The Prison Book Club

The Prison Book Club

Book - 2015
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A daring journalist goes behind bars to explore the redemptive power of books with bikers, bank robbers, and gunmen
An attack in London left Ann Walmsley unable to walk alone down the street, and shook her belief in the fundamental goodness of people. A few years later, when a friend asked her to participate in a bold new venture in a men's medium security prison, Ann had to weigh her curiosity and desire to be of service against her anxiety and fear.
But she signed on, and for eighteen months went to a remote building at Collins Bay, meeting a group of heavily tattooed book club members without the presence of guards or security cameras. There was no wine and cheese, no plush furnishings. But a book club on the inside proved to be a place to share ideas and regain a sense of humanity.
For the men, the books were rare prized possessions, and the meetings were an oasis of safety and a respite from isolation in an otherwise hostile environment. Having been judged themselves, they were quick to make judgments about the books they read. As they discussed the obstacles the characters faced, they revealed glimpses of their own struggles that were devastating and comic. From The Grapes of Wrath to The Cellist of Sarajevo, Outliers to Infidel , the book discussions became a springboard for frank conversations about loss, anger, redemption, and loneliness.
The Prison Book Club follows six of the book club members, who kept journals at Walmsley's request and participated in candid one-on-one conversations. Graham the biker, Frank the gunman, Ben and Dread the drug dealers, and the robber duo Gaston and Peter come to life as the author reconciles her knowledge of their crimes with the individuals themselves, and follows their lives as they leave prison. And woven throughout is the determined and compassionate Carol Finlay, working tirelessly to expand her program across Canada and into the United States.
The books changed the men and the men changed Walmsley, allowing her to move beyond her position as a victim. Given the choice, she'd forsake the company of privileged friends and their comfortable book club to make the two-hour drive to Collins Bay.
Publisher: Toronto : Viking, ©2015.
ISBN: 9780670069484
Characteristics: xv, 279 pages ;,24 cm.


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racing14 Sep 10, 2017

A wonderful book that documents the author's journey confronting her fear in a unique way. Books and reading have a powerful effect. It was interesting to read how the group discussion went as I had read many of the books.
A great book club selection

Dec 25, 2016

This is a very good book, and I was happy to hear that these book clubs exist in Canadian penal institutions. The insight that many of the prisoners had were very interesting to read, and I enjoyed their critiques of the books they read. I belong to a library based book club, and our group has read many of the same books as noted here. Highly recommend.

sdodge66 Sep 26, 2016

The Prison Book Club, journalist Ann Walmsley's memoir about running a book club in an Ontario men's prison, has been crowned the winner of the 2016 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Nonfiction.

May 30, 2016

An insightful look into the minds of the book club members as they comment on the many books they've read. Congratulations to the people who have contributed to this prison activity.

smc01 Mar 15, 2016

As the moderator of library book clubs, I found this to be an amazingly insightful read. There is a lot to be admired in the prison book clubs, in the people who run them and the prisoners who are members. The book is full of tips for running a successful book club meeting and of unexpectedly insightful comments from the men. Ann Walmsley was honest in voicing her concerns in working with the prisoners. I love her conclusion - that given the choice between attending a meeting of her women's book club in Toronto and and attending a meeting of the prison book club, she would take the prison book club every time.

dairyqueen Jan 07, 2016

I really enjoyed reading the inmates comments on the many books I have read.

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