Inspiring reads at the Grazia Book Club

Last night, at Forest, the Selfridges rooftop bar, four exceptional women came together to discuss their favourite reads, specifically the books which made them readers.

Chaired by novelist and Baileys Prize co-founder Kate Mosse our brilliant panel included bestselling author Kathy Lette, award-winning campaigner, Leyla Hussein, writer and singer Hajar Woodland and literary agent Felicity Blunt.

Novelist Kathy Lette chose Gentleman Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos, dubbing it ‘an expresso for the mind’ and regaling the audience with pithy quotes from the book, saying: ‘It’s totally untrue that women aren’t funny.’ Kathy also chose Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, saying the book taught her at sixteen ‘what real passion was.’

Campaigner Leyla Hussein picked Alice Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy and Headscarves and Hymens by Mona Eltahawy, Leyla said that the discovering of Walker was a huge moment for her: ‘growing up in the West I rarely read books by people who looked like me.’ As an FGM sufferer herself, reading of the character’s own ‘cleansing’ ritual in the book was extremely difficult and made her realise that FGM is ‘torture, not culture,’ ultimately putting her on the path to becoming an anti-FGM campaigner herself.

Writer and singer Hajar Woodland spoke of the influence A Handmaid’s Tale had upon her as a young Muslim girl, saying: ‘It was a springboard for me to challenge myself and my views.’ Hajar also chose Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert as a hugely inspirational book in her life – ‘it freed me up to write.’

Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad made literary agent Felicity Blunt’s list – she said of Egan’s novel ‘I cannot recommend this book highly enough.’ Felicity also raged against the term ‘chick lit’, saying: ‘I’ve yet to see dreary old man lit… They get to call it literary fiction.’

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