A secret agent for the Radio 2 Book Club

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At The Reading Agency we love working with Radio 2 to help select books for their Book Clubs.

Each season, publishers big and small submit their best forthcoming titles. The books are read by panels of knowledgeable public librarians and our own passionate staff. We look for well-written and gripping reads – the sort of books that will appeal to the Radio 2 audience and get everyone reading.

We read books for both Simon Mayo’s Fiction Book Club and Jonathan Ross’ Fact Not Fiction Book Club.

Once we’ve chosen our top 12 books in each category, they go to a Radio 2 committee who select the six books for each season.

Radio 2 Book Club

Every other Monday from 5pm, during Simon Mayo’s Drivetime show, a chosen author will appear for a live interview to talk about their novel.

Every other Thursday from 10pm, during Jonathan Ross’ Arts Show, an author will be interviewed by Jonathan about their non-fiction book.

You can see the previous fiction and non-fiction Radio 2 Book Club selections on the BBC website.

My months as a secret agent

Karen Stephens, Service Development and Project Librarian at Hertfordshire Libraries and one of our enthusiastic library panellists, has shared her experiences of taking part in the non-fiction panel.

“I have spent the last couple of months hiding in corners poring over documents bound together with blank covers, keeping to the strict instructions NOT to discuss with any other human being what I was reading!

No, I am not in cahoots with James Bond, I have been reading proofs and manuscripts (before they are published as books) at the behest of The Reading Agency.

This is the second time I have volunteered to read for the Radio 2 Fact not Fiction Book Club. I need to send reports about the books I read and decide whether or not to recommend them for the Radio 2 Arts Show with Jonathan Ross, which airs on Thursdays at 10pm.

I chose to read the non-fiction titles as I always have a feeling that there is so much stuff that I don’t know, that I am not sure I really have time for fiction!

The 6 books I have read this year are narrative non-fiction and have varied in subject from memoirs to social history to popular science. I am afraid I cannot divulge any more about them as I have been sworn to secrecy! It has been so hard not to discuss the books as the subjects, the trivia, the life stories and the facts I have been reading about would have fitted very well into several conversations I have been involved in recently. A few times I started to say, ‘Yes, I have been reading about that!’ and had to shut my mouth quickly!"

Medium my pile of anonymous top secret reading

My pile of Top Secret reading

“One book surprised me by the way it drew me in, even though it was on a subject I had expected not to be interested in. Another book fascinated me, even though its subject would seem impossible to explore with words. Another completely failed to engage me and yet another was written in such a cold and heartless way that I found it really disturbing. One book read just like a textbook and I commented that it could have done with some illustrations and diagrams and a bit of humour. The last book followed someone who suffered a sudden and rare illness and was chronicled really well, which made it felt very real and immediate.

I look forward to hearing whether any of my choices make it through to Jonathan Ross’ show – one did last year – and now long to be able to discuss what I am reading openly again!"

Get involved

What have been your favourite Radio 2 Book Club choices? Comment below or share your thoughts with us on Twitter using @R2BookClub or #R2BookClub.

Tune in to Simon Mayo’s Drivetime show or Jonathan Ross’ Arts Show to hear what fantastic books our panellists have helped to select.

Play your part in helping someone else find a great read – review the books you have read on our book reviews page.

Join Reading Groups for Everyone and sign up to our free monthly reading groups newsletter to receive all of the latest book news, including offers to win sets of Radio 2 Book Club titles.

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