So. I have something a little different to share with you all today. I managed to snag legendary Irish radio presenter, and fellow book lover, Rick O’Shea for a bit of an informal chat recently and I finally get to share it with you all today, YAY!
For those of you who don’t know, Rick runs Ireland’s largest online book club on Facebook, with over 21,000 members. It is a bookish haven, full of great recommendations and plenty of chats. There are books selected at the start of the month, and a discussion thread is opened at the end so you can all discuss the choices if you’ve read them.
If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, click on the link below and it will take you to the group page where you can request to join. You’d be mad not to 🙂
I’m guessing I should start with how are you?
I’m great – in the middle of the morning show but as I’m that rare male that can multitask I can do this too!
Haha! So, the first actual question is can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a 45-year-old average white male from Dublin who has gotten lucky and managed to pay the bills all these years talking nonsense and playing music for a living. It’s more like a hobby with benefits really…
In terms of the book world it gets even worse – I’m a lifelong passionate reader who, in recent times, has started reviewing stuff online. As a result half of my work life is now book-related and it’s brilliant…
In terms of the books, with that being what this blog is about, what I’d like to know is what brought you to where your bookish life is now?
And by that, I obviously mean to include you being at the helm of Ireland’s biggest online book club, The Rick O’Shea Book Club over on Facebook.
Well the shortened version (and there is a longer one!) is that a few years ago I decided I wanted to make a concerted effort to read more and so, for a New Years resolution I decided to try to read 100 books in a year. I, knowing myself, knew that I had to say it publicly so that people would keep me honest…
So I did and then was asked on radio shows and to write columns talking about the idea.
At the time people asked me would I consider setting up a book club but, to be honest, I’m not great with people… so I thought Facebook was the perfect place to set it up.
Flash forward and here we are with 21,000 souls and live events at festivals…
I find it so odd that it was never really discussed on radio/in print, that someone could read 100 books in a year. I know for me that’s nearly commonplace now. A lot of the people I chat to online do the Goodreads challenge, so it’s mad to think it was less mainstream a few years back.
Your book club has gone from strength to strength on Facebook. I’ve been there since the start and seeing it’s growth, and cultivation of a community of readers, has been heartening. What is it about the book club, do you think, that makes it work?
Wow. Now there’s a question.
I think it’s that it’s a space on the internet devoid of anger, trolls, unhappiness, misery and all of the other things that can *sometimes* make social media a hell. We talk about books and that’s it. I genuinely think that’s the secret. Give people a spot to chat about something they love with like-minded people and they’ll come. Ireland is so full of people who don’t have available groups of mates to talk to books about whether that’s through isolation or just that their friends don’t read!
That’s very true. It really is lovely to have a space to chat about books, ask for recommendations, and so on. The book club has grown to be so popular in Ireland now that you’re arranging events with authors, and every curating literary festivals. Can you tell me some more about that?
Yeah, those are strange ones in that I’ve interviewed people since I was 19 as part of my work on the radio. To be fair always music or movie type people. Then when the ROSBC came along I was offered a couple of book ones for the first time in my life (this is only about 4 years ago!) and turns out I muct have been pretty decent at it because they keep coming! Things just snowballed from there.
Next thing you know you’re interviewing Pulitzer winners (2 at last count!), interviewing Graham Norton and Alan Cumming in Listowel and curating events and even the Waterford Writers Weekend for the last two years.
Do you find it daunting interviewing such high-profile literary figures, or is it very much all in a days work now?
Also, you’ve taken up the mantle of choosing some Must Reads for Easons, how do you go about picking the books for your choices? Do you have set criteria?
With the interviews it’s always daunting. Always. Like you’re sitting your Leaving Cert! Usually that evaporates in the first few minutes when you realise most authors are lovely no matter how brilliant or well lauded they are! I remember being particularly nervous the first time I interviewed both Donal Ryan and Michael Chabon and they are both the loveliest, most charming and disarming people in person.
The Eason Must Reads has been brilliant. The idea of getting to choose part of a list of books that appears on tables in every store in the country was something I couldn’t say no to…
As for criteria, choices are books that are usually recently published but beyond that we have a fairly wide open playing field… My reading for the lists is a combination of stuff that Eason send to us in advance, stuff I’ve been sent myself and, once or twice, stuff that I adored that had just come out in paperback.
You definitely like to keep yourself busy 🙂 There’s also the little matter of being a judge for the Costa Book Awards, how did that come about? Or can you talk about it yet?!
It came about the way most of these things do – I got an e-mail one day.
The awards director asking me if I’d consider being involved this year, me replying “are you sure you’ve got the right guy?” and her affirming that apparently she knew exactly who I was.
It was always going to be a long process so I didn’t enter into it lightly – the bones of 40 books for my third of my category, another 6 from the other two judges for our final list and then, as I’m on the judging panel for the final book of the year I’ll have to read all the other category winners too!
It’s been exciting but draining…
I don’t doubt that! I’m looking forward to seeing the books that make the list for the Costa Book Prize. Aside from books and reading, what else do you enjoy? Because I assume life isn’t all work and no play! 🙂
Reading is never work, even when it’s work!
I do all the things everyone else does – eat, drink, watch small amounts of TV and go to the movies. I don’t really have hobbies, unless you count travel as that?
It could definitely be classed as a hobby. Listen, I’m not going to keep hounding you with questions, so I’ll finish up with this one;
As this is a book blog, could you recommend 3 books you’ve read that you think should be read widely?
Honestly Kate? I could, of course. I could name you 300.
Maybe I’ll give you three from this year that I think were mind-opening, entertaining or that moved me. Emilie Pine’s Notes To Self, Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Questions For The 21st Century and Caoilinn Hughes – Orchid And The Wasp…..
Official Bio (via Rick’s website)
Rick has been a radio presenter with RTE – from 2001-2017 on RTE 2FM and now on RTE Gold.
For 2 series in 2015 and 2016 he was also the presenter of The Poetry Programme on RTÉ Radio 1.
Rick presents corporate events and launches on a regular basis for clients as varied as Diageo, Samsung, Maximum Media (Joe.ie / Her.ie), Amazon, Alltech and Microsoft.
He’s had epilepsy since he was 16 and has been the National Patron of Epilepsy Ireland since 2006 both fundraising for the organisation and raising awareness of the condition including on The Late Late Show as a guest with Joe Schmidt.
He regularly introduces movie premières and has conducted public interviews at the Dublin International Film Festival with Richard Dreyfus, Danny DeVito, Michael Madsen and Harry Shearer.
He also hosts author interviews with guests as diverse as Liz Nugent, Alan Cumming, Anthony Horowitz, Eoin Colfer, Jessie Burton, Hannah Kent, Tracy Chevalier, Donal Ryan, Michael Chabon, Chris Cleave and Graham Norton.
Rick presents annual awards ceremonies including the Web Awards, Social Media Awards, SME Awards and Student Enterprise Awards. He also hosts at other events as diverse as the Festival Of Curiosity, Pint Of Science Festival, CBI Book Of The Year Awards, Event Industry Awards and the social media metrics business conference Measurement.ie.
In 2015 he co-presented the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards on RTE One TV.
He has been a panellist and event host at events including Listowel Writers Week, Cúirt, Ennis Book Club Festival, International Literature Festival Dublin, Bloomsday, Lingo Spoken Word Festival, Bram Stoker Festival, for Dublin 1City 1Book as well as performing spoken word pieces at European Literature Night and the Barnardo’s Under My Bed nights.
He was the literary curator for the Imagine Arts Festival 2017 and will be again in 2018.
Rick has been a speaker at international conferences on epilepsy in Montreal, Malta and Marseille as well as at the European Parliament in Brussels and on the use of social media in radio at Radiodays Europe.
He is part of the voting academy for the BGE Irish Book Awards and was a judge for the 2015 UK and Ireland Young Adult Book Prize run by The Bookseller magazine.
He runs Ireland’s largest book club.
Not much, so.
Sincerest thanks to Rick for taking the time out to have a chat! That link again, if you want to check out the Rick O’Shea Book Club on Facebook is below.
Thanks for reading 🙂