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The Prison Book Club

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  1,024 ratings  ·  202 reviews
A heart-warming story about the redemptive qualities of reading.

After Ann Walmsley was mugged near her house in Hampstead, she found she was unable to walk alone down the street and it shook her belief in the fundamental goodness of people. In Canada a few years later, when her friend Carol asked her to participate in a bold new venture in a men's medium security prison, A
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 22nd 2015 by Viking
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May 29, 2017 rated it liked it
I met the author at a local book club meeting and decided to read her book.

At first I wondered why she wrote a book like this. Was it to promote the Book Clubs in Prisons that her friend and colleague, Carol Finlay, had pioneered in Canada, was it a life-long love of books, or was it to exorcise a traumatic mugging incident in which she had been the victim? I concluded it was all three, but upon reading the book, I discovered a fourth: providing us a glimpse into the Federal Correctional System,
If you are a book lover this is a MUST read. It opens your mind to all kids of different views and a variety of books you wouldn't normally pick up. I highly recommend this to everyone. You will be missing out on one of the best books I have ever read!!! I'm so grateful I took the chance and bought it. ...more
Emily Burns
Jun 07, 2016 rated it liked it
My reaction to The Prison Book Club is so very mixed. The writing is straightforward and succinct in its summaries of the two years Walmsley spent with the prison book clubs at Collins Bay and Beaver Creek, and I am so pleased to hear about the program as it is likely such a valuable resource for inmates during and after their incarceration; however, I found the tone of her writing very self-congratulatory. I acknowledge that, because of her post-traumatic stress following her mugging, it was a ...more
Sep 22, 2015 rated it liked it
I would have liked to award this book 5 stars based on the wonderful charitable work done by starting book clubs in prisons. The author, Ann, was traumatized by a violent mugging in London and afterwards was afraid to walk down the street. On her return to Canada she was asked by a friend, Carol, to participate in a book club in a medium security Ontario prison. She had to overcome an almost paralyzingly fear in order to take part. She also says she went to the prison with plans to write a book. ...more
'"Carol, do they think we're all monsters?"'

I really hope more people pick this book up and read it. What a journey it took me on. It even managed to elicit a tear out of me at the end.

I can't believe I haven't heard more about this book. More shockingly, I can't believe I haven't heard more about these prison book clubs, which are in dozens of prisons throughout Canada and are spreading in popularity around the world (USA, Japan, etc). It goes to show that the science behind reading really has
Dec 31, 2015 rated it it was ok
I got this book at a Read For The Cure event. I found the premise very interesting, but the execution was poor, due to the shallow treatment of the discussions the book club members actually had. Each chapter started with a description of the book for that month's meeting (which read like a cross between a newspaper book review and the blurbs you find printed on book jackets, convincing you to pick them up). The writer would then delve into the book club discussion itself, but unfortunately, it ...more
Amie's Book Reviews

Author: Ann Walmsley

Type of Book: Hardcover

Genre: Non-Fiction

Length: 279 pages

Release Date:

Publisher: Viking - A Division of Penguin/Random House Publishing

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

* I received a free hardcover copy of this book through the Goodreads Giveaway program. A review is not a requirement of receiving the book, but it is appreciated.

There are several factors that drew me to this book. Firstly, the author, Ann Walmsley, is Canadian and I love to read books wr
Nina Ive
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a book about books. And books within books. It should come with a warning attached: you are not required to read ALL of the books listed in this book. Which of course means you will want to. I’m also inspired to start up a bunch of bookclubs, everywhere, all the time.

Yeah, so you get the picture. This is actually a true story about an enterprising woman called Carol, who wanted to see if reading – through an organised and voluntary bookclub -could help give inmates a purpose. She wanted
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

In The Prison Book Club, journalist Ann Walmsley shares the story of the eighteen months she spent as a volunteer with Book Clubs for Inmates, a fledgling project that began at the Collins Bay Institution, a medium-security penitentiary in Kingston, Ontario that has now grown into a successful nationwide program.

Walmsley was understandably reluctant when her friend, Carol Finlay, asked her to support the Collins Bay book club, several years before she had been badly traumatised when she was viol
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating read and just reinforces for me....not that I wasn't completely convinced anyway...the power of books. Ann's friend Carol was instrumental in starting up Book Clubs in prisons all over Canada. In her book, Ann, documents these meetings and gives us an insight into some of the men who attended. It was heartening to see how sensitive and perceptive these men were; some who were accused of serious crimes and how through books and reading they were able to make a life for them ...more
Saimon (ZanyAnomaly)
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own, arcs
I went into this book based on the blurb, especially the last line which had mentioned this book to be a "heartwarming example of the rehabilitative power of reading" and I just have to say, it is a very accurate description of this book.
And the icing on top is the fact that this book is a MEMOIR!

Ann Walmsley, an ardent reader of books, is still haunted by a mugging incident that happened a few years back when her friend Carol approaches her to talk about her new initiative of opening book clubs
2 ½-stars.

this book was chosen as a monthly read for april, 2016 in one of my GR groups. so i won't say too much on specifics just yet. but, generally, though i found the subject and book club program completely interesting and book-worthy, i never warmed to the style of walmsley's writing or to the way this book is structured. i felt frustrated at moments during the read because even though the book can be extremely personal - for both walmsely and some of the men she profiles taking part in th
Melinda Worfolk
I wanted to like it more than I did. Too bad! There's an interesting story to be told here, but not in this book. Well-meaning concept but limp narrative. ...more
Feb 12, 2018 rated it liked it
I was so intrigued by this concept I was hooked from the beginning. Ann joins a book club her friend has started at Collin’s Bay penitentiary in Kingston. She is responsible for the book choices and suggests that the men keep journals while they read. It was really interesting to see when the men felt comfortable discussing their past, childhood, upbringing and the reason they were incarcerated. Ann created three ‘layers’ while participating in the book club: the book club discussions, private o ...more
Caroline Lisa
Jan 23, 2021 rated it really liked it
An interesting, non judgemental read.
Carla Johnson-Hicks
Apr 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, can-lit
Author Ann Walmsley was the victim of a mugging in England and had some degree of PTSD. When she returned to Canada, her friend Carol asked her to participate in a book club in a men's prison. She was leary but taking strength from something her father had said, she agreed to give it a go. What happened next is the meat of this book. This was a fascinating read and if definitely reinforces the power of books. Ann's friend Carol was instrumental in starting up Book Clubs in prisons all over Canad ...more
Nov 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book should be a model for how book clubs work. Ann Walmsley recounts her experiences in 2011 and 2012 with book clubs established by a friend in prisons near Kingston. She explores her own feelings with searing honesty - her understandable nervousness about going into prisons. Her growing respect and affection for the men she meets there.

And the books. Because she was given permission to record the book club meetings, the author is able to reproduce the topics raised and selections from t
This book describes the personal experience of the author, Ann, who volunteers with a couple of book clubs located in Canadian prisons. Ann, herself, had been a victim of a violent crime prior to this, and it was with mixed feelings that she participated. This book describes in detail individual prisoners who took part in the book clubs (though names have been changed) and their comments and perceptions of the books that were read, some of which are quite enlightening. The book describes the pro ...more
Tanya Wiles-bell
Nov 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
I honestly didn't love this book so I purposely waited a few weeks after reading it to see if I'd change my mind. Sadly, I didn't. Technically this is a well written book, but I just found that the story dragged, as if too much effort was made to fill pages with words rather than with content (story). When I picked this novel up I was hoping for deeper insight into the life of prisoners in Ontario and how reading transformed them, and, hopefully, how the book clubs affected the prisoners AND the ...more
Aug 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography, 2017
I expected to find this much more absorbing than I did. It was not that the subject matter failed to engage me . The establishing of a book club in a Canadian prison and the inmates growing enthusiasm for reading and discussing the books was of great interest. Rather it was the way the book was written.
Although Ann Walmsley states that she became involved in the group partly to help her overcome her post-traumatic stress after a mugging in London, she remained only a shadowy figure in the narra
Oct 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
An important but flawed read.
Important because the power of books is so wonderfully illustrated. And a look at our prison systems is always important.

Flawed because it felt like it should have been shorter, and at times felt like it was wandering. I read a newspaper review that said the organization that recruited the author to volunteer in the book club was upset about her book, saying the inmates felt betrayed - I was surprised by the content she shared about their crimes and private lives, b
Jan 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a must-read for those who love books. I learned a very important lesson in reading this book. Just because someone is in prison, doesn't mean that they can't enjoy literature. Of the books that I had in common with the ones that the prison book club read, the prisoners had better insights into what they read than I ever could.

The attack on the author and the aftermath were a bit played up, but it couldn't detract from the joy I got from reading about what the inmates felt about the book
Vivien Farnell
brilliant. had read quite a few of the books read by the book club and it was interestng to see the depth of the discussions and the topics introduced and also I have added a few books to my reading list.
Jul 26, 2015 added it
An eye opening memoir that left me speechless! A must read
Mar 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: bookclub
Read for (non-prison) bookclub.
Gisela Hafezparast
Feb 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Probably more a 3.5.
I have to say that even the title of this book immediately got me interested, but I had to overcome my conscious "Unconscious bias" towards posh, rich people to give this book a chance.

Ann Walmsley is my eyes at least a posh, rich person, BUT, Gisela be fair, whilst she clearly had a very protected comfortable upbringing, married to somebody who earns a lot of money (otherwise you do not live in a big house in Hampstead Heath in London) and then can more or less give up work
Susan Marshall
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Prison Book Club is a compelling read, especially for those of us who belong to book clubs. As a victim of a violent mugging, author and PTSD sufferer Ann Walmsley, confronts her fear of criminals, volunteering to assist in establishing book clubs in men's prisons as part of a pilot project for inmate rehabilitation. Extremely well-written, the most fascinating parts are the meetings themselves, with the prisoners providing impressive opinions and insights to often challenging literary works ...more
Dec 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has two very unique aspects - getting to recognize and understand humanity and some interesting tidbit about Ontario’s prisons, and wanting to hop into your car and literally join the Collins Bay Book Club.

I adored the discussion of all of the books and the new perspectives that were shared via some of the inmates. I will say that this book added a serious number to my TBR pile!

I also loved the humanity that this book brought to a broken system. Having the insight into some of the pot
May 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommended to JoAnne by: County Bookworm
A few suggestions before reading this book. The fact that it is a compilation of their book club studies, it is advisable to pre-read the books that they are reviewing. A few examples are:
1. The Guernsey literary and potato peel pie society
2. Grapes of Wrath ( who hasn't read this one yet?? )
3. Small Island
4. Infidel
5. The Woman who Walked into Doors
6. The Glass Castle
7. Alias Grace.. one of my all time favorites
8. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas ( this one isn't actually discussed in this book,
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
Unfortunately I did not finish this book. Life is too short to plod through a slow moving book like this. The writing is fine, but stiff, lacking any warmth. I had higher hopes. I have such a curiosity regarding life behind the walls of local prisons. In that respect I learned little. Disappointed.
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Ann Walmsley is a magazine journalist whose work has appeared in The Globe and Mail and Maclean's. She is the recipient of four National Magazine Awards, a Canadian Business Journalism Award and two International Regional Magazine Awards.

Born in Picton, Ontario, Walmsley graduated with a degree in English literature from Trinity College at the University of Toronto, before pursuing a career in jo

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