Every six weeks members of the ShelterBox Book Club are invited to discuss our current book through a series of events, often including a live Q&A with the author joining us from their homes across the world.  

Here is a full archive of the recordings of those events, starting with the most recent.

What have we read?

Not got the full set? Don’t worry you can buy previous books and support ShelterBox at the same time through our bookshop.

Before the Queen Falls Asleep by Huzama Habayeb, translated by Kay Heikkinen

A beautiful and heartfelt dissection of motherhood and a record of a Palestinian family in exile. Wonderfully translated by Kay Heikkinen, Huzama’s 2011 novel was published for the first time in English in March 2024, and we at the ShelterBox Book Club were lucky recipients of an exclusive early print-run. We read Before the Queen Falls Asleep between March and April 2024. 

To begin our discussion week, we hosted a thoughtful and thoughtprovoking discussion with a wide range of members on Tuesday 9th April 2024. Watch here.

We were then joined by Huzama and a surprise guest in the form of Kay Heikkinen for a superb Q&A with our members. 

Farewell Fountain Street by Selçuk Altun

A twisting turning ode to Samuel Beckett. Selçuk Altun’s delightfully debatable ‘thriller’ spins out from Istanbul to Switzerland, Ukraine and even the United Kingdom following the twin stories of Artvin and the mysterious Ziya. We read Farewell Fountain Street between January and February 2024. 

To begin our discussion week, we hosted a thrilling discussion really enlightening event with our members on the 26th of February 2024. Watch here.

We were then joined by Selçuk from Istanbul for a great Q&A with our members. 

Chronicles of a Cairo Bookseller by Nadia Wassef

A beautiful memoir from one of the founders of the first modern bookstore in Egypt – Diwan. Nadia’s love letter to the shop and the community that surrounded it is a refreshingly frank read chocked full of fantastic recommendations. We read Chronicles of a Cairo Bookseller between December 2023 and January 2024. 

To begin our discussion week, we hosted a really enlightening event with our members on the 16th of January 2024 discussing Chronicles of a Cairo Bookseller. Watch here.

Nadia then kindly joined us from her home in London for a fascinating Q&A with our members. 

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Our first spooky story came in the form of Mexican Gothic by New York Times bestseller Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Her gothic noir thriller combines the real horrors of eugenics and colonialism, with something a bit more fantastical. We read Mexican Gothic between November and December 2023. 

Our book club discussion on Mexican Gothic took place on the 6th of December 2023. You can watch it here.

In December 2023, Silvia joined us from her home in Vancouver for a Q&A in which she expounded on her inspirations and aims for the book. 

The Selfless Act of Breathing by JJ Bola

The Selfless Act of Breathing is an emotional journey of self-discovery. We follow Michael Kabongo as he reckons with his long-term identity as a refugee, and modern man, in a deeply moving exploration of mental health. We read this book between September and October 2023. 

We had a really interesting event at the beginning of our discussion week to talk about the book and had a wide range of opinions on the text. Watch here.

Our Q&A with JJ Bola is one of my favourite Q&As we’ve hosted. It’s one of the events where you can enter with one opinion of the book and leave with a completely different perspective.  

The Color of Air by Gail Tsukiyama

A spellbinding piece of historical fiction sees a small town in Hawai’i made up of Japanese migrants thrown into disarray when the local volcano Manu Loa threatens eruption. One family are forced to face their secrets as the clock ticks towards destruction. We read this book between August and September 2023. 

As we were reading The Color of Air horrific wildfires spread across Hawai’i which made for a unique discussion with our members new and old. Watch here.

We were then joined by Gail herself on the 14th of September who started her morning in San Francisco with a big dose of ShelterBox Book Club questions!

Midnight at Malabar House by Vaseem Khan

A cosy-crime thriller set in 1950s Bombay was an interesting change of pace for us, and the response from members was great. The book offered many twists and turns and we collectively fell for our new heroine Persis and her father (and his bookshop). We read this book between June and July 2023. 

The book club member discussion took place on the 31st of July 2023, and we only managed to get through THREE questions! Watch here.

Later that week, and fresh from his new appointment as the chair of the historic Crime Writers’ Association, Vaseem joined us for a lively Q&A on the 1st of August 2023.

Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn

A lyrical and unflinching story about the dark underbelly of Jamaica and the twisted web of chaos wrought by colonialism and modern tourism. We read this book between May and June 2023. 

There was a lot to talk about in our discussion of Here Comes the Sun, the surprising and twist-ridden plot, the beautiful language, and the rich characters. Watch here.

Here Comes the Sun is undeniably a heavy read, but Nicole Dennis-Benn was a breath of fresh air and levity when she joined us for our Q&A on the 22nd of June 2023 from her home in New York, and it was fascinating to hear what we’d read into the text that she hadn’t intended.

The Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhadar

One of the most popular books of 2023, The Map of Salt and Stars is a split narrative between the fantastical historical journey of a map-makers apprentice in the 12th century, and the same journey being taken by a young girl called Nour and her family fleeing the violence of the Syrian civil war in 2011. We read this book between April and May 2023. 

On the 9th of May 2023 we hosted a busy discussion of the book, talking about how we connected with the characters, the fluid nature of family, and Zeyn’s poetic style of writing. Watch here.

A few days later Zeyn joined us from their home in Italy and gave us a wonderful insight into their writing process, how they drew on their lived experience to tell an authentic story, and how joy can be an act of resistance.

My Pen is the Wing of a Bird – New Fiction by Afghan Women

My Pen is the Wing of a Bird is a groundbreaking collection of short stories from women in Afghanistan. The breadth and depth of the stories gives a new way of seeing Afghanistan and a powerful way to support women across the country. We read this book between February and March 2023. 

As you’d expect, our discussion was considerate, compassionate, and interesting. Together we found space for hope. Watch here.

We were also extremely pleased to be able to host a Q&A with Lucy Hannah, the director of UNTOLD who brought the book together, and one of the translators, Dr Negeen Kargar, herself an Afghan woman. They were able to talk brilliantly about how the collection was brought together, and their feelings on the situation in Afghanistan at that time.

War Gardens by Lalage Snow

One of the few Non-Fiction books we’ve read together, this one was based on the beautiful idea of highlighting people gardening pockets of peace in areas of conflict. Lalage Snow’s experiences as a war correspondent bring together many disparate gardens and gardeners, sometimes on opposite sides of the same conflict, and shows the shared humanity of us all. We read this book between January and February 2023. 

The book club member discussion took place on the 13th of February 2023 and was a great way at getting a deeper feel for the book, comparing different perspectives of the stories. Watch here.

Lalage Snow then joined us for a Q&A and talked about her motivations for the project, and how her fledgeling garden has been inspired by the people who she met.

A People’s History of Heaven by Mathangi Subramanian

This is the story of Heaven, a thirty-year-old slum hidden between high-rise apartment blocks and fancy office buildings in contemporary Bangalore. It is also the story of the girls who live there, and the community that are forced to stand up for their home in the face of endless modern expansion. We read A People’s History of Heaven between November and December 2022 

Our discussion on the 4th of January 2023 was completely joyful, filled with readings of our favourite passages, the power of community and our thoughts on the refreshing perspective of the book. Watch here.

Mathangi Subramanian joined us for an insightful Q&A where she talked about her inspirations, the realities of life in Bangalore, explained the narrator of the story and shared some beautiful images from a special photography project with the girls who inspired the book.

Typhoon by Qaisra Shahraz

In Typhoon we follow three completely different women as their home, the village of Chiragpur in rural Pakistan, reckons with its past. We read this book between October and November 2022. 

We had a rich discussion about the tapestry of characters, the culture clash that propels the story forward, and the shock ending! The book club member discussion took place on the 21st of November. Watch here.

Qaisra Shahraz is a force of nature, and we were lucky to sneak in a Q&A into her busy schedule when she joined us from her home in Manchester on the 22nd of November 2022.

The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

A firm favourite in the Book Club, The Mountains Sing (now an international bestseller) is a beautiful family saga that spans almost the whole of 20th century Việt Nam. Following the Trần family through many upheavals and moments of joy it is an invigorating, enlightening and emotional read. We read this book between September and October 2022. 

In our discussion on the 12th of October 2022, we talked about the characters connection to nature, the effect of childhood on memories, and Wynne shared her favourite proverb from the book: “He who sows the wind, will reap the storm”. Watch here.

Quế Mai is one of my favourite authors, she is so passionate about her writing and the stories she is able to tell, so generous with her time (she’s now an ambassador for ShelterBox), and so authentic in her communication. Our astonishing Q&A which includes a recital of some of her poetry is available here.

Augustown by Kei Miller

Augustown is a sublime book. It manages to tell the story of one day, and simultaneously the entire history of the community of Augustown, Jamaica. The writing is magical, and the story profound. We were lucky enough to read this book between July and August 2022. 

Unfortunately, Kei was not available to join us for a Q&A but we had a great discussion about the book on the 30th of August.

Mrs Mohr Goes Missing by Maryla Szymiczkowa

A bit of a marmite book this one, Mrs Mohr Goes Missing was Book Club’s first foray into cosy crime fiction. The book follows nosy socialite Zofia Turbotynska in her comic first run of solving mysteries around Victorian Krakow. We read this book between June and July 2022. 

In our discussion on the 21st July 2022, we talked about shifting opinions on Zofia, our unexpected learnings from that period of history, what social commentary there is in the book and I gave an update on the work of ShelterBox in Ukraine at that time. Watch here.

The Q&A with Jacek Dehnel and Piotr Tarcynski (who write collectively under the pseudonym Maryla Szymiczkowa) took place a few days later when they joined us from their shared home in Berlin. They talked candidly about how they write together, their relationship with their translator, and why they chose to write a detective story.

Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa, translated by Alison Watts

We read this book between May and June 2022. It’s a delightful tale of a man who’s short on luck, a teenage girl looking for friends, and an elderly woman with enough wisdom and heart for both. It’s also a delicious story of the power of food! We read the book between May and June 2022.  

The book club member discussion took place on the 7th of June and was a lively affair, with lots of positives and some great thoughts on food, community and how the book tackles discrimination. Watch here.

We were joined for a Q&A by Alison Watts the translator of the text, and as a surprise towards the end, her friend, the author Durian Sukegawa on the 18th of June 2022.

We were also able to send some member question to Durian for a written response which you can read here.

We Are Displaced by Malala Yousafzai with Liz Welch

A groundbreaking collection of testimonies from young women across the world who have been displaced. The book begins with Malala’s own experiences before, like a fireside chat, she passes attention across to some of the inspiring women and girls she’s met in her extraordinary life. We read the book between March and April 2022. 

In our discussion on the 27th April, we talked about who we thought the book was aimed at, what that did for our experience of reading, how timely it felt to read these stories at that point in time, and how important it was for refugees to be seen as more than statistics. Watch here.

We were lucky, then, to be joined by Liz Welch who helped to bring the compilation of stories together, working individually with each of the young women to help them tell their story, in their own words. Liz talked to us about that process, and was able to share updates of some of the women including Zaynab and Marie-Claire.

Three Apples Fell from the Sky by Narine Abgaryan

Three Apples Fell From The Sky was our International Women’s Day pick for 2022 and a gentle fable-like tale of a small Armenian community, and an unexpected romance that turns their repetitious routines upside down 

Unfortunately we weren’t able to be joined by Narine for a Q&A, but we had a brilliant discussion about the book on the 18th of March talking about symbolism, translation, the balance of tragedy and humour, and how the book made us feel.

Black Mamba Boy by Nadifa Mohammed

An almost unbelievable story (if it were not based on the life of the authors father), about a young boy in the 1930s, who, in search of his father, walks across East Africa and up into the Middle East, beginning in Yemen, before entering Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan and Egypt before boarding a boat in Palestine destined for a small Welsh town. The journey is remarkable and the writing beautiful. We read this book in January and February 2022.  

Our discussion saw 50 people talking about their personal reflections on the text, which characters and locations drew us in, what other books it reminded us of, and what we thought of specific scenes. Watch here.

We had a technical snag in our recording of our Q&A with the Booker-nominated author Nadifa Mohammed where only the sound recorded, but as you and I both know, the best part of any story is the words. She talked about her writing process with her father, the decisions she made while editing the book and what she hoped the story conveyed to her readers

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

Set in modern-day India, The Space Between Us is the story of two women, brought together by circumstance and friendship, but separated by class and shame. It’s a fascinating exploration of Indian society and two captivating women. We read this book between November and December 2021.  

We began our discussion week Thrity Umrigar who spoke beautifully about her philosophy for writing, the real-life person who inspired the pivotal character of the balloon seller, and why she felt inspired to write a sequel to the book.

Our discussion on the 13th of December delved into character, writing style, the books transportive nature and how the story challenged stereotypes, we also talked briefly about the book produced by the ShelterBox Book Club, Tamesis Street. Watch here.

Tamesis Street

In 2021 the ShelterBox Book Club brought together an innovative storytelling project, bringing thirty authors together to tell one story, the story of a fictional disaster hitting London in the year 2050.  

For our one-off event on The Making Of Tamesis Street from 2021 we had: 

  • Readings from Monique Roffey, Veronica Henry, Chris Packham, and ShelterBox partner Ather Al Atyiah who works for ReliefAid in Syria. 
  • Messages from Jay Rayner, Helen Lederer, Partick Gale, Andrew Michael Hurley, Ather Al Atyiah and Charmain D. Arcos on why they wanted to take part in this project.  
  • A panel discussion with Joanne Harris, Monique Roffey and Wyl Menmuir 

The Dancing Face by Mike Phillips

A mysterious Nigerian mask is stolen from a big British institution, a thriller ensues. The book may be more than 30 years old, but the debate it tackles is as fresh as ever. We read this book in September and October 2021.  

Our discussion of The Dancing Face was a great conversation about politics, gender, and the power of storytelling. We covered a lot of topics, my favourites were the multi-layered identities we all build and how they help (or hinder) us when interacting with the world, and our lively discussion about how the book has aged. Watch here.

On the 4th of November, Mike Phillips joined us for an interesting Q&A where he shared he spoke about what spurred him to write The Dancing Facethe world he was inhabiting in the nineties and how it impacted the book and the power he wanted to resonate from the mask.

Flesh and Bone and Water by Luiza Sauma

A doctor in London returns to Brazil and reminisces about his upbringing there, and a forbidden love affair that has haunted him ever since. A beautifully written exploration of class, race and Brazilian storytelling. We read this book between August and September 2021.  

Our discussion on the 21st of September 2021 was full of laughter while we covered topics such as the vibrancy of the locations, the historical connotations of some of the storylines and the comment that reading from André’s point of view reminded us all (with excruciating vividness) how we must have been as teenagers: Watch here.

Luiza Sauma joined us for a delightful Q&A in which she gave us real insight into her home country of Brazil, behind the scenes details of the book (such as its original title), and her feelings for the characters years on from writing the book.

The Wife’s Tale by Aida Edemariam

In The Wife’s Tale, celebrated journalist Aida Edemariam charts the life of her grandmother, which spanned the whole of 20th century Ethiopia. Part biography, part history book this is a beautifully written and unique story. We read this book in July and August 2021. 

In our discussion for The Wife’s Tale on the 10th August 2021 we talked about Aida’s writing style the descriptions of food and seasons, the history of Ethiopia, the cost of modernity and the way the writing style dictated the pace we read the book. Watch here.

Unfortunately, Aida Edemariam was unable to join us for a Q&A so we hosted a slightly different event instead. Two of our ShelterBox colleagues, Hannah Kentish who was the project manager for our Ethiopia response, and Tsigie Tewabe who was in our Finance team and grew up in Ethiopia. Tsigie shared her experience of growing up in the Amhara region: the delicious and healthy food; the role of women in society; how long-distance runners inspired her to get up at 5am to run before school; the ceremonial making of coffee and much more. Hannah gave us an overview of the crisis in the Tigray region and ShelterBox’s early response.

Mr Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo

Written by Booker Prize winning author Bernardine Evaristo, Mr Loverman is the story of Barrington Jedidiah Walker, and the double life he’s been leading for 60+ years. It’s about his wife Carmel and the love of his life Morris, and the moment when the secrets come crashing down. It’s also hilarious, joyful and beautiful. We read this book in May and June 2021.  

We were extremely lucky to host a Q&A with Bernardine Evaristo herself, but on the condition that the recording would only be available for a week following the live event. However you can still watch our great discussion on the book which took place on the 29th June 2021.

Snow in May by Kseniya Melnik

A collection of short stories set in one of the most remote communities in the world, Magadan in Russia. At turns joyful, shocking, heartbreaking and slightly creepy. We read this book in April and May 2021.  

This is the first discussion we ever recorded, and it was a great discussion about the way the different stories interacted, the Kseniya’s writing style, and how the book made us feel. Watch here.

Later that week we were joined by Kseniya Melnik from her home in the United States, she talked beautifully about the origins of the collection, her next book and why she feels compelled to tell stories.

A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum

Three generations of women in one Palestinian-American family grapple with the traumas of their life, and find hope in stories new and old. A beautiful and heartbreaking book which we read in March and April 2021.  

One of our most popular Q&As was the one we were honoured to host with Etaf Rum. She’s an exceptionally talented writer, and beautiful speaker, and she spoke candidly about the origins of A Woman is No Man, how her own experiences fed into the characters, and what she was working on at the time.

We, The Survivors by Tash Aw

A clever and illuminating novel about a Malaysian murderer, and the life that led him to his crime. A portrait of an outsider, and an anti-nostalgic view of human life. We read this astonishing book in January and February 2021.  

We were joined by Tash Aw for an incredible, mind-expanding Q&A at the end of February 2021. His answers were brilliant and really helped to contextualise We, The Survivors within the pantheon of literature, and explain some of the intricacies we may have missed on first reading.