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
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
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.
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.”
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.