Mention reading groups to most people, and they expect middle age, middle class and middle brow.
How wrong!
Reading groups are a growing force in publishing, and some big name authors owe their success to word-of-mouth recommendation through book groups. For instance:
Number One Ladies Detective Agency
Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Devine Sisters of the YaYa Sisterhood
The Kite Runner
These were all small-time debut novels until discovered by reading groups.

Following the success of these books, publishers are trying to woo reading groups by offering free advance copies, group discounts and even access to authors.
Interestingly, most literary festivals ignore readers and concentrate on big authors whose names sell tickets. 
However the Chipping Norton Literary Festival will put reading groups centre stage when they host 'Book Groups - Not Just Tea and Biscuits'.
Speakers include Sarah Turvey, who runs prison book groups, and Genevieve Clarke from The Reading Agency, a charity promoting literacy. We are also hoping to have a speaker from MIND who has launched a book group for those suffering from depression. 
This is all a far cry from the traditional view of book groups as middle-brow chintz and tea. 

Book your place at The Chipping Norton Literary Festival, April 22, Jaffe & Neale Bookshop, 11 am.