Five minutes with… Zoe Ball

If you’re after your next good read, Zoe Ball is here to help. The radio presenter and TV host is launching her very own book club with a little bit of help from some of her celebrity friends. She tells Kerri-Ann Roper why she’s so passionate about books and what we can expect from her famous guests.

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOUR NEW BOOK CLUB?

We have 10 books which have been carefully selected by the production team, not by me. We’ve got new authors, we have got a bit of Scandi noir, real life, historic drama – we’ve hopefully got a little bit of something for everyone. Each week, we will have a celebrity coming in who’s read the book as well. We’ve got Frank Skinner doing Dark Pines, Meera Syal is doing The Man I Think I Know, Alex Jones is doing The Summer Of Impossible Things.

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO MAKE IT A PART OF ZOE BALL ON SUNDAY?

I have always been a huge reader and love getting lost in books, and I think also, getting a bit older in life, books are more of an enjoyable pastime now than going out and having a knees-up. I spend quite a lot of time getting lost in bookshops. I think that it’s nice to be part of a community and hopefully encourage more people to pick up more books that they might not necessarily think of reading and sharing.

IT’S NICE TO BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER WITH SOMETHING THEY HAVE IN COMMON, ISN’T IT?

Very much so, and I think life can be a bit isolating sometimes and we get a bit cut off from things, or we all get a bit lost on social media or in our own lives, and I think it is a real treat. I also think it’s really good to take that time to treat yourself to read. A lot of people read on their way to work, on their way home and I love reading on the train.

A LOT OF PEOPLE ESCAPE THROUGH BOOKS, IT’S REALLY NICE TO GET LOST IN A STORY…

It really is, and I’ve had that since I was a kid. I think as children it is brilliant to be like that – my Dad used to read books to me, and tell stories to me, and do all the voices, and then encouraged me to read on my own, and you just can get lost in another world. It’s great escapism, but also brilliant for knowledge and learning things about other walks of life, and language and vocabulary. It’s a joyous thing.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE KIND OF GENRE?

If you look back at a lot of my favourite books through time, I love the old classics. When I was a kid my dad got me into Agatha Christie, and Jeeves And Wooster, and Catch-22, books that actually really made me laugh out loud. I also love a biography – I’ve just read Grace Jones’ biography. I have got a lot of biographies of Hollywood actresses and stuff like that which I really, really love. To be honest, the only things I struggle with, I am not great with hugely scientific stuff because I don’t really have a scientific brain, which obviously was a huge disappointment to my father. But I am up for reading anything really.

WHAT BOOK HAS MADE YOU CRY THE MOST?

Oh, lots of books have made me cry. I really loved a book called Stoner, which is a book by a guy called John Williams and it is about a guy called William Stoner who is an English professor and teacher. A friend bought it for me and I finished it on the way home on a long-haul flight from a holiday and the rest of the family were fast asleep and I sobbed my heart out. It is not even particularly sad but it is just something about this man looking back across his life where he failed and where his life is at when it ends and it was so moving. I loved it.

HOW DID THE CELEBRITY GUEST ELEMENT OF THE SHOW COME ABOUT?

They are people who love reading and they are friends of the production and friends of the show. I think it’s quite nice, people always love that discussion thing and it is always brilliant to hear people’s opinions and I think obviously they are all quite outspoken as well, so I think they will be quite honest about the books they are reading.

BOOKS ASIDE, YOU RECENTLY DID SPORT RELIEF, CYCLING 350 MILES FROM BLACKPOOL TO BRIGHTON. WHY DID YOU WANT TO DO IT?

It was really important to do something and it was a real glory to learn more about mental health and learn more about what you can endure as a human and also about people’s generosity and love and empathy, and people sharing their own personal stories of mental health and their experiences.

I haven’t been back on a bike since the finish and they auctioned my bike off. I went to pick my new one up yesterday, and it was really exciting – it’s orange, it’s amazing! I’m going to go out on it tomorrow hopefully. My friends are trying to talk me into going on a cycling holiday. It’s like, who is this person I have become?

HOW DO YOU RELAX OTHER THAN READING?

Gardening and cycling, and I try to do a bit of exercise now and again but my favourite pastime at the moment is watching Love Island, I have to say. When I am not reading, I am obsessed. It is such a commitment though.

The Zoe Ball Book Club, in association with Specsavers, starts on Zoe Ball On Sunday on ITV from Sunday, June 17

Tags: TV