Guildford Book Festival 2014 - top authors share their favourite reads

Adele Parks

Adele Parks - Credit: Archant

Whether you’re on the hunt for literary inspiration, or your bookshelves are looking a little bare, Guildford Book Festival is the place to head this October. Here we meet a selection of its top authors and discover their favourite reads for this autumn

Richard Coles

Richard Coles - Credit: Archant



A Surrey girl (and Guildford Book Festival patron), Adele Parks has published 13 Top Ten best-sellers. Having spent her adult life in Italy, Botswana and London, she moved to Guildford in 2005, where she now lives with her husband and son. The State We’re In was shortlisted for the 2013 National Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year; Whatever It Takes has been selected for the 2014 World Book Night list; and her first historical novel, Spare Brides, was released by Headline earlier this year.



“I’ve just finished reading Longbourn by Jo Baker,” says Adele. “People have been talking about this book for the best part of this year but the thing that attracted me to it simultaneously put me off it. I love Pride and Prejudice and was concerned that I wouldn’t enjoy a contemporary author interfering with the story by writing the ‘below stairs’ servants’ version of the events. The final incentive to give it a go was hearing that Jo Baker is coming to Guildford Book Festival. I was delighted to discover it is a wonderful novel in its own right but with a charming and interesting extra layer if you are an Austen fan. The characters are compelling and brilliantly drawn; I really cared what happened to them. It’s also gritty, real and well-researched. I loved it. I only wish that I’d read it earlier in the year so that I could have recommended it to more people.”

Most Read


GBF event…

World War One Fiction on Thursday October 16, 8.30pm, at The Guildhall, Guildford. Tickets: £8, £7 concessions and £6 under-16s





A number one best-seller in the UK, Australia and Ireland, Cathy Kelly’s trademark is her warm Irish storytelling about modern life, with an uplifting message, sense of community and strong female characters. Her latest novel, It Started with Paris, is published by Orion and is out this month.



“A review of the non-fiction work, Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh, caught my eye earlier this year,” says Cathy. “What is it like, the book asks, to be a brain surgeon and to hold someone’s life in your hands and to cut into the stuff that creates thought, feeling and reason? If you’ve ever imagined brain surgeons as God-like beings, staring down from on high, then this book will change that vision. Every day, Henry Marsh must make agonising decisions, often in the face of great urgency and uncertainty. When a mistake takes place on his operating table, the results can be catastrophic. Neurosurgeons, he says, have the graveyard of their failures to look through. Beautifully written, humility and wisdom in every page, it gives the non-medic a vision into the world of the most brilliant type of surgeons in the world, their successes – and their many failures. I finished this utterly unputdownable book feeling the charisma and humanity of Henry Marsh bursting out of the pages.”


GBF event…

Girls’ Night Out on Wednesday October 15, 7pm, at The Electric Theatre, Guildford. Tickets: £8, £7 concessions and £6 under-16s






Educated at Eton College, Charles Spencer obtained his degree in Modern History at Magdalen College, Oxford. He is the author of four books, including the Sunday Times best-seller Blenheim: The Battle for Europe (shortlisted for History Book of the Year at the National Book Awards) and Prince Rupert: The Last Cavalier. His latest, Killers of the King, has just been published by Bloomsbury.



“It has taken me a very long time, but I have just got round to reading F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon – the novel he was working on when he suddenly died,” says Charles. “It’s brilliant in every way – as the greatest work set in Hollywood at its peak, as a doomed love story, and in the sheer perfection of many of its sentences: they’re so very good, I find myself stopping to reread the best ones over and over again. I studied The Great Gatsby at school, and assumed it was his masterpiece. The Last Tycoon is, in my view, every bit as fine – and that is some achievement, given that it wasn’t anything like finished.”


GBF event…

Charles Spencer: The Killers of the King on Monday October 13, 7pm, at The Electric Theatre, Guildford. Tickets: £8, £7 concessions and £6 under-16s




Elizabeth Buchan’s previous novels include Light of the Moon, the prize-winning Consider the Lily, and her New York Times best-seller Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman. As well as her novels, Elizabeth’s short stories have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in a range of magazines. A patron of the Guildford Book Festival, her new novel I Can’t Begin to Tell You was released by Penguin/Michael Joseph in August.



“Rachel Holmes’ Eleanor Marx: A Life was a revelation,” says Elizabeth. “The daughter of Karl Marx, Tussy, as she was known, and Marx’s Capital grew up together, but she was anything but obliterated by the shadow of her famous father. A fierce fighter for workers’ rights and equality, she spent her life thinking, writing and talking socialism and we owe her much. Her tragedy was to fall in love with the wrong man and her premature death was almost certainly connected with her unwise choice. Inspiring and poignant.”


GBF event…

Spying Seduction! on Friday October 17, 2pm, at The Electric Theatre, Guildford. Tickets: £6, £5 concessions and under-16s




Author of six novels, Louise Doughty has won awards for radio drama and short stories, along with publishing one work of non-fiction, A Novel in a Year, based on her popular newspaper column. She is a critic and cultural commentator for UK and international newspapers and broadcasts regularly for the BBC. Her 2013 novel, Apple Tree Yard, has been translated into 13 languages and is now destined to be a television series.



“I’ve recently caught up with the Costa winner, Nathan Filer’s The Shock of the Fall, in a spirit of scepticism as it beat Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, which was great – but the Filer really is a wonderful read,” says Louise. “An account of a boy losing his big brother and the ramifications of trauma within a family, to say it’s about grief and madness doesn’t make it sound gripping, but it is. Quite often the narrative voices of children or teenagers can sound twee or patronising but Filer treads the line between emotion and realism beautifully.”


GBF event…

Richard and Judy Book Club on Tuesday October 14, 8.30pm, at The Electric Theatre, Guildford. Tickets: £8, £7 concessions and £6 under-16s





Author of 11 best-selling novels and the creator of the Thorne series, former stand-up comedian Mark Billingham has twice won the Theakston’s Old Peculier prize for best novel of the year. Just released by the publisher ‘Little, Brown’, his new book with David Quantick, Stav Sherez and Martyn Waites is Great Lost Albums, a collection of fantasy albums that really should have existed.



“I would wholeheartedly recommend The Book of Lost Things by the Irish writer, John Connolly,” says Mark. “Best-known as a writer of dark crime fiction featuring private detective Charlie Parker, Connolly has written a powerful and deeply moving story for younger readers about a boy who escapes a traumatic existence during World War Two by losing himself inside the books on his shelf. It’s a re-imagining of several traditional fairy tales and is hugely funny in places, but it also has a terrifying villain in the shape of the malevolent Crooked Man. The Book of Lost Things is a remarkable tale about childhood itself but is also about the transforming power of stories. This is a novel that has stayed with me ever since I read it and is one I would press into the hands of friends or even complete strangers.”


GBF event…

Great Lost Albums with Mark Billingham and David Quantick on Thursday October 16, 7pm, at The Electric Theatre, Guildford. Tickets: £7, £6 concessions and £5 under-16s







The presenter of Saturday Live on BBC Radio 4, the Reverend Richard Coles gained international fame in the 1980s with hit band The Communards. Since then, he’s broadcast extensively, with regular appearances on Radio 3’s Nightwaves, as well as BBC TV’s Newsnight Review and Have I Got News For You. He is the author of Lives of the Improbable Saints, is parish priest in Finedon, Northamptonshire, and is releasing Fathomless Riches with Weidenfeld & Nicholson this month.



“JL Carr’s A Month in the Country is a wonderful short novel about a wounded man uncovering a medieval mural in a country church in the aftermath of the First World War,” says Richard. “He finds his fate echoed by the emerging mural and the unknown artist who made it hundreds of years earlier. It’s a literary tour de force, unforgettable, and should be much better known.”


GBF event…

The Reverend Richard Coles: Fathomless Riches on Friday October 17, 8.30pm, at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel, Guildford. Tickets: £6, £5 concessions and under-16s





A multiple-award winning author, Stuart MacBride is an inductee of the ITV3 Crime Thriller Hall of Fame and his Logan McRae series has already sold more than 1.1 million copies. Recently, he undertook a literary crime tour for BBC Radio 4’s Open Book. He continues to work with the Forensic Science Society researching his novels. His latest book, A Song for the Dying, was published by HarperCollins this summer.



“For some reason, people think crime writers are all dark and brooding – we skulk about wearing black, drinking whisky, glowering at the world, and reading only the grizzliest of serial killer novels,” says Stuart. “So you’d probably be surprised to hear me say that Jojo Moyes’ The One Plus One is my favourite book of the year so far. It’s a warm, sweet and funny rom-com with a nice dysfunctional twist. Moyes is wonderfully adept at playing to the genre’s strengths, while bringing something fresh and new to it at the same time. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry (or at the very least have a manly sniff from time to time), and you’ll enjoy the living hell out of it. I know I did.”


GBF event…

Stuart MacBride: A Song for the Dying on Thursday October 16, 8.30pm, at The Electric Theatre, Guildford. Tickets: £8, £7 concessions and £6 under-16s




Need to Know...

Established in 1989, Guildford Book Festival is now a key cultural event that captures the imagination of people of all ages, backgrounds and interests. Running from Sunday October 12 to Sunday October 19 this year, events take place across various venues. For more information about this year’s line-up, visit the website at or call the box offices on 01483 444789 or 01483 444334.




The full Guildford Book Festival 2014 line-up at various venues across Guildford

Sunday October 12

6.30pm   Sheila Hancock: Miss Carter's War


Monday October 13

11am      Jessica Fellowes: A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey

12noon   Literary Lunch - with Victoria Hislop (SOLD OUT)

7pm       Charles Spencer - The Killers of the King

7.30pm   Ian Buxton - 101 Legendary Whiskies

8.30pm   Richard Madeley - The Way You Look Tonight


Tuesday October 14

12noon   Kate Adie: Fighting on the Home Front (SOLD OUT)

2pm        David McKie: What's in a Surname?  

3.30pm   Afternoon Tea with Santa Montefiore: The Beekeeper's Daughter

6.15pm   Richard van Emden: Tommy's War  

7pm        The New Hercule Poirot mystery: Sophie Hannah

7.15pm   Turning Your Life Into Literature: Workshop with Debbie Taylor 

7.30pm   Kevin Pietersen: The Autobiography

8.30pm   Richard & Judy Book Club: Meet the Authors


Wednesday October 15

2pm        Letters to the Midwife: Philip Worth and Suzannah Hart  

6.30pm   Simon Heffer: Simply English

7pm        Girls' Night Out: Cathy Kelly and Freya North

7.15pm   Short Story Workshop: Sue Moorcroft

7.30pm   Andrew Marr: Head of State

7.30pm   Jim Al-Khalili & Johnjoe McFadden: Life on the Edge

7.30pm   I Am Malala with Christina Lamb (SOLD OUT)

8pm       General Sir David Richards: Taking Command (SOLD OUT)

8pm       Sophie Kinsella: Shopaholic to the Stars


Thursday October 16

10am      Truly, Madly, Deeply: Author Coffee Morning

12noon   Lady Carnarvon: Lady Catherine & The Real Downton Abbey

2pm        Penny Junor: Prince Harry: Brother, Soldier, Son  

6pm        Jacqueline Wilson: 100th Book Celebration

6.30pm   Suzannah Dunn: The May Bride

7pm        Cocktail Evening with Paige Toon and Ali Harris

7pm        Griff Rhys Jones: Insufficiently Welsh 

7pm        Poems That Make Grown Men Cry (SOLD OUT)

7.15pm   Great Lost Albums: Mark Billingham & David Quantick 

7.15pm   WRITERS' WORKSHOP: The Perfect Manuscript 

8.30pm   Adele Parks & Anna Hope: World War One Fiction  

8.30pm   Stuart MacBride: Song for the Dying


Friday October 17

8am        Lord David Howell: Old Links and New Ties

12noon   Matthew Parker: Goldeneye 

2pm        Elizabeth Buchan & Jane Thynne: Spying Seduction in World War Two 2pm        Dylan Thomas, A Centenary Celebration: Hannah Ellis 

7pm        Ben Collins: How To Drive

7pm        Laura Bates: Everyday Sexism

7.30pm   Matt Pinches GSC: From Chivalry to Flatulence - The Canterbury Tales

8.30pm   Reverend Richard Coles: Fathomless Riches 

8.30pm   Kate Mosse: The Taxidermist's Daughter


Saturday October 18

10am      Readers' Day  

10am      GEDFAS: Toby Faber 90 Years of Publishing Excellence  

2pm        GEDFAS: The Art and Scandalous Lives of the Bloomsbury Group

5pm        Irving Finkel: The Ark Before Noah

7pm        GEDFAS: The Invisible Woman, Screening of film plus Q&A  

7pm        Kathy Lette: Courting Trouble


Sunday October 19

3.30pm   Steven Butler: Mayhem with Dennis the Menace  

7pm        Paul Merton: Only When I Laugh (SOLD OUT)





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