Ha ha hard question, hmmmm

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Tell me about a book that made you laugh…

This week, in honour of the LOLLIES which announces its winner on January 18 2018, we’ve been asking people what books made them laugh. The question, though, has produced more thoughtful faces than immediate grins at the memory of a hilarious book.

Lots of people pursed their lips and did that thing where you look off into the space behind and above the person you’re talking to. Quite a few “hmmmed” thoughtfully and leaned against a desk, table or the nearest wall whilst they thought some more. “A book that made me laugh? Hmmm…”. Not such an easy one to answer, in truth. Lots of people said that their reading provoked a mixture of responses – some laughs, yes, but also sadness, sympathy, elation, empathy and so on.

We do have some suggestions for funny books though, starting perhaps obviously with one by P.G. Wodehouse, the famous OA for whom we are named. Our 42 Reading List includes Carry On, Jeeves which begins with Jeeves, the valet,  floating “noiselessly through the doorway like a healing zephyr“* and dealing with Bertie Wooster’s hangover. This is an amusing series of related short stories offering escape and diversion, so we thought we would pop it on our list of books that could make you laugh.

Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island and The Road to Little Dribbling both got mentions for making people laugh. The latter book was shortlisted a few years back for the TSBA and remains popular with borrowers here. Notes was written first and Dribbling is a 20-year anniversary follow-up of anecdotes and observations about the habitual oddities of Brits. Again, amusing, not necessarily taxing and it starts with the funny story of Bryson getting hit in the head. We know the head hitting story is funny because we showed it to Dr Hulls and he laughed out loud right there at the Issue Desk.

Back on the 42 list we have The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams and A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole, both of which are blurbed as funny. Evelyn Waugh’s satire Decline and Fall might cause you to crack a smile too. The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett is Funny (note capitalisation!), especially any of the stories starring Death.

So there’s a start to our list of books that could well have you laughing out loud and, in the same week that boasted the most miserable Monday, here’s something that brought a bittersweet smile to our faces. A tweet from Grasmere School which included a photo of the mobile library van welcoming children into its warmth on a wild weather day. Easy to forget how lucky we are here at Dulwich College since every single one of us has access to 4 libraries where we can escape into another (sometimes warmer) worlds, find books to support our studies, work quietly and collaboratively or simply chat about reading with library staff.

*p.12 Carry On, Jeeves


Alex Wheatle Visits Dulwich College

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On Wednesday 6th December the award winning Children’s and Young Adult novelist Alex Wheatle (MBE) visited Dulwich College.

Alex is best known for his debut novel Brixton Rock (1999) and for his Crongton series – a fictional estate where a cast of memorable characters live and negotiate tricky emotional and social situations. Although Brixton Rock is the most obviously autobiographical of his fiction, his stories all draw on the author’s experience – including his early years in Brixton, his time in care, and his period in prison following his participation in the Brixton Riots in 1981.
Pupils from three classes from Year 7 and 8 and the whole of year 9 were treated to some readings from his Crongton series, interspersed with accounts of his life that had inspired some of the characters and events in his novels and – in one session –  to a remarkably well-improvised rendition of one of Alex’s early Reggae compositions—Uprising! Alex is a remarkably good story teller and had his audience as much invested in the story of his life as they were in the extracts from his fiction that he shared with them.
Alex also spent time with 12 members of the Joint Creative Writing Workshop in the Upper School who learnt about crafting characters and engaging their readers by appealing to their sense of empathy.
Later in the day, Josiah Roberts did a first rate job of interviewing Alex in front of a small panel audience and on behalf of the Afro-Caribbean Society. The discussion focused on the state of BAME fiction in the context of market forces, the competitive state of the publishing industry, and the roles and responsibilities of authors to their readership. Josiah and Alex also explored the changing cultural and political fortunes of Brixton in the context of the ongoing process of gentrification and what this might mean for local artists and residents and for the long-established Afro-Caribbean community.
The staff and some of the pupils who attended any of these sessions were all struck by how down to earth Alex is, by how warmly and generously he answers questions, and by how committed he is to making a difference to his young readers through his fiction. We were fortunate to have him in for the day and look forward to maintaining our links with such a prominent local author. Grateful thanks to Mrs Stein and the Library and to Miss Coppin and the English Department for organising and facilitating this visit.

Award winner

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The Books Are My Bag Readers Awards saw some goodies winning prizes

You can read the full list of winners here.

Congratulations to Adam Kay, OA, on winning 2 categories with his memoir This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor which you can find here in the Wodehouse Library.


Pop goes the library

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The Wodehouse Library got out and about last week, popping up in different parts of the school.

With the aim of encouraging boys and staff to #readmore we gathered up a small part of the Wodehouse Library collection (based on recommendations from tutors, reading lists and popular loans) and took it into 4 different locations around the school campus.

Books could be borrowed, renewed, reserved and returned and it was heartening that so many browsers and borrowers stopped by. We had some good chats about what people are currently reading and what they’re looking forward to reading too. A lot of smiles as well (sometimes after an initial ‘huh?!’ moment to see us in unexpected places!), which was great.

Many thanks to everyone who supported us last week, to all the pupil librarians who helped out and happy reading to all our borrowers!


Lucky dips, tutor recommendations and the 66 spinner
Lord George Building
The Laboratory


PE Department Book Club

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It’s half-time in our #popuplibrary week and James Walsh sends us this report from the PE Department Book Club:

The PE crew average one book per month and then meet over dinner to discuss our thoughts and opinions on that book. The club is led by [Mr] Davies and the flavour of the book choice is often sport oriented. In recent times we have read No Hunger in Paradise by Michael Calvin and Das Reboot by Raphael Honigstein. This concept creates a great discussion amongst colleagues in the faculty and ensures that we maintain close links with the College Library who always help us out with the book we are searching for.


Pop-up library week

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The Wodehouse Library is hitting the road this week!

With a carefully chosen selection of titles from the collection, you will find us in pop-up form at morning breaks and lunchtimes in various locations around campus:

  • Tuesday = PE Centre
  • Wednesday = Lord George Building
  • Thursday = The Laboratory
  • Friday = Christison Hall.

You will be able to borrow, renew, return and reserve items as normal. The pop-ups will have a member of library staff and some volunteers helping out so do come and take a look, say hello and choose a book.

#readmore #popuplibrary

#readmore #luckydip @DulwichCollege

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A #luckydip in the Library!

From today in the Wodehouse Library you will find, as you walk down the steps from the door, a shelf with anonymous brown bags on it.

Already these have snagged the attention of several boys and it’s part of our #luckydip to get the @DulwichCollege community to #readmore

Here’s how it works:

Read the short extract from the book inside the bag

If you want to read more from the book itself, bring it to the Issue Desk and borrow it


And that’s it.