BOOK CLUBBING
He launched the CSRF book club in 2012 and has continued to co-ordinate it since. Now Chief Executive David Tickner shares his thoughts on books, reading and our book club with Marketing & Communications Officer Lily Roubians.

(David pictured with former Vice Chair Sue Jarvis at the CSRF's 2019 Annual General Meeting)

1. What do books mean to you? Has your professional love (as a former Editor-in-Chief and our book club coordinator) of them changed your experience of reading?
They are a source of wonder, inspiration, knowledge and escapism in equal measure. Nobody should ever under-estimate the power of the written word and I’m lucky enough to have been encouraged to read and explore books since I was a child! I don’t think my love of books or reading has changed particularly over the years. I still find reading an excellent way of unwinding after a busy day at work. Although being responsible for our book club has encouraged me to embrace a much wider range of writers and genres.

2. What was the first book that you can remember having a significant impact on you?
Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Just So Stories’ – I remember listening to them on the radio when I was child and being fascinated by the stories. One in particular, ‘How the Elephant got his Trunk’ sticks in my early memories!

3. Where did your love of reading come from? Is it something that you have always shared with others?
Good question. I think I would credit my family with that. Both my parents loved reading and so did my grandparents. I was at boarding school from the age of seven as my Dad was in the army and stationed overseas and so I used to spend weekends at my grandparents. My granddad (my Dad’s father) was an avid reader and personally selected a whole bookcase of books for me to enjoy when I went there at the weekends which was lovely. I in turn have spent hours reading to cousins, goddaughters and children of friends over the years as I do genuinely believe reading is essential!!

4. What inspired you to start the book club in 2012, and what were your expectations at that time?
Well we were looking at social activities that might interest our beneficiaries (and those from the NHS Retirement Fellowship) and at the time there were three ideas: a golfing tournament, photography competition and book club. The NHSRF agreed to co-ordinate the golfing tournament and photography competition and I took on the book club. We launched in 2012 and one of the first books on our reading list was Hilary Mantel’s Bring up the Bodies.

5. How has it gone on to meet/change those expectations, and what does it feel like to be a part of something like the CSRF Book Club and watch books that you love being loved by others too?
We were lucky enough to have some funding available at the start so we could provide the books free to those who signed up. So, the first few years we saw a big take up from both the CSRF and NHSRF beneficiaries. Book club members would be posted the books alternate monthly and could submit their reviews by post (we’d type them up on the website) or online. As a charity we were also able to benefit from a discount from the publishers for buying bulk copies. It’s always interesting to read what other people think of books and to find that although you may have found a book funny or moving that sentiment may not be shared by others!! Often though our book club members have enjoyed most of the books on our reading list!

6. What is your process in deciding which books to put on the Reading List? How has that process been influenced over the years by your experience in the book club? Have they ever impacted your genre preferences?
Well, picking the reading list has some formula to it. I buy books regularly, read reviews of new titles or might hear a book on the radio or television. I also make a point of dropping into book shops whenever I have the chance and will always look at the ‘staff recommendations’ for inspiration. As the book club has evolved so members also input their views and opinions too. So, with our 2020 reading list we have several ‘member recommendations’. One golden rule I’ve always kept to is that I read every book in advance of it appearing on the list.

7. Is there a book that you chose that you can remember having a significant impact on someone in the club? What does it feel like to introduce someone to a book that becomes important to them that they perhaps wouldn’t have found if they weren’t in the club?
Well there are two books that immediately spring to mind that had very positive reactions when they appeared on our reading list. The first is The President’s Hat by French writer Antoine Laurain (a clever tale about how French President Mitterrand loses his hat in a Paris bistro and it brings good luck to all those who find it. The hat moves all over France making an impact before being returned to Mitterrand). The second is Death of a Penguin by Ukrainian writer Andrey Kurkov which I found whilst browsing in a bookshop before a group visit. This tells the charming story of a writer who is paid to write obituaries (the people he writes about then have an unfortunate habit of dying) who adopts a penguin from Kiev zoo!

8. Have you ever had your perception of a book changed by the book club members perception?
The short answer to this question is no. But if you’d asked had I ever had my understanding of a book changed by a book club member’s interpretation the answer is yes! I am always interested to read their views on our reading list and what has made an impact on their feelings about a book.

9. All-time favourite authors:
A very difficult question as I have a lot of authors I really enjoy. But if I had to pick a few it would be: Robert Harris, Donato Carrisi (Italian author), Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Ayn Rand, John Grisham, Mikhail Bulgakov, Michael Dobbs, Antoine Laurain, Andrey Kurkov, Ken Follett, Robert Goddard, Emily Bronte, Patrick Gale, Edmund White, Charles Dickens, Chaucer, Simon Sebag Montefiore, Jonas Jonasson and Romain Puertolas.

10. All-time favourite books:
Even more difficult! So, I’ll give you a few that would appear on my ‘all-time’ favourite list: Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, Elefant by Martin Suter, A Man Called Ove by Frederick Backman and The Financier by Theodore Dreiser.

11. Name a book that will always make you think of the CSRF Book Club and can you tell us why?
The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain as it had a hugely positive response from book club members who almost universally gave it 5 stars in their reviews.

12. Desert Island pick: You can only read one book for the rest of your life, what is that book and why?
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. The book is cleverly constructed, wonderfully descriptive and has a great storyline. It also has a fantastic collection of colourful characters. I have several versions on my bookshelf and make a point of reading it once a year!

13. Finally, what is a book that you wish everyone would read and why?
I think I’d have to pick Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and the reason would be to show everyone just how inspiring to the mind the power of the written word can be!

You can view the special 2020 At Home Reading List by clicking here and download a PDF showing all the titles by clicking HERE