Monday January 25, 2016

Ann Walmsley joins a book club... in a prison

Ann Walmsley was violently mugged in London, UK, but faced her fears to help inmates at a Kingston prison find the books that would help them through their prison terms.

Ann Walmsley was violently mugged in London, UK, but faced her fears to help inmates at a Kingston prison find the books that would help them through their prison terms. (Viking)

Listen 3:09

There are all kinds of book clubs — some meet in bookstores or bars, some are organized around a theme and some, like the one Ann Walmsley writes about in The Prison Book Club, are behind bars. The journalist spent months observing and participating in a book club at a medium-security prison, trying to understand how the books influenced the inmates and their lives.

ON FINDING KINDRED SPIRITS IN LITERATURE
I think the books that resonated most for the men had characters with whom they could identify. Quite often, that could be a character who had been in prison. Like Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath, who questions whether it's better to be in prison or whether it's better to be out in 1930s Dust Bowl Oklahoma, trying to scratch a living out of the soil. Those kinds of central characters are the ones that appeal to them. But they were also very interested in romance elements in books. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has a central character named Juliet, and I was so surprised to see that they very much identified with her and wanted her to end up with the right guy.  

Ann Walmsley's comments have been edited and condensed.

winter reading list writerlist-620.jpg Newsletter_banner_620.png