Skip to main content

3 Festivals for 2024


News & Features

February 2024: Currently Reading

By - 14 March 2024 - 13:39pm

Have you read any of our featured books this month?

After a busy month preparing for the Spring Collection, lots of our reading revolves around the Spring Collection and some of the fabulous authors that were in attendance.

Keith McLay, Derby Book Festival Chair of Trustees: Leadership: Lessons from a Life in Diplomacy by Simon McDonald, Beyond Britannia: Reshaping Foreign Policy by Simon McDonald and Deterring Armageddon: A Biography of NATO by Peter Apps

Over the past month, the mainstay of my reading was the three books by the two authors I was interviewing as part of the Spring Collection. All three - Simon McDonald’s, Leadership: Lessons from a Life in Diplomacy & Beyond Britannia: Reshaping Foreign Policy and Peter Apps, Deterring Armageddon: A Biography of NATO – were compelling reads. Firmly located in the history of the 20th and 21st centuries, these works offer notable insights into the foreign, defence and security policy of the contemporary age, with autobiographical vignettes and a reforming agenda from McDonald, and a cautionary tale on the importance of alliances from Apps. I can only hope that our discussion on stage at the Festival did them justice.

Sue Wall, Derby Book Festival Trustee: Leadership - Lessons from a life in diplomacy by Simon McDonald.

Those of us who were fortunate enough to be in the audience when Lord McDonald spoke about his book at the recent DBF Spring Collection will not be surprised to learn that the book is extremely well written, full of revealing insights and judgments about his colleagues and their leadership ability (or lack of) during his long career in the diplomatic service. His style can be quite sparse - based on a lifetime of writing reports which had to conform to the Foreign Office basic requirements of "brevity, clarity and accuracy" - but it also clearly show how he lived up to the ambition of his 21-year-old self; his choice of career was motivated by wanting "to do good, help others, and leave things better than I found them". I'm not sure he feels that today's Civil Service is in a better state than when he joined it, and perhaps the most interesting and thought-provoking chapter in the book is the final one "Proposed Reforms for the Future of the UK".

David Watson, Derby Book Festival Trustee: Some Assembly Required by Neil Shubin
I'm currently reading "Some Assembly Required" by Neil Shubin, who is a palaeontologist and evolutionary biologist. I'm no scientist, so this isn't anything like my usual reading diet, but I picked this up in a charity shop in Harrogate a couple of weeks ago.

It's a really enthralling story of human evolution at the molecular and genetic level, told through accounts of the work of individual scientists over the last 3 - 4 hundred years. It seeks to answer the question of whether life (and human life in particular) arose by coincidence, or whether it was inevitable. It's well written - light, very accessible and peppered with good humour and interesting anecdotes. I really enjoyed it, and I suspect I'll be following the authors further reading recommendations!

Rose, Strategic Lead for Shared Reading: Coasting: Running Around the Coast of Britain - Life, Love and (Very) Loose Plans by Elise Downing.

I found myself craving a story akin to the adventurous journey depicted in The Salt Path by Raynor Winn. After some browsing in the bookshop, I found Coasting, and it exceeded all expectations. Coasting is an inspiring and heartwarming story of self-discovery and adventure with a touch of humour and reflection. When reading the pages of Coasting, you are immersed into Downing's world and really feel as though you are running alongside her, joining in on the adventure. I'm not a runner myself, but I really enjoyed joining Downing on her adventure, and hearing about the hurdles and challenges, and those moments with a chippy tea looking out to sea.

Amy, Shared Reading Volunteer and Support Officer: The Lives of Girls and Women - Alice Munro

This novel is the gorgeous coming of age story of protagonist Del Jordan, set in the 1940s in rural Ontario. Munro beautifully paints Del, her strong willed mother, their boarder Fern, her younger brother and her close friend Naomi, in this richly descriptive story which charts Del’s growing awareness of the differences between the expectations placed upon girls and women, men and boys. The characters are so vividly drawn, and the details so intricate that it seems almost more like a memoir than a novel. Through the central characters, Munro explores how these women’s lives are shaped by societal expectations of gender, religion and desire. It is funny and furious and heartbreaking, I loved it.

Felicity, Festival Administrator: Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros

During February I read the second book in the Empyrean series by Rebecca Yarros, Iron Flame. While Fourth Wing was my first foray into Romantasy, I knew what to expect from Iron Flame and it didn’t disappoint. There are so many twists and turns in the entangled lives of Violet Sorrengail and Xaden Riorson. This book revealed so many secrets and unexpected plot twists - it kept me on my toes. And I absolutely love Yarros’ writing style - for me, it really is magical and transports me to another time and place. I tried to ration reading this book because I didn’t want it to end and because the release date of the third book (of five) is up in the air. I’d recommend this book to anyone who is interested in reading fantasy (think Game of Thrones) and wants the ultimate in escapism.

Vanessa, Children and Young People’s Co-ordinator: Maurice and Maralyn by Sophie Elmhirst

This book has adventure, a love story, and a whale (or two!). It is a non-fiction book that reads like a novel, telling the tale of a couple from Derby who decide that nothing would make them happier, than building a boat and sailing to New Zealand. Their adventure goes beautifully, until it doesn’t and then the book tells of their survival aboard a life raft for 118 days. I loved that Sophie Elmhirst’s research was so in depth that you really felt like you were getting to know the people and not just the facts of their tale. I was incredibly emotionally attached to Maurice and Maralyn and loved learning about their incredible lives. Hearing Sophie talk about them at the festival was wonderful and a fabulous insight into investigative journalism.

Have you read any of the books featured in this month’s Currently Reading? We’d love to know what you’re currently reading. Don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter and follow us across social media!

Previous Next