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Last Updated: Monday, 16 August, 2004, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Top prize for pub reading group
The Racketeers Bolton
The group say the pub atmosphere is integral to the discussion
An all-male reading group from Greater Manchester has won a national award for its imaginative reading list.

The Racketeers is a group of eight men who meet once a month in The Briton's Protection pub in Manchester.

The Penguin Orange Reading Group Prize winners say the pub atmosphere is integral to their meetings.

The men found out they had won the prize on Wednesday, scooping a weekend trip to the Edinburgh Book Festival, and 200 worth of book vouchers.

The Racketeers got together at Christmas 2002 and their members are aged between 30 and 50-years-old.

For us literature is a way of engaging with the world, not a vehicle for escaping life's harsh realities
The Racketeers
Group leader, Chris Chilton, said the group was "chuffed to bits."

"We're all passionate about literature and pubs - we like the noise, we like the beer and we like the idea of talking about literature in these surroundings."

Coming in joint second place was The Ivanhoe Sprotbrough Library Readers Group from Doncaster, and the visually impaired Chesterfield Library Listening Group.

Judge Kate Jones, a literary agent and founder of the Penguin readers' group website, said the Racketeers were "truly inspirational".

"An all-male group, reading and sharing books over pints in the pub offered an insight into reading groups which was different, stimulating and above all, great fun.

Niamh Byrne, Director of UK Sponsorship at Orange, said: "It was inspiring to read of so much passion for the pleasures of reading and to see so much diversity and enthusiasm amongst the groups."

Also on the judging panel were Penguin author Gilda O'Neill; Guy Pringle, editor of newBOOKSmag, a magazine for readers and reading groups; Miranda McKearney, of The Reading Agency; Sara Yates, from Orange; and Tessa Hilton, editor-in-chief of Woman and Home magazine.

The most popular books among all the reading groups who entered the prize were The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon and The Life of Pi by Yann Martel.

The Racketeers cite Dostoyevsky, Tracey Chevalier, V.S Naipaul, Donna Tartt and Monica Ali as a few of their favourites.

In their submission for the prize, the winning group said: "For us literature is a way of engaging with the world, not a vehicle for escaping life's harsh realities.

"Jennings Ale, on the other hand, is ideally suited to this purpose."

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