RTÉ star, entrepreneur and TV personality Darren Kennedy has had quite the year, after his brilliant stint on Dancing With The Stars and the growth of his men's skincare and grooming brand, Kennedy & Co.
He's a man with a full schedule, no doubt, but how does he unwind in his spare time? Audiobooks, reading, and spending time with the nation's sweetheart; Amy Huberman, of course.
Speaking at the launch of Diet Coke’s first ever Book Club at Iveagh Garden’s Hotel, Dublin on Thursday, he describes the style of the extra-special events and spoke to us about his favourite books, authors and celebrity inspirations.
The Diet Coke Book Club definitely has some upgraded features. It’s a twist on the classic book club, there’s Instagram Live events too for everyone to take part in.
“Book clubs, by their very nature, tend to be quite small groups of people. Even though we’re having events in Dublin, Belfast and Cork, and people can sign up for free and come and join us, not everyone is going to be able to make it for whatever reason. Having the digital aspect to it, the live book clubs, opens it up to a whole new audience. You don’t even have to be in Ireland to join, which is nice. It kind of marries technology with books, and for a while people were saying that technology was the death of the book but it’s actually not. I listen to so many books on Audible and apps like that, it just marries the pair.”
Darren and Amy will be using social media to include as many people as possible into their world of literary joy, but do you need to put down the phone and pick up a book to really de-stress?
“I definitely want to read more. I find sometimes that life is so busy these days, I said this year that I wanted to remove the word ‘busy’ from my dictionary. I want to be balanced, having that time to switch off your device, pick up your book or even listen to it. I put on audiobooks in the car now and find it very soothing. My goal for the rest of this year is hopefully to read a little bit more.”
What can you tell us about your three favourite summer reads for the Diet Coke Book Club?
“We have two Irish authors, which is really exciting. Each of the books were chosen by Amy Huberman, and Amy knows her books so I’m taking them as a good call. For July we have If Only by Melanie Murphy. The August book club, which is myself and Amy, is How To Fail by Elizabeth Day, based on the famous podcast. And we also have Rules of the Road by Ciara Geraghty.”
Do you have a favourite easy summer read that you bring on all your sunny holidays for light beach reading?
“That’s a difficult question because once I’ve read a book I very rarely go back to it, but there are a few exceptions. Anything by Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner, is incredible. I’ve read all of his books. I vary between And the Mountain Echoes or A Thousand Splendid Suns as my favourite. I read them over and over again. They’re such beautiful stories of humanity, you get a cultural insight and you feel like you’re being transported to this world and are learning something about the time, the place, the culture. That’s important to me for a book.”
If you were to write your own book, what would it be about?
“It’s a book that I’ve had in the ether for a while now. For me, it would be about how to just live your authentic life and make the most of your life. It’s your life, it’s no one else’s and you’ve only got one shot at it. How do you go about doing that? It’s not rocket science. I think that would be the topic. Or maybe I’ll do a kids book based on my dog, Harry’s Adventures, or The Hair-Tale Adventures of Harry the Yorkshire.”
What character from a famous novel do you relate to the most?
“I really struggled with this one. I used to love comics as a kid and used to think I was in X-Men. As a child I could definitely relate to them, but now I can’t answer that. If I’m based on being my true self, I might relate to my authentic self more now.”
Is there a book that sums up summer for you?
Summer to me is all about change, it’s all about difference and relaxing. So when I think of books that I read during the summer, generally I’m on a beach or wishing I’m on a beach and that changes every year. It has to be something simple, quick and easy. Actually, I read a book called The Cat on my last holiday. It’s really short, only about 80 pages by a Japanese author. It was so simple and easy but such a joy to read. Light and frivolous, nothing too heavy.”
Do you have a favourite author, or someone who inspires you? (Matt Haig is our new favourite.)
“I’ve listened to Humans by Matt Haig, loved it. My favourite author is Khaled Hosseini, hands down. I’m dying for him to release a new book. He did release a very short one, which I bought in the airport but I felt I was robbed but the money went to charity. A person I look up to is Oprah, she’s amazing. What she’s doing with ‘Super Soul Sundays’ and the book which she’s released, which is a compilation of some really insightful quotes, is really nice to dip in and out of. I also have a book of quotes by Buddha, a bedside book, which is quite nice. I pick it up twice a week and randomly pick a page and see what Buddha says.”
Have you read Amy Huberman’s books? We won’t tell her if you haven’t read them!
Heartbreak Hotel is absolutely hilarious. No, I haven’t read her books, sorry Amy. That woman is sharp as they come and super witty and funny so it’s on the list.”
What do books mean to you, have they ever gotten you through a trying time?
“Yes, books have absolutely gotten me through a trying time. Books for me are a form of escapism but also a great way to put perspective on our own reality. Sometimes we can get so stuck in our own heads and our own situations, and books are something that allow the cogs to stop moving and project into something else can be really vital. A book that I read that I loved and definitely recommend reading is called Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser. Phenomenal book, but kind of intense. I just thought of another book that I loved as well was Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I read that on a beach in Tarifa and just: Wow."
What famous people would you invite to your book club?
“That’s easy for me. I’d keep it a small, select group. First of all; Oprah Winfrey. I just think that woman is incredible. David Attenborough, because what a living legend. Tom Ford, because I think he’d put another slant on it. Even if he’d nothing to add in terms of the book, he’d just look amazing. Maybe just to keep it relevant and contemporary, maybe we’d let Leo Varadkar come to the party, just to see what he’d say.”
Darren and Amy are taking part in the Diet Coke Book Club at the Marlin Hotel in Dublin on August 30 in the Marlin Hotel in Dublin, with two other book events happening as part of the same series in Cork and Belfast. Tickets are free, so there's nothing stopping you going.
July Diet Coke Book Club, Cork
- Hosted by: Stylists Courtney Smith and Ciara O’Doherty
- Book: If Only by Melanie Murphy
- Date: Wednesday, July 24
- Location: The River Lee Hotel, Cork, 6-7.30pm
August Diet Coke Book Club, Dublin
- Hosted by: Amy Huberman and Darren Kennedy
- Book: How to Fail by Elizabeth Day
- Date: Friday, August 30
- Location: The Marlin Hotel, Dublin, 6-7.30pm
September Diet Coke Book Club, Belfast
- Hosted by: TV personality James Patrice and blogger Gemma Louise Bond
- Book: Rules of the Road by Ciara Geraghty
- Date: Wednesday, September 18
- Location: The Loft, Belfast, 6-7.30pm
Buy your free tickets to each book club event here, don't miss out on the chance to open up a new world for yourself.