First Tuesday Book Club

First Tuesday Book Club

Tuesday Book Club

First Tuesday Book Club is ABC TV's nationally televised book club. Hosted by Jennifer Byrne it brings to the screen the pleasures that draw millions of clubbers worldwide with their shared love of reading.

Debating the merits of April's two books are regulars Marieke Hardy and Jason Steger plus authors Peter Corris and Jacinta Tynan.

Jennifer Byrne gave us an insight into the program:

Tell me a little bit about the Book Club?

Jennifer Byrne : Years ago in 2004 we did a one-off special for the ABC called 'My Favourite Books' it was ran in the art section of the ABC on a Sunday night. We wanted to books without it being specifically about writing, or the inner-workings of the book or authors, it needed to be able 'What are we reading?' and 'Why are we reading it?'. It took a couple of years. We pinched rules from the typical 'Book Club' but we needed to make the format work for television, rules needed to be in place. Interesting talk was a must and we had the idea that we would have one new release and one classic or favourite book. Not everyone can read the new release in time, but most people know the favourites. Not always, but usually. So we decided two books a month, we also decided we could have authors, but they weren't allowed to talk about their own book, only about other peoples books. Us, as normal Aussies, want to hear about whether 'we' are going to enjoy reading it, not if 'they' enjoyed writing it.

Book Club is from the readers point of view not the writers or the industry. Jason Steger, one of the two regulars, we have been friends talking about fifteen years! Marieke Hardy is a fantastic girl, it makes for a lively show because we disagree most of the time! We have guests on our program, monthly, they could be authors or publishers but most of the time they are regular people such as politicians, actors or musicians. People that are fun and interesting and can talk the way we all talk about books.

What excites you the most about the Book Club?

Jennifer Byrne : I genuinely believe the show encourages people to read! There is really strong evidence that sales of the books are going up. One of the greatest days of my lives was when my husband Andrew was in a book store in Melbourne and we had Moby Dick on the show as a 'favourite' or 'classic' for that month. Andrew heard someone come in and ask for Moby Dick, because we had said it was on the next show, they said 'No, we have sold out of the book and we have sold out of the re-orders!'. It was so exciting! It doesn't matter if it is Moby Dick of Jodi Picolt, it is encouraging people to read.

Also there is a pretty active website that is encouraging people to actively talk about reading. For me I think it is exciting and is feeding a real love of books.

Being on a Tuesday night it is run as a entertainment show, not an arts show. I think that is very important, when it is aired. People who wouldn't normally tune in for 'arts' can watch. It is a little late, but it is still prime-time television. Also with technology people can record it and watch it at their own time. It is a really good time. Day is over, you've had time to read yourself, you've had dinner and put the kids to bed. You can watch with a cup of tea and relax.

How different is it having your Book Club filmed?

Jennifer Byrne : Jason and I have the same discussions on the show as we always have. Being on television you sort of have to have a sense of where the guests stand before filming but basically I feel like I'm in a real Book Club. It is natural although you can't go on forever. The guests are always pretty much okay to come back, because they have had a good time because we are not always reminding them that the camera is on. It is pretty laid back.

I think half an hour is a good length of time, we get through a lot in regards to two books in that time. Saying that we talk about at least another three books we have read during the month. It is a lot of books, you get a minimum of five books in the episode, and sometimes more!

I am a great believer in the local library, people should use their local library! Books are becoming more expensive, so share with friends. My business is to encourage people to love and read books. I want books to be loved.

Are you excited about any of the books in future Book Club episodes?

Jennifer Byrne : We plan ahead, so we have time to read. Reading itself is exciting! I have a lot of books going through my life. I have a huge pile of books on my side of the bed. I have changed my reading habits, I never used to be able to put down a book half-read, I used to think it was rude to do this.

Books in April 2009:

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
The Private Patient by PD James

Book Club in May 2009:

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas,
A child is slapped at a suburban barbecue, by a man who isn't his parent.

Darwin and the Barnacle by Rebecca Stott
The story of one tiny creature and history's most spectacular scientific breakthrough.

First Tuesday Book Club airs on the first Tuesday of every month on ABC at 10pm

Interview by Brooke Hunter