Librarian joins Radio 2’s book club panel

Have you have ever wondered who gets to choose the titles which are featured on to Simon Mayo’s Book Club on BBC Radio 2?

If so, the answer is library staff from across the country alongside others from the Reading Agency.

Chris Bertenshaw, pictured right, the assistant in charge at Bakewell Library, has recently joined the panel and he is delighted that at least two of his personal choices have made it on to the programme.

He explained that publishers submit titles to The Reading Agency which are then shared among the members of the panel.

“We get a couple of months to read our books (we usuallly get six to eight) and then have to submit our top three,” he said.

“We don’t get a say in what we read, so nearly everything I’ve read so far have been titles that I wouldn’t normally choose.

“Obviously I’ve not enjoyed all of them, but some have been wonderful surprises that I wouldn’t have read otherwise.”

The Reading Agency then draw up the top choices and the panel have a meeting in London where they narrow the list down to 12 titles.

“This is the really fun bit as you get to argue why your books should make it ahead of others (although it’s never become too heated yet!). We make sure that there’s a wide range of genres and they have to fit the profile of a Radio 2 listener but that still gives a lot of choice,” said Chris.

Those 12 books go off to the Radio 2 team, which then narrow it down to the final six. These are talked about, one every two weeks, in the following season.

“The whole process up until the books are announced on Radio 2 is confidential, so I can’t tell you what’s coming up but Landfalls by Naomi J Williams was the final choice on November 30 and that’s one that I read and successfully put through.

“It’s a stunning fictionalised re-telling of the failed French 1785 Lapérouse voyage of scientific and geographical discovery, and I was delighted that it made it through.

“It’s wonderful to be involved in a process like this. Getting to read fantastic books before they’re released and seeing your choices make it on to the radio is incredibly satisfying, and it’s great to know that you’re helping influence what people read, which is the best part of working in a library.

“There’s going to be some fantastic titles talked about over the next few months, another of which was one of my personal choices.”

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