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October 2022: Currently Reading

By - 31 October 2022 - 15:23pm

Have you read any of the books featured this month?

The countdown is on! Our Autumn Edition begins this Friday (4 November) with events taking place until Sunday (6 November), as well as Sarfraz Manzoor joining us at 2pm on Sunday 13th (because of the rail strikes) and Ryan Hills in conversation on Wednesday 30th November, so it feels like a longer Festival period this Autumn and we are ready for it!

You can still book tickets online, but be quick! Raynor Winn has already sold out, and it looks as if Dr Janina Ramirez will sell out soon too.

Without further ado, here’s a look at the books we’ve been enjoying this month. Have you read any of the titles featured? What have you been reading? As always, do comment or share on our social media posts.

Sian, Festival Director: Agent Sonya by Ben Macintyre

I tend to avoid non-fiction, but this story sounded stranger than fiction and is written like a novel. Fascinating story of a German Jew who became a highly successful Communist spy across China, Switzerland, and England, bearing 3 children by 3 fathers in the course of her globetrotting life. She was a truly remarkable woman, fuelled by a total commitment to the Communist cause - one I didn’t expect to have any sympathy for, but I did come to the end of the book with a slightly grudging respect for her commitment, determination, deviousness and strength of will to do what she did. Real page turner!

Keith McLay, Derby Book Festival Trustee and Interviewer: The Amis Collection: Selected Non-Fiction by Kingsley Amis

The standout book I read this month was Kingsley Amis, The Amis Collection: Selected Non-Fiction (Dublin, Ireland: Penguin, 2022). Save for being the author of one of the finest comic university novels of the 20th century – Lucky Jim – there’s not, in my opinion, much to like about Kingsley Amis’ views conveyed by his fiction and non-fiction. There’s little pleasure or intellectual stimulation to be gained from Amis’ misogyny, his educational elitism rendered in a populist garb and his transmogrification from angry young man of the 1950s to old fogey of the 1970s. And, yet, Amis was an exceptional stylist and purveyor of the English language and this collection of non-fiction essays, reviews and short notes represents Amis at his lexical best. A delight.

Sue Wall, Derby Book Festival Trustee and Interviewer: There Is Nothing For You Here by Fiona Hill

This month’s read is There Is Nothing For You Here by Fiona Hill - who is now Director of the Center on the United States and Europe, having previously worked as a Russia adviser in the White House. Born in the north of England in the 1960s, the title of the book is a quote from her father, an ex-miner, who advised her to get away from an area which was deep into industrial decline following the collapse of the mines. She manages, with hard work and a certain amount of luck due to chance encounters with people who become her mentors, to escape from her working class background and an impoverished area of England, and ends up working right at the top of government in America, having spent a significant amount of her life in Russia. The book is a well-written, easy read which covers a huge range - social mobility, the collapse of a community when the main source of employment closes, life in Moscow as a student and then subsequently doing research for her PhD, insight into Russian politics and government from the 1980s to the present day, similar insight into American government (Fiona came to fame when she gave evidence at the first impeachment hearing of Donald Trump) not to mention the obstacles she encounters as a woman. I could go on but read it for yourself. A really insightful, informative, educational read - and very enjoyable.

Felicity, Festival Administrator: Promising Young Women by Caroline O’Donoghue

It’s that time of year when I desperately try to read faster as the amount of time left to complete my Goodreads Reading Challenge is rapidly dwindling. I read a couple of books this month, but the standout read for me was Promising Young Women by Caroline O’Donoghue. This book really made me think about life and what it is to be a young woman, working in an office, perhaps for the first time. I found it strange to think that, in some ways, we spend our lives protecting children and young people from ‘bad things’ and yet we throw them into the world of work, and they are left to defend themselves from the sharks that lurk. The book is dedicated “To women in offices, everywhere.” And I think that says a lot.

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