2014
05.07

Andy McNab Experiences World Book Night’s Crisis Book Club

Andy McNab is one of the world’s bestselling fiction and non-fiction writers. His insider knowledge and experience from his time in the SAS has enabled him to pen bestsellers including Bravo Two Zero as well as his series of Nick Stone thrillers. Most recently, Andy McNab attended the World Book Night Crisis Book Club. Here’s how he got on…

World Book Night, which took place this April, works throughout the year to give books to those hardest to reach. The organization have been working with Crisis, the national charity for single homeless people, to deliver a unique book club for the homeless in London. The book club is attended by a group every week who discuss a book from the World Book Night list of titles.

I was invited to talk at the book club to around 35 members, all of whom were homeless and a mix of age, gender and race. They were some of the most enthusiastic, inspiring people I’ve met. I was thrilled to receive so many positive responses about the book club from those who had attended.

There were many issues discussed in our group conversation including the feeling of being an outsider to society and of not fitting in. This was particularly significant to me as this was exactly how I felt as a teenager going into juvenile detention. I hated society and blamed everybody but myself for what was happening in my life.

But this book club group have a different story. They aren’t blaming anyone, they just want to pick themselves up and get back in the game.

Danny came from a troubled background and is now in his early 30s. He described how he wasn’t allowed to follow a creative path as a child. He is clearly bright but he dropped out of university with huge debts and fell through the cracks. He is now working as an actor:

‘Three years ago I was street homeless and Crisis gave me a place to live at Christmas. I have now started acting… I wasn’t allowed to do any of that stuff when I was young, but now I’ve discovered I might be quite good at it!’

Michael is a university educated ex civil servant, who spent the period between Christmas and New Year trying to hide in A&E because it was warm and he had nowhere else to go. Things had gone wrong at home and at work and he suddenly found himself on the street. But now Michael, like some of the others, wants to write and tell his personal story.

I was asked by many book club members how much of my personal experiences I used in my stories. The answer is, a huge amount. What I tried to show them was that they too have archives of personal experiences and unique stories to tell. All they need to do is start writing them down on paper.

The Crisis book club is giving these members the opportunity and confidence to express their views, to be listened to and to find a way to get back in the race. Finding the courage to make their voices heard is the first step.

If someone had suggested I could benefit from a book club when I was a young man going off the rails, I would have laughed. But how wrong I would have been.

Source: Transworld Publishers

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