News & Features
December 2022: Our Favourite Reads of the Year
By- 22 December 2022 - 14:34pm
If you attended our Autumn Edition this year, we want your feedback to help us with our planning
By- 22 December 2022 - 14:34pm
December is often a reflective time of year as we look back while simultaneously looking ahead. We’ve been seeing a lot of lists about the best books of the year and thought we would each share our top three books of the year.
We’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year. We’ll be back in January, so keep an eye on our socials and sign up to our newsletter to be the first to hear our news.
Without further ado, here are our favourite books of the year (in no particular order):
Sian, Festival Director:
Gini, Festival Manager:
These books will forever remain on my bookshelf - they have transported me from an unlikely friendship in Croydon, to an epic adventure in the skies, to a four-decade epic set in London and Tuscany. If you have not yet read them, I urge you to treat yourself over Christmas and buy them!
Sue Wall, Derby Book Festival Trustee and Interviewer:
Keith McLay, Derby Book Festival Trustee and Interviewer:
Fiona Apthorpe, Derby Book Festival Trustee:
Sam, Shared Reading Project Co-ordinator:
Very contrasting books - a tough Glasgow childhood, a fantasy/allegory in a mysterious realm and a re-read of a murder in an elite university where you know whodunnit but why and how unfold. These were all compelling and immersive.
Felicity, Festival Administrator:
Keith Donald, Derby Book Festival Trustee:
Here are my reviews of books read in the last few weeks:
As regular readers will know, I receive this publication each quarter. It is a collection of literary works, (mainly essays, poetry and short stories). Each publication focuses loosely on a theme; this quarter’s theme is siblings.
The quality of the writing is always mixed; another way of writing that is that some of the works appeal to me, and in relation to other items I wonder why they have been accepted by the commissioning editor.
This quarter’s publication is no exception. Some of the writing is excellent, (and I did not want to come to the end of that section), but other sections left me cold. I think that it is the same with a collection of short stories or an anthology of poetry.
However, the quality of the good writing outweighs by far any disappointment which I might feel in relation to those works which do not appeal to me. Please do subscribe to the publication, since you will receive a collection of new works every four months at a very reasonable cost, and you will be supporting new writers. That’s well worth the investment of money and time.
Katie Kitamura – “Intimacies”
This is an outstanding novel. It came with a lot of very positive comments from reviewers, and I read it on holiday in a couple of days. The main character is a translator in The Hague at the international criminal court. The novel follows her assimilation into the international society based in The Netherlands, with a backdrop of a trial in the court for crimes against humanity.
The main character was real to me; we learnt of her insecurities, of her relationships and of her challenges with a career in that environment. Without wishing to give the ending away, the book ends with the reader feeling positive and hopeful.
I shall have Kitamura’s first novel on my list of books for Christmas.
This book is recommended; it’s a really, really good read. Please do put it on your list, (or better still, buy it from your local independent bookshop).
Annie Ernaux – “The Years”
What a truly wonderful book. I have black circles under my eyes. I could not put it down, and that includes the times when I should be asleep.
Ernaux was born in Normandy. She wanted to be a writer from an early age; she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2022. This book is an autobiography, but unlike most works in that genre it does not relate to “I”, but to “her”, “she”, “the girl” or “the woman”. That creates objectivity. It is as if the writer is writing about a person whom she knows well, but as the reader knows, the writer and the woman are one and the same.
I loved this book. I felt the emotions of the writer. I saw Ernaux’s life through her eyes, but with a large dose of objectivity. Ernaux is a female French academic and writer, but she’s much more than that: mother, spouse, former spouse and lover, with the anxieties which many of us feel in one way or another. We see her life through her eyes, but also through the eyes of the woman who is the main character in the book. I could not help but feel compassion for her and her role, particularly as she comes to terms with her ageing and the independence of her children.
Please read this book. It is a reflection of the development of bourgeois, white French society. This book allowed me to see a world through another’s perceptive gaze, and to be more empathetic; as one of her reviewers has written, it is an iconic French memoir.
Luke Harding – “Invasion”
I have read every word which Luke Harding has written in book form, and I have read most of his articles in The Guardian. Deported from Moscow, and with a profound knowledge of Russian and eastern European politics, I was looking forward to an insightful book on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
I was very disappointed. The book was published a few weeks ago, and it is an expansion of a diary. It provides a narrative of the conflict and gives details, sometimes graphic, of the violence and the probable crimes against humanity which have overwhelmed Ukraine. However, I learnt nothing new about the war. The conflict has been covered in great detail in the media. This book did not give me any greater understanding of the politics in either Ukraine or Russia, and the writing ends in the early autumn of 2022.
I would have liked to read Harding’s thoughts on the next year, three years or five years. Instead, I read an expanded diary which dealt with events which have been covered in real time by the international media.
One day I would expect Harding to look back at this event, (such as his book about the poisoning of Litvinenko in London, written several years after the event). I hope that we would then provide a detailed analysis of the events leading up to the invasion, the strategy in relation to the invasion and the aftermath. That will be an interesting analysis. Only read this book if you have just landed from Mars, or lived for the last three years with an isolated tribe in the Amazon.
We’ll be back in the New Year and look forward to seeing you there!
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