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June 2022: Currently Reading

By - 30 June 2022 - 16:37pm

Find out what we've been reading in June!

Although our main Festival finished in May, we’ve held some great children’s events over the past four weeks. From David Baddiel to Jacqueline Wilson at Derby Theatre, Zanib Mian to Onjali Q Rauf for primary school children, and Sarah Crossan for secondary school students, it’s been brilliant!

As ever, we’re excited to share what we’ve been reading this month and would love to know if you’ve read any of the books featured.

Sian, Festival Director: Still Life by Sarah Winman

If you've never been to Florence, this book is guaranteed to make you want to visit! Very much a love story to the city and to art, but also a wonderful story taking you from war time London across the decades. With unforgettable characters, it is also a story about friendship and the kindness, love and support that friends give. It also gives a nod to another favourite novel, Room with A View by E M Forster. I was slightly disappointed by the final chapter, which I felt was unnecessary, but it didn't spoil what is one of my favourite books of 2022.

Keith McLay, Derby Book Festival Trustee and Interviewer: The Bolitho novels by Alexander Kent

These past weeks I’ve been rolling back the years to my youth (sometime ago now) and begun re-reading Alexander Kent’s (pseudonym of Douglas Reeman) Richard Bolitho’s series. Royal Naval tales of ‘derring-do’ which begin in the mid-to-late 18th century with Midshipman Bolitho and over the course of 30 novels the reader follows Bolitho’s career to the rank of Admiral before giving way to his nephew, Adam, as the central character. These are very traditional historical novels, of their time and authorship, but in truth no worse for that.

Sue Wall, Derby Book Festival Trustee and Interviewer: The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki

This month is easy - The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki, winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction. I stumbled across it (almost literally - it was on a special display in the local library) and am now completely entranced. It follows on well from my choice last month (Boy's Life) as again the reader is inside the head of a young boy and sees life from his perspective as he struggles with the death of his father and his mother's grief. Beautifully written, gripping, and very vivid at times - and a "health warning" - you can become completely immersed in it and forget everything else, and it is quite a long book. I'd advise setting the alarm on your phone if you start to read and have an urgent appointment (or a cake in the oven!).

Fiona Apthorpe, Derby Book Festival Trustee: The Most of Nora Ephron

I’m currently reading The Most of Nora Ephron because she was a brilliant writer, journalist, and screen writer (When Harry Met Sally, Silkwood, You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle). Razor sharp wit and just downright funny.


Keith Donald, Derby Book Festival Trustee and Interviewer: Butler to the World by Oliver Bullough, Grey Bees by Andrey Kurkov, Team Human by Douglas Rushkoff, Granta 159, and Kicking Back by Nedum Onuoha

Oliver Bullough: Butler to the World

From political and professional aspects, I am interested in international banking and money-laundering. This book is a very good read; it exposes the complexity of international banking and the methodologies developed by those in power, and with money, to hide the origins of the funds. The overriding ethos of the book is that it falls upon all of us to ask questions if a transaction just does not feel right, and that was before the transfer of cash to Prince Charles, which was highlighted recently.

This book is recommended for those wishing to understand the collusion of governments, individuals and international organisations, which may wish to avoid scrutiny of the worldwide movement of funds.

Andrey Kurkov: Grey Bees

Kurkov is the best-known Ukrainian writer outside Ukraine. Most of his novels have been translated into English. I read this novel since I don’t think that I’ve read a Ukrainian novelist before, and I was very interested in Kurkov’s essays broadcast on Radio 4 in February and March. (Do try to catch up with them on BBC Sounds.)

This novel concerns an individual who lives in an abandoned village between the frontline between Russian and Ukrainian troops. It is a grey area, and his passion and principal love are his bees. He has one neighbour, with whom the main character has a tense relationship. The bees are used as a tool to explore the complexities and day-to-day challenges for Ukraine and Ukrainians; by wishing to protect the bees, the main character travels outside the village. During the journeys, we gain glimpses of what it is like to be travelling in a country which is under siege, (and the novel was written post 2014 but before the recent invasion).

It is a lovely, warm read, and Kurkov feels love for his characters. This comes across so clearly in this writing. I enjoyed this book so much that I have another couple of his novels on my shelf behind me; I look forward to those being part of my reading this summer.

Douglas Rushkoff: Team Human

This work of non-fiction deals with the impact of technology on our lives. I was disappointed in the work, but maybe because I have been following the nefarious influence of artificial intelligence on our society for several years. Rushkoff wishes us to retain our human characteristics, while at the same time, he advises us to resist the negative influences of technological developments.

Granta 159:

As with all editions of Granta, the essays and short stories in this quarterly publication are a mixed bag. The highlight for me is the essay on nuclear power, and the impact which nuclear power stations have had on the coast, and rural populations, of Suffolk. I learnt a lot through having read the essay. Please subscribe to this quarterly publication; not all the stories and essays will grip you, but just go with the flow and accept that the reader may be challenged. Mixed in with the mediocre, there are often gems.

Nedum Onuoha: Kicking Back

I came across this writer since he is a frequent pundit on Radio 5 Live, (which is always on in the background if R4’s programmes do not appeal to me). Nedum played football at a high level, (mainly for Manchester City and QPR). The book details his journey from being brought up in Manchester, choosing his career in professional football and the end of his playing career in Salt Lake City. As a black player married to a white woman, Nedum came across discrimination, both overt and covert, and he talks about those issues articulately and passionately. He is open about his criticism of certain high-profile individuals in football as well.

Nedum has a voice and his intelligence and compassion come across in the book and through his appearances on radio.

There is a lot about football in this publication, so it may be to everyone’s taste, but I enjoyed it and I am by no means a “geek” with respect to football and players. I would have enjoyed more detail about Nedum’s wife’s background and her thoughts on their peripatetic life, but maybe that will be covered in a sequel.

Felicity, Festival Administrator: One Day by David Nicholls

I tend to read books I’ve not read before because there’s this sense that if I don’t crack on, I’ll never get through all the books on my list. However, I’ve decided that One Day is going to be one of the books I re-read this summer. Why now? Well, frankly, I just can’t stop thinking about it. I read it in 2017 (late to the party; I know) and since then; it pops into my head every so often. Recently, it’s been on my mind more and more, so I’m going to go back and revisit the stories of Emma and Dexter (and try not to cry this time).

Have you read any of the books featured in this instalment of Currently Reading? We’d love to hear from you via our social media channels!

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