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What we're reading: Festival co-founder Jenny Denton

By - 11 May 2020 - 15:17pm

While we all stay at home, we've been asking members of the DBF team which books they've been reading and, in some cases, re-reading. This week Festival co-founder, Jenny Denton, tells us which books she has been getting stuck in to.

One of the many jobs on my lockdown list was sorting out my bookshelves and, in spite of the difficulties of weaving my way through piles of books on my dining room floor for several days, I am now savouring the joy of wonderfully tidy shelves and alphabetically arranged books.

An additional pleasure was re-discovering some books which have been languishing on my shelves for years - some unread and some partially read.

Two of these were The Secret Life of Bees - a very readable story which encompasses maternity, spirituality, prejudice … and beekeeping and The Bees, a gripping and frightening dystopian novel set in a beehive, where one bee rebels against the totalitarian state. This is now back on my reading list. The bee theme was enhanced by Sue Wall’s fascinating conversation with Roger Morgan-Grenville about his book Liquid Gold, which was recently recorded as part of DBF at home and was featured in last week’s newsletter.

But it is the Festival’s Shared Reading Postcard project which has given me the most unexpected pleasure. Sending poems on postcards to members of the Shared Reading groups, who are now missing their weekly gatherings, has made me pick up my long-neglected poetry books. If you are finding it difficult to concentrate on a book, I recommend a poem.

At the launch of our first Festival in 2015 Blake Morrison read from Shingle Street his first collection of poems to be published in thirty years. He chose Covehithe, a beautiful and haunting poem about the coastal erosion of the Suffolk coast. On a lighter note, Billy Collins, is another favourite poet with whom I have become re-acquainted, If you’re a chess player, and even if you’re not, I think Absence will make you smile.

Footnote: In reorganising my bookshelves I came across a book-mark with a quote from Henry Ward Beecher, which also made me smile: ‘Where is human nature so weak as in a bookstore’. I am sure many members of the Festival audience will admit to a weakness of human nature when shopping in Waterstones!

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