Book Prizes

Returns from the summer

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After hefting his school bag onto the Issue Desk, one of the boys unpacked his summer reading.

Of 9 books returned 2 were DNFs*, 4 were good and 3 were great reads. The 3 greats were The Outsider by Stephen King, The Sellout by Paul Beattie and White Rabbit Red Wolf by Tom Pollock, OA.

Tom Pollock visited Dulwich College towards the end of the summer term and we don’t think any of the multiple copies of White Rabbit Red Wolf were left on the shelves for the long vacation. We’ll try and gather some more comments as and when they are brought back but this morning’s brief review can be summarised in the single word “Boggled!”

If you’ve arrived back for the 2018-19 academic year looking for a book that combines cleverness with mystery, White Rabbit Red Wolf is for you.

We’ve also been catching up with some staff recommendations from summer reading. Mr Thomas read his way through 6 volumes of Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time. Six more left for next summer as this is a 12 volume commitment and differs from Mr Thomas’s term-time literary diet of poetry and philosophical essays.

Mrs Cartwright enjoyed Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston and Miss Akrill Felix Holt the Radical by George Eliot.

Mrs Stein had great hopes of Hemlock Jones and the Angel of Death by Justin Carrol, OA, but a sloppy ending ruined it. Charlotte Gilman Perkins saved the summer along with Oscar Wilde so if you’re looking for a quick but thought provoking read try The Yellow Wallpaper and for something available in multiple formats The Picture of Dorian Gray.

In their own words now, first Mr Fletcher:

22.11.63 by Stephen King: a gripping novel of time travel and assassination! In 2011, Jake Epping, an American school teacher, travels back in time to the late fifties where he experiences drive-in cinemas, big cars and High School bops but his mission is to attempt to change history by stopping the assassination of JFK in November 1963. Does he succeed and what could be the consequences of saving the President?

Prussian Blue / If The Dead Rise Not / A Quiet Flame by Philip Kerr: three novels featuring Berlin detective Bernie Gunther. Gunther’s police career takes in the inter-war years in Berlin, witnessing the rise of the Nazis who he despises and the post-war occupation by the Soviets (who he also hates!) The novels are peppered with real-life characters and are full of historical details as well as being fine crime stories in their own right.

and Mrs Robinson:

The left hand of darkness by Ursula Le Guin –  A science fiction and feminist classic about a planet where the inhabitants are hermaphrodite and the implications that has for their society. A fascinating read that’s still very relevant today.

Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge – A book that grew out of a blog post with the same title and, ironically, resulted in the author having many more conversations about race with white people. It’s one of those books that makes you stop and think and is really important in pointing out hidden prejudice.

The Overstory by Richard Powers – Longlisted for this year’s Booker Prize. This book is amazingly rich both in language and in information, with an impressive depth of knowledge and research for a fiction book. It argues passionately that life on this planet is interconnected and that trees, in particular, are vitally important. It was an interesting and unusual read although I felt it flagged a little towards the end.

Sabrina by Nick Dmaso – The first graphic novel ever longlisted for the Booker Prize. This story of a woman’s disappearance and the effect it has on those connected with her is sensitively written/drawn with the pared down, rather flat, drawing style making the largely unexpressed emotional suffering of the characters more poignant. An excellent example of how well graphic novels can tackle serious subjects.

Snap by Belinda Bauer – Another from the Booker longlist, this is a cut above the normal thriller. It has the gripping opening and fast paced plot that you would expect, but also examines the long term effects of an unsolved crime on the victim’s family. Very enjoyable.

*DNFs = did not finish


Trinity Schools Book Award

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What’s the best thing about working in a school library?

The answer, arguably, has to be having the chance to talk about books and reading to just about everyone. Some people may be surprised by the number of conversations we have with our borrowers that focus on what we’ve read, what they’ve read and what we’d all like to read. It’s truly heartening to hear our borrowers share their thoughts so freely. Yes, it’s true we hear both staff and students say “I don’t have time to read” and we understand that because we’re busy too, but still, reading before going to sleep, or even for just a few minutes here and there in the day helps make a difference for us.

Miss Williams recommended The Book of Dust

The Trinity Schools Book Award offers a chance for our young readers to read a themed shortlist of books and to engage with the stories through creative responses and voting for their favourite. Shortlisted authors often visit the participating schools to talk about their work and many attend the awards ceremony. Last year Dulwich College was thrilled to host the ceremony which saw Stewart Foster win with Bubble Boy. Sadly #UKsnow forced the cancellation of the 2018 award ceremony but Sarah Govett was the winner with her book The Territory. Many congratulations to Sarah and well done to the creative response prize winners.

As well as sharing our love of reading, here in the Wodehouse Library we work hard to promote it too. There are always half a dozen displays dotted around the Wodehouse which promote the works of individual writers or genres like fantasy, crime or comedy. Alternatively we use them to highlight anniversaries, events or themes. Often our displays chime with what’s going on in the wider school and draw participation from staff and pupils. Borrowers are welcome to take items that are included on the displays – we can always fill a gap!

New, new, new

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Half term’s approaching and already people are choosing their reading.

Glad to say that you’ll be spoilt for choice amongst all the new titles that have been added since Christmas. Here are a few highlights:

Desperately seeking self-improvement: a year inside the optimization movement. Co-authored by Carl Cederstrom and Andre Spicer this is for you if you had a resolution on New Year’s Day 2018 which has already fallen by the wayside.

Fire and fury by Michael Wolff and Devil’s bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the storming of the presidency by Joshua Green will be must-reads for anyone interested in US politics. You’ll have to be quick for the former though; it’s been in high demand since it arrived!

Across both fiction and non-fiction we have several titles from the Jhalak Prize longlist for 2018, including Hold tight: black masculinity, millennials and the meaning of grime by Jeffrey Boakye, Kumukanda by Kayo Chingonyi and The golden legend by Nadeem Aslam. Shortlisting isn’t far off so take a look at some of these in the meantime or you could try last year’s winner by Jacob Ross The bone readers.

Finally, some titles hotly anticipated for 2018 including Peach by Emma Glass, Fear by Dirk Kurbjuweit and Lullaby by Leila Slimani. Again, you’ll need to be quick to get your hands on these goodies!

Keep an eye on the displays around the Wodehouse Library for more inspiration.

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

Michaelmas Round-up

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It’s been a busy Michaelmas Term for the Wodehouse Library.

Over the summer a new Library Management System came on stream so there was a fresh look to the Library Catalogue and, at half-term, the new security system was switched on. Gradually all the items in the Wodehouse collection will be RFID tagged so, please, do return to the Issue Desk if the alarm goes off as you leave – you’ll hear a beeping noise if you have an item that hasn’t been issued and deactivated.

Pupil Librarians and Library Prefects have worked hard to help staff sort all the items which have been withdrawn from the collection during the tagging process. All the removed items will eventually go to charity or be recycled where possible.

We’ve been encouraging all Library users to make good use of the resources, including space, in the Wodehouse Library. This means that we are prioritising PC and table spaces for boys who want to get on with prep or quiet reading. Likewise, in the Periodicals Room we have been asking anyone not reading the magazines or newspapers to make way for others.

There have been a number of exciting author visitors to the school since September including Alex Wheatle, MBE, Matt Haig and Stewart Foster. For Stewart, this was a return to Dulwich College where his novel Bubble Boy won the TSBA Award 2017 earlier in the year.

Junior School boys visited the Wodehouse Library for a Shakespeare Tour. Groups were shown around by Mrs Lucy, the Keeper of the Archives, Mrs Cerio and Mr Fletcher.

Back at the start of Michaelmas, boarders spent an evening in the Wodehouse with Mr Fletcher and Year 9 boys took part in a Library and Archives induction. This offered a chance for boys to learn about the resources available to them in the Middle School. Working in groups the boys completed a quiz and listened to a brief talk on Library procedures.

Mr Fletcher presented the non-fiction collection and e-resources that will support Upper School boys, particularly those undertaking CREST Awards or EPQs, in their studies and all Wodehouse Library staff have tried to keep the Upper School study area a peaceful working environment. Specifically aimed at the Upper School we also introduced ‘Readaxation’ as a way of helping boys understand the benefits reading for pleasure can bring despite the various pressures of deadlines and preparing for the future beyond Dulwich College.

Many classes have also come to the Wodehouse with their English teachers to take a closer look at the 42 Reading List books and all have been encouraged to borrow from the fiction collection as part of our ongoing promotion of reading for pleasure in the school.

The Wodehouse Library staff took that reading for pleasure message out and about with our pop-up libraries just after half-term. Popping up in the PE Centre, Lord George Building, The Laboratory and the Christison Hall we were really pleased to speak with so many boys and staff about reading and loans for the week were encouragingly high. If you’re ever stuck for inspiration for what to read next, themed displays appear throughout the Wodehouse and staff are always on hand with suggestions.

We hope the long Michaelmas term has been successful for you all and wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and we look forward to many more good reads in 2018.

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.



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The recent hot weather* has prompted thoughts of the long summer break.

With a week to go, it is not too soon to be thinking about your #summerreading and here are some thoughts to help.

Our first suggestions come from Mr Cleary. Andrew Rawnsley is the author of both The End of the Party : the rise and fall of New Labour and Servants of the People : the inside story of New Labour. Given recent comment on the style of our current Prime Minister, it is interesting to read of Tony Blair that:

“He was the most accomplished communicator of his era, a talent not to be dismissed in the age of 24/7 media where a leader is constantly on show. At times of national drama or international crisis, he displayed a high facility for capturing public sentiment and weaving it into the political narrative.”

The End of the Party : the rise and fall of New Labour

Stepping away from politics and into the realm of magical reality we suggest Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. This is a beautiful story featuring characters one can empathize with, just the right amount of magic, some funny bits and a Dog That Sleeps in the Lane:

“…Finn turned down the lane to Petey’s house, expecting to see the Dog That Sleeps in the Lane, but it seemed that the Dog also had other business, because the lane was empty.”

Bone Gap

Also recommended is The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. This historical novel has appeared on a number of book prize lists and won at the Nibbies (British Book Awards) this year.

“In a Circle Line carriage, westbound, fitful lights showed The Times had nothing happy to report, and in the aisle a bag spilled damaged fruit. There was the scent of rain on raincoats, and among the passengers, sunk in his upturned collar, Dr Luke Garrett was reciting the parts of the human heart.”

The Essex Serpent

Mr Fletcher offers this:

My recommendation for a great summer read is The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. It’s the story of Theo who, aged thirteen, loses his mother in an explosion in an art gallery in New York. As he escapes from the smoke and confusion he impulsively steals a painting, The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius. He keeps the stolen painting secret whilst growing up but gradually as he gets older the theft sees him drawn into a series of encounters with the criminal underworld. This is a lengthy novel but is gripping from the start and is great to read whilst sitting on a beach or by a pool on a long summer’s day.

Here’s the Trinity Schools Book Award shortlist for 2018 video for more ideas:

*Obvs the warm weather has not lasted but you can read come rain or shine.