The North Recommends: Alfred Bar Book Club
Alfred Book Club, Meanwood, Leeds
How did the book group get started?
It all began back in 2017 in a quirky little bar called Alfred, in Meanwood, a small suburb of Leeds. Local author June Taylor was celebrating her first book deal with HarperCollins and this caught the attention of Harriet Earl, manager of Alfred Bar at the time. Harriet wanted to set up a book club and her aim was to support local authors, so the two things just came together and Alfred Bar Book Club came to be.
So what books written by local authors have you read?
Losing Juliet & Keep Your Friends Close by June Taylor
The Disappeared & The Runaway by Ali Harper
Working at the end of the World by Con Curtis
An Otley Run by Joe Williams (poet)
All the Good Things by Clare Fisher
True Professional by James Oddy
Sealed by Naomi Booth
Guest by SJ Bradley
The Year of the Gun by Chris Nickson
Ill Will by Michael Stewart
Do you only read books by local authors?
No, not at all. We keep it as broad as possible covering cover most genres, everything from classics to horror!
Is there anything that makes your book group different?
Well we meet in a bar for one thing, which makes for a relaxed atmosphere. It turns into a bit of a social afterwards, which is nice as we don’t know each other that well.
We’ve had authors come along to our meetings and that’s been really special to engage with them and ask questions. It’s great to learn what motivates them and hear anecdotes. Also it’s given us an insight into the life of a writer, and the publishing industry, how tough it can be.
How honest can you be with the writer there though?
In our experience authors are keen to have an honest opinion. Within reason, obviously! But writers know their books aren’t going to please everyone. Our discussions are constructive and none of our writers have gone away injured … We don’t think so anyway! June Taylor came back again so we must be okay.
How many members do you have?
We’ve grown to about 20, but obviously not everyone can make it every time. So we get between 12 and 15 usually.
How often do you meet?
How do you select your books?
Guest authors have made recommendations. More recently we’ve being doing it by genre and throwing suggestions into the hat. There’s no set format really. As a group we’re quite democratic but without having any formal rules.
What form does your discussion take?
Again, it’s pretty informal. We might chat about the book over a drink in small groups and then move around. But we’ve also had everyone sitting round one table. It just depends on how many turn up. At the last meeting we’d read An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and used the questions suggested by the author. It made for an interesting discussion and we actually scored it, so maybe this is something we’ll do more of.
Supporting the local writing scene seems important to your book group.
Most definitely. We’re lucky to have Fiona Gell because she runs the Leeds Big Bookend and Leeds Lit Fest so we get to know about literary and spoken word events going on in the city too.
You sound like a great book group!
Thanks for speaking to us.