The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley is the perfect antidote to the pandemic blahs.

This bestseller is the story of a solitary notebook that brings together six strangers and leads to unexpected friendship and even love. It’s a tale of being brave and putting your real self forward—and finding out that it’s not as scary as it seems. It’s about turning isolation and loneliness into life-changing friendships. And at its heart, it’s about the beautiful things that can bloom around you when you do good things for others. 

Please join us in reading The Authenticity Project over the fall and winter, then join us at fun events relating to the story from mid-February through mid-March. 


Can a notebook bring neighbors together? We decided to find out by dropping off notebooks, like Julian’s, throughout Wauwatosa. Find out what your neighbors decided to share here.


Clare Pooley graduated from Newnham College, Cambridge and spent 20 years in the heady world of advertising before becoming a full-time mum. Realizing that her ‘wine o’clock’ habit had spiraled out of control, Clare started writing a blog, Mummy was a Secret Drinker, which has had nearly three million hits. Her memoir, The Sober Diaries was published in 2017 to critical acclaim.

Clare’s debut novel, The Authenticity Project, was inspired by her own experience of exposing the rather grubby truth about her own seemingly perfect life.

Clare’s talks include a TEDx talk – ‘Making Sober Less Shameful’, a talk for Radio 4’s Four Thought, and numerous podcast interviews.

Clare lives in Fulham, London, with her husband, three children, two border terriers and an African pygmy hedgehog. (From

DIY Book Club

Your Discussion:

Download these sheets to enhance your discussion of The Authenticity Project:

Discussion Questions

Author Clare Pooley

Awards and Praise

You might also want to check out her blog, Mummy Was a Secret Drinker, and view her TEDxTalk, Making Sober Less Shameful.

Food for Your Meeting:

There is no shortage of fun ideas if you’re planning to theme the food for your book club gathering around a discussion of The Authenticity Project. Check out these recipes researched and tested by food writer and editor Nancy Stohs.

Let’s start with Drinks.

The obvious choice is Bailey’s Irish Cream, the liqueur that Julian takes with him in a silver flask to visit the Admiral’s grave in Brompton Cemetery at 5 p.m. every Friday, as he and wife Mary used to do, meeting up there with friends.

Champagne, which was freely, liberally enjoyed en route to and from Paris, compliments of Julian, would be another fine choice, as would the gin-based English liqueur Pimm’s.

For a morning book club, consider tea accompanied by crumpets. When Julia invites his new friends to his flat, he offers his visitors English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Darjeeling and mint, which was Mary’s favorite. Crumpets were also served, toasted over a fire. Crumpets are a thick, flat, savory cake with a soft, porous texture, made from a yeast mixture cooked on a griddle and eaten toasted and buttered.

They are available online and in some local grocery stores, including Metcalfe’s.

Another possibility for drinks, especially welcome during a Wisconsin winter, would be mulled wine. Once when they’re together, Monica prepares some for her and Riley. She also served it on Christmas Eve in the café. Depending on the size of your book club gathering, you might want to double this recipe.

Classic Mulled Wine

And don’t forget ATMOSPHERE!

Set out a bowl of lemons, and open jar of strawberry jam (or have some strawberries or jam simmering on the stove) and lay out some rose petals. That’s what Julian said his apartment smelled like when Mary was there.

Well, those things plus old-fashioned hair spray from a can, and paint, aromas you might want to skip. But if not, Elnett hair spray, as mentioned in the book and made by L’Oreal, is sold on Amazon.

A Chinese Feast

Betty Wu, her son Baz (Biming in Chinese) and his boyfriend Benji are among the major characters affected by Julian’s Authenticity Project. Mrs. Wu’s Chinese food also plays a significant role. Try one or more of these recipes in honor of the feisty, wise tai chi teacher and restaurateur:

For a Chinese meal after one of Julian’s art classes, Mrs. Wu served crabmeat and sweetcorn soup, prawn and chive dumplings and vegetable spring rolls.

Creamy Corn and Crab Soup

Prawn and Chive Dumplings

Vegetable Spring Rolls

On her first visit to the admiral’s grave, Betty Wu brings a Thermos of her won ton soup. “It’s cold today. My soup warms the body, warms the soul,” she says. She also serves it once in Monica’s café.

Wonton Soup


Monica’s Christmas Day Lunch

If you’re meeting in December, you could pull out all the stops and re-create Monica’s Christmas Day Lunch that she served in her café.

Her festive meal was ruined when Hazard unexpectedly walked in… but yours doesn’t have to meet that fate.

First, the scene: Monica dressed her table with a white linen tablecloth scattered with rose petals that she spray-painted gold; place cards set in gold pinecones; red Christmas “crackers” (pull-apart party favors filled with jokes and paper crowns, a British tradition, readily available online), red and gold candles and a holly and ivy centerpiece.  A bottle of  champagne was set in a bucket of ice.

The menu: Smoked salmon blinis, roast turkey, roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts, Christmas (figgy) pudding.

If this is all too much for you, you could just prepare the blinis:

Smoked Salmon Blinis


If yours is a book club that serves desserts, here are two options themed to “The Authenticity Project.”

If you recall, Julian is a fan of butterscotch Angel Delight; it’s on his shopping list when we first meet him. Monica remembers this later, when Julian is found wasting away in bed, and she sends Riley out to buy him a package.

Angel Delight is a powdered dessert product produced in the United Kingdom (similar to our instant pudding) that is whisked with milk to create a mousse-like dessert. It’s sold in various online stores including the English Tea Store and British Corner Shop.

OR, you can play off a conversation between Monica and Riley when they’re together in her apartment above the coffee shop:

Monica opened her kitchen cupboard, which was embarrassingly bare.

“I’ve got some cooking chocolate, if you’d like some,” she said, breaking off a square and putting it in her mouth, feeling her energy returning with the infusion of sweetness. Now the tension had dropped she realized how hungry and exhausted she was. “Monica, stop!” said Riley. “You can’t eat that. It’s poisonous.”

“What on earth are you talking about?” asked Monica, her mouth full of chocolate. “Cooking chocolate. It’s poisonous until it’s cooked.”

“Riley, did your mother tell you that when you were little?”

“Yes!” he replied. She watched the penny drop.

“She lied to me, didn’t she? To stop me stealing the chocolate.”

Prove to your fellow book clubbers that there’s nothing at all toxic about “cooking chocolate.” In fact, they will gobble up these chocolate cookies (or biscuits, as they call them in Britain). For fun, serve some chunks of the chocolate on the side.

Outrageous Chocolate Cookies

For high school students

High school readers will enjoy the themes and characters in The Authenticity Project.

For middle readers (ages 8-14) 

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty (ages 8-12)

View from Pagoda Hill by Michaela MacColl (ages 9-12)

Unfriended by Rachel Vail (ages 10-14)

For Preschool to Grade 3 (ages 4-8)

Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers (ages 3-7)

The Visitor by Antje Damm (ages 3-6)

My Story Friend by Kalli Dakos (ages 4-8)

Thank you to our Children’s Book Sponsor, Mathnasium, for giving away copies of The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl



Not being honest and authentic can hurt a relationship between two people. Describe a time when you had to deal with honesty or authenticity in a relationship. How did you balance being honest with being a kind, caring individual?



First place ($30) Tegan Brown (Roosevelt Elementary) for “Shared Information”

Second Place ($20)  Sarah Weiss (Roosevelt Elementary) for “Ending a Friendship”

Honorable Mention: Sophia Basile (Roosevelt Elementary) for “The Dinner”


First place ($75) Adriana Xiong (Tosa East) for “My New Reality”


First place ($100) Robert Smatlak for “Becoming Yourself”

Second place ($60) Jenni Stanton for “Advocate for Your Truth”

Congratulations to all!