

There are plenty of opportunities to join a reading group that is supported by Bury Libraries – as well as our exciting new virtual ‘Group Read’ on this site, for those of you who prefer a more flexible option. Just contact your local library for information and they will put you in touch with the Reader Development Team.

Bury Reading Group has an interesting approach to their last meeting before the Christmas break – each member wraps up a book that they would like to pass on to another member of the group! It is all done anonymously so it really is ‘pot luck’ what you end up taking home with you – a bit of a reading lottery if you like! The group then discuss their gifts in the first meeting of the new year.

Well this seemed too good an opportunity to miss, all of those lovey random book choices and reviews, just the thing we (The Reader Development Team) love to blog about. So what follows is a list of the books that were exchanged, the book’s description and, where available, the comments of the person who gifted the book as well the person who received it.


Elizabeth Is Missing‘ – Emma Healey.

‘Elizabeth is missing’, reads the note in Maud’s pocket in her own handwriting. Lately, Maud’s been getting forgetful. She keeps buying peach slices when she has a cupboard full, forgets to drink the cups of tea she’s made and writes notes to remind herself of things. But Maud is determined to discover what has happened to her friend, Elizabeth, and what it has to do with the unsolved disappearance of her sister Sukey, years back, just after the war.

The person who gifted this book said,

“A well written mystery, but also an exploration of dementia. Relationships and characterisations are sensitively examined. Good plot, themes poignantly articulated.”



‘We Are All Made Of Glue’ – Marina Lewycka.

Georgie Sinclair’s husband has left her; her 16-year-old son is busy exploring fundamentalist Christian websites & becoming more distant by the day; & all those overdue articles aren’t looking too appealing either. So when she spots Mrs Shapiro, an eccentric old Jewish neighbour, rummaging through her skip, it’s just the distraction she needs.

The reader who received this title had this to say,

“The title did not tempt me but I found the story very entertaining, humorous, enlightening and occasionally heart-breaking.”



The Long Song‘ – Andrea Levy.

Set in Jamaica during the last turbulent years of slavery and the early years of freedom that followed, this novel follows the life of July, a slave girl, who lives upon a sugar plantation named Amity.

The person who received this gift said,

“A beautiful book about a dreadful subject – slavery in the West Indies and its aftermath.”




‘Stoner’ – John Williams.

The son of a mid-western farmer, William Stoner comes to the University of Missouri in 1910 to study agriculture. Stoner tells of love and conflict, passion and responsibility against the backdrop of academic life in the early 20th century.

Our group members who read this books felt that this book was,

“Brilliant – I really think you will love it!”

“Fabulous – really good read – I learnt a lot about life in America in the early 20th Century.”



‘Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?’ – Jeanette Winterson.

This book is the story of a life’s work to find happiness. It is the story of how the painful past Jeanette Winterson thought she had written over and repainted returned to haunt her later life, and sent her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her real mother.

Our readers said,

“I loved this book and am very happy that the person who received it also enjoyed it. I think Jeanette Winterson is a fabulous writer.”

“I loved the book, the subject matter and her writing style. Reading this made me want to read more by the author.”



Power Play‘ – Danielle Steel.

Would you sacrifice your family to have it all? Fiona Carson has proven herself as CEO of a multibillion-dollar high-tech company. Devoted single mother, world-class strategist, and tough negotiator, Fiona reserves any personal time for her children. Marshall Weston basks in the fruits of his achievements. To maintain his position, he harbours secrets that could destroy his life at any moment. Both must fight off those who are jealous of their success. Their lives as CEOs of major companies come at a high price. But just how high a price are they willing to pay?

Our readers thought,

“Interesting comparison between women in power and men in power. Very satisfying when an arrogant man gets his comeuppance! A good light read”

“Not my sort of book but I’m sure it is an excellent example of this type of book.”



The Gift‘ – Celia Ahern.

A magical and enchanting story which ends on Christmas Day, from the bestselling author of ‘PS I Love You’.

Our group member thought that this book was,

“Trite and cliched. I couldn’t finish it as there seemed to be no character or story development. Plenty of people love this book, but if you’re looking for depth, look elsewhere.”



The Uncommon Reader‘ – Alan Bennett.

The uncommon reader is none other that HM The Queen who drifts accidentally into reading when her corgis stray into a mobile library parked at Buckingham Palace.

The reader who opened this gift thought,

“Enjoyable Read. Fantasy but so easily could have happened.”




Doors Open‘ – Ian Rankin.

Set in a very different Edinburgh to that inhabited by DI John Rebus, this thriller centres on the glamorous uber-world of the Scottish capital. Mike Mackenzie is a self-made man with too much time on his hands and a bit of the devil in his soul. Together with two friends, he hatches a plan to rob the National Gallery of Scotland.

Our reader was,

“So pleased to receive an Ian Rankin book. Fascinating read to the very end – which was left open to conjecture. Not a Rankin book.”




Remarkable Creatures‘ – Tracy Chevalier.

In the year of the 150th anniversary of ‘Origin of the Species’, set in a town where Jane Austen was a frequent visitor, Tracy Chevalier once again shows her uncanny sense for the topical.

“Interesting read – not one that I would have chosen but I did enjoy certain aspects.” A Bury Reading Group Member.



Philomena‘ – Martin Sixsmith.

‘The Lost Child of Philomena Lee’ is the story of a mother and son, whose lives were blighted by the forces of hypocrisy on both sides of the Atlantic and of the secrets they were forced to keep. A compelling narrative of love and loss, Martin Sixsmith’s moving account is both heartbreaking yet ultimately redemptive.

Two of our members thought,

“I am pleased that I read Philomena instead of seeing it at the cinema. I thought that it was well written and gave insight into many things that have happened in our lifetime. Can you imagine the despair having your child (a toddler not a baby) taken away from you and sent to America? The book follows the lives of two of these children and the desperate search of one of the mums. A good book well worth a read.”

“I loved the book until part two – I couldn’t like Michael/Anthony. So a book of two parts for me, one I loved and one I didn’t.”



‘English Passengers’ – Matthew Kneale.

It is 1857 and the Reverend Geoffrey Wilson has set out for Tasmania, hoping to find the true site of the Garden of Eden. But the journey is turning out to be less than straightforward – dissent is growing between him and sinister racial-theorist Dr Potter, and, unknown to both, the ship they have hurriedly chartered is in fact a Manx smuggled vessel, fleeing British customs. In Tasmania the aboriginal people have been fighting a desperate battle against British invaders, and, as the passengers will discover, the island is now far from being an earthly paradise . . .

Our readers thought,

“A series of comic misadventures with a serious heart, one to re-read as you find something new each time.”

“Beautifully written.”



A Place For Us‘ – Harriet Evans

The house has soft, purple wisteria twining around the door. You step inside. The hall is cool after the hot summer’s day. The welcome is kind, and always warm. Yet something makes you suspect life here can’t be as perfect as it seems. After all, the brightest smile can hide the darkest secret. But wouldn’t you pay any price to have a glorious place like this? Welcome to Winterfold. Martha Winter’s family is finally coming home.

The following comments were given,

” Worth reading, family drama involving many family members. The ending is satisfactory.”

“A multi-layered family drama. Lots of individual stories pulled together around a dramatic and unexpected event. Worth reading but takes a lot of commitment.”

So plenty of inspiration there!

Nic (The Reader Development Team)


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