Banter / Read With Us


Welcome to the new home for Zed: The Zoomer Book Club videos, where you will find recordings from author events, book club meetings and interviews with leading literary lights. What better way to inaugurate this page than with my July 2022 talk with the vaunted American-Canadian writer, John Irving?

We dive deep into his latest novel, The Last Chairlift, an elegant masterpiece about love, tolerance and empathy, shot through with all the political commentary we’ve come to expect from the writer.



The conversation veers into unexpected territory as Irving, 80, opens up about his absent biological father, his daughter’s transition from male to female and why he detests William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Watch as Irving explains why his novels are so dark, what he’s working on next and how Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations may be his emergency novel, but Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick taught him to know how a book is going to end before he starts writing (not to mention how it took 20 years to get a tattoo of a sperm whale on his forearm). It’s a fascinating glimpse into the mind of the man who gifted us 15 novels, including The World According to Garp, The Cider House Rules, A Prayer for Owen Meany and The Hotel New Hampshire. – Kim Honey



Watch Nita Prose discuss The Maid with Kim Honey:

Watch our Zed: The Zoomer Book Club discussion on The Maid:

Watch Michelle Good discuss Five Little Indians with Kim Honey:

Watch our Zed: The Zoomer Book Club discussion on The Pull of the Stars:


1Small Pleasuresby Clare Chambers

The premise of this novel reminded me of Emma Donoghue’s The Wonder, where an English nurse is hired to investigate a miraculous claim that a young Irish girl is thriving without food or water. In Chambers’ book, set in England in 1957, a North Kent newspaper reporter named Jean Swinney investigates a woman who claims to have had a virgin birth. Deemed a “women’s interest” story, Jean is dispatched to interview Gretchen Tilbury, who lives in southeast London with her 10-year-old daughter, Margaret, and her jeweller husband, Howard. 

As Jean investigates Gretchen’s claim, she breaks one of the cardinal rules of journalism and becomes friends with her subjects. The book has many twists and turns, but I loved its sensitive portrayal of women and the limited choices available to them at the time (as well as the sexist newsroom banter). Ultimately, it is about love: between parents and children, men and women, and women and women. As the title suggests, it will provoke discussion on how the smallest things in life can have the deepest meaning, as well as women’s rights, sexism, motherhood and caregiving to elderly parents.

2The Swellsby Will Aitken

Will Aitken was about to give up writing novels after two of his latest manuscripts were rejected, but decided to give it one more go. The Montreal-based arts and travel writer explains his painful creative process in this hilarious essay about The Swells. (He went through more than 20 drafts.) Aitken’s farcical novel about high-end travel takes a dark turn when class war breaks out on the opulent Emerald Tranquility cruise ship, and the trip devolves into terrifying chaos featuring pirates and a prison camp on an unnamed southeast Asian island.

Maybe it’s because I’ve never been on a cruise or, like Aitken, I have done some travel writing, but I am a huge fan of this satire on the wealth and privilege enjoyed by the .01 per cent. When most of us are (sensibly) avoiding travel, but cruise ships continue to sail despite the raging COVID-19 pandemic, the author perfectly captures “a boatload of white privilege,” and then immediately subverts it. There is much to talk about here, from the silly (lettuce gazpacho) to the serious (economic disparity and racism) to the terrifying (pirates!).