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Contact the adviser

Thank you for visiting my Book Groups advice page, which aims to provide information and advice to anyone who is running or thinking about running a U3A book group.

I was a part-time associate lecturer for the Open University for 18 years before retirement, teaching arts courses and specialising in English literature and popular culture. I also worked full-time for the OU as the advisory services manager for the East of England, looking after a team of subject advisers and organising teaching in prisons among other things.

After retirement I was a member of Cambridge U3A for many years, teaching courses on plays and playwriting, and was a member of several book groups, some general and some theme-based. I moved to Edinburgh in August 2019 and became a member of EU3A and a group leader. I have also recently become a group coordinator for EU3A and a subject adviser for the Third Age Trust.

Richard Peoples
June 2020

Online groups

Many U3A groups, including my own,  are currently meeting online, using Zoom, Skype or other software. I’ve recently compiled a report giving information and advice on best use of online technology for groups and will be happy to send you a copy if you email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Setting up and running a book group

I can provide help with any of the following:

  • Defining the purpose and scope of your book group
  • Agreeing themes, book types, length, availability and price
  • Agreeing meeting frequency and venue(s)
  • Setting guidelines for members to nominate books to read
  • Structuring discussion and ensuring full participation
  • Enabling members with disabilities to take part, e.g. with large print, audio books etc.

Book recommendations

I will seek to collect recommendations from U3A book groups and other sources for suitable books to read, and will publish a regularly updated list on this page. These will always be books in paperback which are freely available at reasonable cost.

You can of course find recommendations in newspapers, magazines and radio programmes, usually for recently published works. If you would like to try some books with a difference here is a short list of novels that I’ve read and enjoyed as part of a book group:

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh. First book in the Ibis trilogy, set at the time of the Opium Wars, a compelling human story that reveals the dark side of British imperialism

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, bestselling novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

The Wall by Marlen Haushofer, an intriguing dystopian novel about a quite ordinary, unnamed middle-aged woman who awakens to find she is the last living human being.

If you would like to nominate a book which you and/or your book group have enjoyed, please email me with details: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Where to buy books

Some book groups read books provided in sets by public libraries, so it may be worth checking with your local library to see what is available.

If you and your book group members are buying books, you may well wish to use local independent bookshops – especially in the current situation where many small businesses are under threat. They may be willing to offer a discount if you buy multiple copies.

If keeping the cost down is the main priority you can buy second-hand copies of many books through online booksellers such as Abe Books and the Book Depository. You might also consider classic novels, for example, which you may find in second-hand bookshops, charity shops and market stalls.

If you have an e-reader such as a Kindle or Kobo you can often download classic books for free. Contemporary books are usually cheaper too. One disadvantage of  e-readers is that they have different page numbering from printed books, which can make it more difficult to refer to particular pages during discussions.