Sunday, December 10, 2017

Books of 2017

And here's our annual popular post of books of the year as they feature in the press (excluding papers and articles with pay-walls, such as the London Times and most of the Financial Times) and on some blogs. This is a selective list of what we judge the highest-quality lists: if you want almost everything that moves, check out Largehearted Boy.

This list will be regularly updated in the lead-up to Christmas, and build up steadily.

Previous lists are here: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.

  • The Irish Times this year has a Books of the Year feature in The Ticket, mentioning Old Columban Elske Rahill whose first book of short stories, White Ink, came out recently. Declan Burke and Declan Hughes give us the 20 best crime books of the year, including the ever-excellent Michael Connelly's excellent start to a new series, The Late Show. Plenty of contributors and authors give their personal favourites here; our Finance Minister, Paschal Donohue seems to be a regular and thoughtful reader, and goes for Bernard MacLaverty's Midwinter Break, set in Amsterdam.
  • The Irish Independent in Part One has lots of categorised suggestions, such as in the short story section Nuala O'Connor's Joyride and Jupiter, and in biography/memoir, Ruth Fitzmaurice's much-noticed I Found My Tribe.
  • The ever-excellent School Library Journal has a series of lists which are helpful to parents, teachers and indeed children themselves. They are grouped: picture books / chapter books / middle grade / young adult / non-fiction. In the latter, Eyes of the World, about the photographers Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, looks attractive.
  • The Financial Times has a list of critics picking their best books, with the Editor Lionel Barber rightly praising East West Street by the lawyer Philippe Sands, " a beautifully written story about legal theory (crimes against humanity and genocide in the Nazi era), the city of Lviv in western Ukraine and an intimate family history."
  • The Guardian has its annual double serving from well-known authors: In Part One the great John Banville, author of the excellent Mrs Osmond, goes for Michael Longley's latest collection, Angel Hill (Longley has maintained very high standards for so long). Part Two sees Elizabeth Strout's new novel Anything is Possible repeatedly recommended, as is Irish novelist Sebastian Barry's latest, Days Without End.
  • In other Guardian lists in an enormous collection, there are best sport books; best biographies recommended by Tim Adams (including the fine literary biographer Claire Tomalin's own autobiography A Life of My Own); Robin McKie on science; many riches in history from Anthony Sattin; the poet Carol Rumens on poetry ("Leontia Flynn’s The Radio sparkles with 21st-century chutzpah, sometimes offset by maternal angst. “Every time my daughter cried, I came / barrelling out like some semi-deranged / trainee barista: friendly but perplexed, / and in the dark of night, Lo! I was there, / perplexed – and ratty –when she cried again.” (Yellow Lullaby)"; best children's books by Imogen Russell Williams; art books from the distinguished critic Peter Conrad; architecture from Rowan Moore (including lovely photos from Taschen's Entryways of Milan; graphic novels from Rachel Cooke; Mark Lawson on crime fiction (Jane Harper in The Dry "slowly but thrillingly reveals where the truth lies"
  • The Globe and Mail from Toronto has its 100 books of the year beautifully displayed with the covers displayed prominently. In the poetry section, Lynn Crosbie's collection about her father's dementia, The Corpses of the Future, looks interesting.
  • The Library Journal has its Top Ten Books of 2017, including the Man Booker-winning Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, and also its Notable Books of the year.
  • The LA Times non-fiction books of the year include the outstanding Ta-Nehisi Coates's collection We Were Eight Years in Power: an American tragedy. In fiction, they have Naomi Alderman's The Power, which we thought was so-so, and the much better Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. And there's a handy children's list, divided into Young Adult, Middle Grade and Picture Books.
  • Sleek has some gorgeous art books of the year, such as David Hockney.
  • The Washington Independent Review of Books favourites include some regular names (Jennifer Egan, Elizabeth Strout, Mohsin Hamid). Jessica Shattuck's The Women in the Castle could be good. 
  • The Evening Standard in London has 24 Best Books of 2017. Deaths of the Poets by Michael Symmons Roberts and Paul Harley looks like it's up our street.
  • The Millions Year in Reading is always worth following, with many contributors building up the list over the weeks.
  • Esquire magazine starts with Heather, the Totality by the creator of Mad Men, Matthew Weiner, and also has Celeste Ng's new novel Little Fires Everywhere (her earlier Everything I Never Told You was well-worth reading).
  • The Spectator's reviewers present a selection of the best and (always a welcome feature) most overrated books of 2017. Frances Wilson: "Molly Keane, Sally Phipps’s life of her mother, is as fresh and true and eccentric as any of Keane’s novels, and shows just how good biography can be in the hands of a natural writer. A further selection has Daniel Swift go for an option that immediately struck us: "Preti Taneja’s We That Are Young's is big, beautiful, and most of all bold: a rewriting of King Lear, transplanted to modern day Delhi, which is both a dazzlingly original reading of the play and a full novel in its own right. A masterpiece, and by a long way my book of the year." 
  • Library Journal has a huge number of lists, including their Top Ten, and you can get a PDF of some of their other lists, too.The New Statesman divides its recommendations into three; in part one, East West Street gets another deserved mention, and the tremendous Rebecca Solnit is recommended by Robert Macfarlane (see our illustration above) for her latest collection of essays, The Mother of all Questions; in part two Susan Hill goes for David Walliams's Bad Dad, "a blast. Kids will adore it. So did I." Finally, in part three Melvyn Bragg goes for Ian McEwan's Nutshell, set in Hamlet's mother's womb (should have been right up our street, but it was so-so).The bookseller Barnes and Noble has a categorised list of best books of 2017 here 
  • The San Francisco Chronicle's 2017 holiday books gift guide includes Kurt Vonnegut's Collected Stories, and a well-chosen selection from genres like art and architecture. 
  • iNews has Best Books, including the much-noticed first novel from Irish writer Sally Rooney, Conversations with Friends
  • The excellent Five Books, which we highly recommend, has Arifa Akbar selecting the best novels of 2017, with Fiona Mozley's Emlet at the head of the list.
  • In the Chicago Tribune: Heidi Stevens on 10 books she loved, all written by women: Real American: a memoir by Julie Lythcott-Haims looks interesting.
  • On Quartzy: tables of the best books when aggregating choices from 21 other lists: Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing beats George Saunders to the top fiction spot.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Articles of the Week

This is an ongoing listing of links to the Articles of the Week used with our Leaving Certificate pupils, from September 2013 onwards.

The idea came from the American teacher and writer Kelly Gallagher, and it fits very well into the Leaving course, getting pupils used to reading interesting articles and thus helping them in both the comprehension and composition sections of their Paper 1, as well as expanding their knowledge base and vocabulary and providing interesting topics for discussion.

Click here for Gallagher's current articles, and read more about the theory behind the scheme in his excellent book Readicide: how schools are killing reading and what you can do about it. Pupils have to mark up the articles with annotations before class discussion.
  1. November 2017: 'Boys must behave if women are to be safe' by Fintan O'Toole, The Irish Times, October 31, 2017.
  2. October 2017: 'A giant insect ecosystem is collapsing due to humans' by Michael McCarthy, The Guardian, October 21, 2017.
  3. October 2017: 'We can't stop mass murder' by Shikha Dalmia, The Week, October 6, 2017.
  4. October 2017: 'What every teacher should know about ... memory' by Bradley Busch, The Guardian, October 6, 2017 [learning, memory, teaching].
  5. October 2017: 'Think the world is in a mess: here are 4 things you can do about it' by Alexandre Christoyannapoulos. The Conversation, November 16, 2016 [activism, citizenship, economics].
  6. September 2017: 'The power of silence in the smartphone age' by Erling Kagge, The Guardian, September 23rd 2017 [technology].
  7. September 2017: '5 reasons why people share fake photos during disasters' by A.J. Willingham,, September 8th 2017 [journalism, psychology, social media].
  8. September 2017: 'Can you identify the psychopaths in your life?' by Rob Hastings, iNews, August 29th 2017 [psychology].
  9. February 2017: 'Our roads are choked. We're on the verge of carmageddon' by George Monbiot, The Guardian, September 20th 2016 [environment, transport].
  10. January 2017: 'Girls believe brilliance is a male trait' by Nicola Davis, The Guardian, January 27th 2017.
  11. January 2017: 'What do teenagers want? Potted plant parents' by Lisa Damour, New York Times, December 14th 2016 [adolescence, parenting].
  12. November 2016: 'Trump makes it easy to vote for Her' by Carl Hiaasen, Miami Herald, November 6th 2016 [politics, America].
  13. October 2016: 'How being alone may be the key to rest' by Claudia Hammond, BBC, September 27th 2016 [rest, reading, introversion].
  14. September 2016: 'Why Parents are Getting Angrier' by Nicola Skinner, The Guardian, September 3rd 2016 [parenting, psychology, childhood].
  15. September 2016: 'Burkini beach ban: must French Muslim women become invisible?' by Delphine Strauss, The Irish Times, August 22nd 2016 [culture, Islam, France].
  16. May 2016: 'How can Lidl sell jeans for £5.99?' by Gethin Chamberlain, The Guardian, March 13th 2016 [economics, retailing, manufacture].
  17. April 2016: 'Teaching men how to be emotionally honest' by Anrew Reiner, New York Times, April 4th 2016 [gender, adolescence, masculinity].
  18. February 2016: 'Then and now: how things have changed for teenage girls since the 1950s' by Clare Furniss, The Guardian, January 29th 2016 [teenagers, gender, sexism].
  19. January 2016: 'Teenagers risk being defined for life by their social media posts' by Karlin Lilllington, Irish Times, January 14th 2016 [social media, teenagers, identity].
  20. January 2016: 'Welcome to the Anthropocene, a new geological era for the world', The Week, January 8th 2016 [geology, climate change, environment].
  21. November 2015: 'Birth Order Determines ... Almost Nothing' by Jeanne Safer, [psychology, parenting, childhood].
  22. November 2015: 'How psychopaths can save your life' by Kevin Dutton, The Observer [psychology].
  23. November 2015: '10 benefits of reading: why you should read every day' by Lana Winter-Hebert, [reading, entertainment, education].
  24. October 2015: 'How much can you really learn while you're asleep?' by Jordan Gaines Lewis, The Guardian, October 6th 2015 [neuroscience, learning, adolescence].
  25. September 2015: 'Fifth of secondary school pupils wake almost every night to use social media' by Sally Weale, The Guardian, September 15th 2015 [social media, learning, teenagers].

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Young Adult reading, Autumn 2017

Our Librarian, Ms Kent-Sutton, has created this excellent list of recently-published books which may be of interest to pupils (and their parents for Christmas presents....).  

Flip through the pages using the arrows, and click again for a closer look. The document can also be seen and downloaded here.

Bullying Awareness Competition 5

The final selection from the recent competition:

Insignificant Creature? 
(a ‘top to bottom, bottom to top’ poem inspired by Brian Bilston’s 'Refugees') 
by Éile Ní Chianáin and Charlotte Moffitt (III)

All different, all equal.
Lest we forget,
The strongest survive,
The weakest will die.
Do not be so stupid to think,
The importance of the bee should matter to you and me.
Could the earth survive
Without the oxygen they provide?
An insignificant creature but
Because honey is its only feature
Bees will become extinct,
Don’t you think?
The human race is helping prevent global warming
Stopping pesky bees from swarming,
Saving many endangered species’ lives.
The truth is they
are all lies, all lies.
Bees will die,
Humans will thrive,
Because the strongest survive,
The weakest will die.


by Hugh Casey (Primary)

Lives in Sandyford
Hears nothing of interest (at home)
Sees differently to others
Touches a keyboard
Needs food and water
Fears killers and healthy food
Gives a loopy atmosphere
Wonders what is the creation of life
Dreams of another galaxy,
Believes in himself
Loves his family (sometimes).
Is different.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Bullying Awareness Competition 4

Two more poems from the recent competition:

(a side-by-side poem - showing two views on one idea) 
by Linus Mertes and Timothy Otway Norwood (III)

Eternal darkness
Loved ones left behind
Lifeless matter
Buried underground
Turning into dust

Eternal slumber
Watching over loved ones
A new start
A new life
A new story
Carried in hearts


by Sadie Keogh (III)

Hear my voice.
It’s my choice.
A baby’s breath for a mother’s death.
‘Murder,’ you say.
‘Better,’ I pray.
Twenty-five or forty-five -
It’s a choice.
Hear our voice.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Bullying Awareness Competition 3

Another winner from last week's competition.

lives where it's dry but she
Feels the rain,
Sees the lightning,
Hears the thunder.
Needs the sun but
Fears the sunm
Gives light,
Takes darkness,
Dreams she can fly,
Wonders if she can,
Believes she can't,
She is the light and the darkness.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Bullying Awareness Competition 2

Another of the winners from this week's Bullying Awareness competition, this time by Lucy Maher. This poem was read out in Chapel yesterday. The model given was Brian Bilston's 'Refugees', so when you've read this in the order below, turn it around and read from the last line up.

Happiness has appeared. Cue the spotlight.
I don't want anyone to hear anyone saying
I'm going to rain on your sunshine.
I will skip and jump and
Teach you all
The magical powers of a day with blue skies won't
Disturb those who wish to console in darkness,
I tell you don't 
Forget to dance about in the garden
Encourage those to
Enjoy this marvellous day
Just please don't 
Waste your enthusiasm on mundane things
Happiness is here
I cry.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Bullying Awareness Week Poetry competition

This morning in Chapel Ms Smith introduced the winning poems from the Bullying Awareness Week competition, and there were several readings of these. Over the coming days we will publish some of the entries; there was an excellent field overall.

The overall idea was 'awareness' - of others, of difference. The tagline for BAW this year is 'All Different, All Equal'.

First, anonymously, 'Tainted Love' from the Senior section.

I fell in love with the moon
A pretty girl with bright blonde hair,
Soft as silk and unmarred velvet,
She smelt of lemongrass and steel,
Her eyes deep pools of forest green.
Cool as marble to the touch,
She danced her fingers on my skin
And laced her hands with mine.
Her kiss left bitter in my mouth,
Like blood mingled with rusting iron,
Our tainted loved stained lips.
She told me: 'A girl can't love another girl',
But how could that be true?
When all I cared about was her,
And my mind could think of nothing else.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Five Books

The site Five Books is strongly recommended. A simple idea, well-executed: experts in many areas recommend the five books essential to that subject. There are lots of riches here, with ideal introductions to many subjects. It's also very well laid-out.

For instance, Margo Jefferson, author of Negroland, on cultural memoirs, and Nigel Warburton's  choice of philosophy books.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

House Speech Competition 2017

Eliza Somerville from Fourth Form reviews the recent TY House Speech evening:

An evening full of captivating speeches began with a talk about concussion from Thady McKeever. He spoke about the dangers of contact sports, and the effects of repeated concussion on the brain. He ended his speech with a thought-provoking anecdote about an American football player, who ultimately died as a result of his eighteen-year career in professional sports.

I thought that this speech was very engaging. It began with a strong metaphor of your worst enemy hitting you with a bowling ball, and it was shocking to learn that this is equivalent to the force of a boxer’s fist. I also thought that the story about Mike Webster at the end of the speech was very powerful, as it showed the real-life effects of contact sports on the brain and body.

Next, Frances Wilkinson told us about the Butterfly Effect. She explained how small events can have huge, unforeseen consequences. For example, a butterfly flapping its wings could eventually create a tornado. She used an example of a man who spared the life of a soldier in World War I. This soldier turned out to be Adolf Hitler, who was responsible for millions of deaths in World War II.

I found this speech very interesting, as I was curious about how large an effect a small change could truly have. From the examples Frances used, I realised that even the smallest of actions can change the course of history.

Alexis Haarmann then told us about the controversy surrounding the death penalty. He explained that five per cent of people who are sentenced to death turn out to be innocent, and pointed out that waiting for the death penalty to be carried out is mental torture even for rightfully convicted criminals. I thought that this speech gave me a good background to the death penalty, and it made me more convinced that it should be abolished everywhere.
Ben Upton then outlined each side of the argument on whether marijuana should be legal or not. He explored both the recreational and the medicinal side of marijuana, explaining how the legalisation of marijuana would benefit the economy, and how people who experience seizures can benefit greatly from the use of medicinal marijuana. He eventually came to the conclusion that marijuana should not be legalised, as it just causes people to drift further and further away from reality. This speech was well-researched and it was an interesting view on the controversial topic of marijuana’s legalisation.

This was followed by an impressive speech from Tania Stokes on climate change. She first acknowledged that thinking of global issues can be daunting, and then emphasised that even one person changing their behaviour can have an effect on global issues. She then told us some simple tips on how we can reduce our own carbon emissions and waste. Tania ended her speech by telling us to imagine the most beautiful place we’d ever been to, destroyed forever because of climate change.

Tania’s speech stood out to me as she clearly knew her topic very well, and she was truly passionate about environmental issues. I thought that her ending, where she told people to visualise an amazing place, gone forever, was very strong, as it emphasised the shocking influence climate change could have on our world over the next hundred years.

Next, Andrew Kim gave a speech about transport. He pointed out that, four hundred years ago, people had to walk everywhere, or if they were lucky they had a horse. He described the efficiency of the transport system in South Korea, where they have a single card for all modes of transport. Andrew then went on to talk about the various improvements in transport in recent years, such as self-driving cars and the Hyperloop.

Andrew presented what could have been a dull topic in an engaging way, showing how our lives would be drastically altered if modern transport did not exist. I also found the modern advancements in transport fascinating.

Sam Lawrence then gave an absorbing speech about conservation. He informed us about the issues caused by our over-consumption of products such as palm oil. Deforestation of palm trees is occurring at an alarming rate, as fifty per cent of all products in an average supermarket contain palm oil. Sam covered many important issues in his speech, and showed how vital it is to conserve our planet’s resources.

Afterwards, Sophia Cabo spoke about divorce. In her speech, she drew from personal experience to paint a stirring picture of what it is like to go through the divorce of your parents at a young age. Sophia said that there are three stages to divorce: sadness, anger and happiness, and revealed that she was finally in the happy stage.

In her speech, Sophia showed a side of divorce that many people do not get to see. I thought that she described her journey through a difficult time very effectively.

Killian Morrell then talked about the Beatles. He said that his dad was a fan of the band, so Killian had grown up listening to their music. He added that now, when he listens to their music, he instantly gets nostalgic because it reminds him of his childhood in Dubai. Killian’s speech was unusual, and it gave an interesting picture of the different musical influences in his life.

Finally, Sophia Cole talked about women in sport. She said that recently, people have begun to see that women should not work solely in the home, as they have a lot more to offer. However, she explained that there is still huge inequality between men and women’s sport. For example, men get paid a lot more money for playing the same sport as women, and often get to play in drastically better venues than women.

Sophia raised some interesting points, and her speech was both clear and coherent. It was shameful to hear some of the inequality women still experience in the world of sport today.
At the end of the evening, I thought that the joint winners, Thady McKeever and Tania Stokes, were well-deserving of the prize as their speeches were both compelling and thought-provoking, and they each approached their topics with striking originality.

National Poetry Competition

Many congratulations to Tania Stokes, who has been awarded second place in the junior section of National Poetry competition from  PDST/WellRead for her poem ‘Resonance’. The awards ceremony is on November 7th at the CityWest Hotel.


I balanced on the strings.
Light as a tightrope walk:
Tentative, timid.
The first sound crept
At the draw of the bow
Like some small creature
From the dark.

I missed my mark.
The tone not true,
My arrow flew into
Nothing. The music played
Itself in my head. Pure,
Featherweight. Nimble.

I composed myself;
I could see it, crystalline,
The filigree lines.
I fixed my aim.
No stray note would escape.
I would catch it
And carve it to perfection.

But I was mistaken
In my reflection.
A cello’s purpose
Is not to take away –
Music grows. Its source?
A spark. Music throws flames
To the dark, illuminates hearts.

I reached deep, my arrow
Steeped in power. The melody,
I let it fly and it soared high –
It felt alive. I dived
Into the rising tide, and once inside,
I let it carry me to shore.
Music is more than perfection.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Shakepeare's Shadows

An excellent site (and idea, of course) is Emily Rome's Shakespeare's Shadows, where actors and directors talk about individual characters in the plays.  For instance, our current Sixth Form should listen to Cordelia and Lear.

Other characters who have featured so far are Mercutio, Ariel, Ophelia, Rosalind, Malvolio, Richard II, Hermione, Henry IV and Viola.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Bullying Awareness Week poetry competition

For the coming Bullying Awareness Week, we are organising a poetry competition, with winners getting vouchers and having their poems read out in Chapel on Friday 20th October. The deadline for entries is Wednesday 18th.
Your teacher will explain to you the tasks, with P, I and II having a go in class/prep. III, IV, V and VI are invited to write a poem in the form of Brian Bilston's 'Refugees', a 'two-way' or mirror poem. More in class soon.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Chaucer Heritage Trust competition

Your teacher will tell you about this competition from the Chaucer Heritage Trust. There are enticing prizes, and entries are due by January 31st 2018. Open to all ages in school. Download details here.

In the Transition Year modules there are classes on Chaucer and Middle English. While the competition is based on The Canterbury Tales, you don't have to know any Chaucer to take part:
  • Write a poem about a journey.
  • Write a short “beast fable” (like the Nun’s Priest’s Tale) which explores an important issue through animal characters.
  • Write a General Prologue entry for an imaginary pilgrim, based upon a modern day occupation. For example, “The Nurse”, “The Investment Banker” or “The Politician”.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Poetry Aloud 2017

All interested in taking part in Poetry Aloud this year should let their teacher, or Mr Jameson, know as soon as possible.
Poetry Aloud is a national verse-speaking competition we've had plenty of success at in the past. Learn more about it here.
There are three categories: Junior (I and II), Intermediate (III and IV) and Senior (V and VI), with the main poems set all being by Patrick Kavanagh: "Kerr's Ass" (junior), "Inniskeen Road: July Evening" (intermediate) and "Shancoduff" (senior).

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Developments in the Library

The superb College Library opened on two sides of the Warden's Garden in 1994, as a result of the Development Appeal in 1993 for the College's 150th anniversary. Now we are approaching our 175th (in 2018), and the Library continues to be central (literally) to the life of the school.  Designed by Old Columban John Somerville-Large, its design has held up superbly, and it still looks as good as new.

Our new full-time professional Librarian, Ms Kent-Sutton, has been busy since she arrived early this year, and indeed over the summer. 

Two fine developments as we start the academic year have taken place. The room through the back of the Junior Reading Room, traditionally called 'The Submarine', has been completed cleared of piles of old books and detritus, and is now ready for use as a seminar and meeting room (it will also hold the archives, which will be held in special new shelving).

Secondly, the catalogue and borrowing system has moved online to 'Oliver', a vital development which allows the Library to reach out beyond the confines of its walls. Pupils and staff can access this here and via the internal Firefly Learning system. It also enables staff to direct pupils to books and other resources in a much more sophisticated and wide-ranging way. Furthermore, all will now have access to the e-book service 'Leabharlann'.

As we head into that 175th anniversary, the Library is in good shape.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Boy Behind The Curtain

Tim Winton's The Boy Behind the Curtain: notes from an Australian life is an outstanding book. Not so long ago he read from and talked about it at the Lexicon in Dun Laoghaire (that talk is now available on their SoundCloud site here; also listen to this chat at the Auckland Writers' Festival in 2015).

Collections of essays can seem thrown-together, but this one isn't: Australia, childhood and the natural world are approached from different angles by Winton in a series of beautifully-written pieces. 'The Boy Behind the Curtain', from which he read at the start of the Lexicon event, examines the potentially fine line between safety and catastrophe that Winton identifies as a key note of life, especially Australian life. This opens out further in 'Havoc: a Life in Accidents', based on his father's job as a motorbike cop and an horrendous accident which nearly killed him (but which in the end gave him a kind of rebirth as an evangelical Christian). Winton recreates with consummate tension their approach to an accident when his father was off-duty, and his own years later with his children in the back of the car. 
The pleasures go on through essays on hospitals, sharks, the saving from developers of Ningaloo Reef and descriptions of the vastness of Western Australia. Great reading, and English teachers will find fruitful material in the earlier essays in particular.