Saturday, December 22, 2012

Books of 2012

And here are my own newly-published books of the year for the series Books of 2012:-

Book of the Year: Robert Caro's The Passage of Power:-
The fourth volume of his extraordinary biography of LBJ, and one of the great story-telling achievements of our age. This is the most dramatic to date, covering Kennedy's assassination and Johnson's assumption of the Presidency, but the immense first volume, covering LBJ's early political years in Texas, is just as thrilling. 

And some others:

  • Selina Guinness: The Crocodile by the Door - the story of a house, a farm and a family. Here's our review.
  • Michael Gorra: Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece. An elegant and beautifully-achieved account of one of English literature's greatest novels.
  • Jeanette Winterson: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Storytelling that is painful and funny. Also, a passionate defence of the power of literature.
  • Thomas Newkirk: The Art of Slow Reading. Thoughtful meditation on the nature of reading, and on teaching English.
  • Alan Jacobs: The Pleasures of Readingin an Age of Distraction. Our review here.

  • Belinda McKeon: Solace. Our review here.
  • Keith Ridgway: Hawthorn and Child. Innovative and haunting. Read John Self's review on his blog here.
  • Roddy Doyle: Two Pints. Two middle-aged men sit in a pub once a week and spout about life. It could be terrible. But it's not. It's seriously funny.
  • Kevin Barry: Dark Lies the Island. The second book of short stories from the new shooting star of Irish literature. Here's our review of the award-winning 'Beer Trip to Llandudno'. The rest are very different. Barry has quite a range.
  • Donna Leon: Beastly Things. Simply, always pleasurable. Leon's Brunetti detective series maintains its high standard, and in recent years she's expanded her concerns well beyond those of genre fiction.
  • Gerbrand Bakker: The Detour. All the virtues of Bakker's award-winning The Twin are evident here too: the calm clarity of the prose (again beautifully translated from the Dutch by David Colmer), the underlying sense of unease, the narrative grip of a story in which, on the surface, not much seems to happen.
  • Teju Cole: Open City. Our review here.

[Books first published in hardback or paperback in 2012].

Friday, December 21, 2012

TES Christmas Star!

SCC English is one of the Times Educational Supplement 'Christmas Stars' ... check out our TES resources here.

"SCC English has shared more than 70 post-16 English resources that include some truly creative revision podcasts, word clouds and video analyses of exam texts including Macbeth and The Great Gatsby. Their username has become synonymous with top quality resources that are engaging and academically rigorous. Check out his King Macbeth podcast and his Hamlet soliloquies Wordle."

'The Art of Fielding'

What was your Book of 2012? Fill in our survey here - we'll be blogging responses leading up to Christmas.

@LucyAughney chose Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding:

Amusing, literary, earnest novel about young people finding their way in college and life, and the baseball scenes are thrilling even to a non baseball fan. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

'Indian Horse' and more

What was your Book of 2012? Fill in our survey here - we'll be blogging responses leading up to Christmas.
@chrysalis57 chose Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese:
1. Literature should provoke an emotional reaction - this novel did that more than any other I've read in years - anger, empathy, sadness, joy - Indian Horse has it all.
2. The language - Richard's prose is beautiful and lyrical.

Teachcmb56 went for Katherine Boo's Beyond the Beautiful Forevers:
Following in the new form of fiction/non-fiction. I was the "fly on the wall" watching this Mumbai neighborhood ... could not escape, and I did not want to until the end.

Barney - The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt:
It was a fantastic book which kept hold of me from the very start. It had everything you would want from a book. It had action, drama, comedy, fleshed out characters and twists and turns you would never of expected. It was made me actually care a great deal about what happened to the characters and the ending was fantastic. It ended the book so well. I would highly recommend it to everyone as it would appeal to everyone.
And three anonymous recommendations:
 The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller - Beautifully written love story.

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper - A beautiful tale of how every student has potential and what happens when we fail to recognize it.

Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan - Clever clever clever!


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Folger Shakespeare Resources

The Folger Shakespeare Library has announced that its editions of 12 of Shakespeare's best-known plays are being made available free of charge digitally (together with their full source-code), and that the rest of the plays will follow next year:

Users can read the plays online, download PDFs for offline reading, search for keywords within a single play or the whole corpus, and navigate by act, scene, line, or the new Folger throughline numbers. Every word, space, and piece of punctuation has its own place online

Plays are also displayed with the same page numbers as in the Folger Shakespeare Library print editions to allow the two to be easily used together in classrooms.

The Folger Library has lots of other helpful resources for teachers and pupils too.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Macmillan Dictionary Love English Awards

We'd be delighted to get your votes for the 2012 Macmillan Dictionary Love English Awards (blog section). You can vote here once a day until midnight on Monday 21st January (go to 'See Entries and Vote'). Thanks!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

'Home' & 'The Girl...'

What was your Book of 2012? Fill in our survey here - we'll be blogging responses leading up to Christmas.

@simonmlewis chose Bill Bryson's Home: a short history of private life:

I love Bill Bryson's narrative style. I love the way he can't help going off in tangents and this book about the rooms in his house gave him lots of freedom to deviate from describing the history of particular rooms to bizarre factoids and stories from American and English history. The book could have been twice as long and I still would have enjoyed it.
@acuparia went for the spectacularly named The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente:
This beautiful creation will be the source of a new generation's fairytales...

Friday, December 14, 2012

'Dark Lies the Island' & 'The Orphan Master's Son'

What was your Book of 2012? Fill in our survey here - we'll be blogging responses leading up to Christmas.
@rozzlewis chose Dark Lies the Island by Kevin Barry (see our review of one of the stories here):
Kevin is the new master of the Irish short story. His work demands performance. He writes in such a unique and comic way about everyday lives in awful places in Ireland. The people are mostly horrid, his stories are incredibly dark and end with an ultra non-epiphany. I don't usually reread books but have read and read his stories over and over.

@endaconneely went for The Orphan Master's Son, by Adam Johnson:
A fantastic insight into the reality of life behind the DMZ written by a man who has spent a lot of time behind it. Also, the best caricature of The Dear Leader since Team America!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

'Behind the Beautiful Forevers'

What was your Book of 2012? Fill in our survey here - we'll be blogging responses leading up to Christmas. 

@literacyadviser chose a book often mentioned in the press surveys, Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers: life, death and hope in a Mumbai undercity :

This was possibly the best book I read in 2012 because it provides a powerful evocation of the differences between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots' in one of the world's emerging economic powerhouses - India. Although listed as 'reportage' the book reads like a novel and the characters are beautifully drawn.

'The Return'

In her recent English Transition Year exam, Ally Boyd Crotty wrote a story under the title 'The Return'.

It starts:

You sit across the aisle from me. One leg crossed, over the other. Your hands are clasped between your thighs. You seem cold. You shiver and look out the window, as if at nothing.

I only noticed you as we were queuing to board. Your khaki uniform stood out and the colour almost shone into my eyes. I couldn’t help but notice the two tickets in your bag - inward and outward journey. Two six-hour flights both on the same day? Only four hours apart? You must be going to see someone.

Read what happened next here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

'The Submarine', December 2012

The December 2012 edition of the Library magazine The Submarine has just been published, and you can read it online above (click for a closer look, and again for closer still, and navigate through the arrows).

Mr McConville, the editor and Librarian, discusses in his editorial two new books from members of staff, A Neutron Walks into a Bar (Mr Jones) and the new translation of The Islander (Dr Bannister), and indeed later on the latter reviews the former (and then the Librarian reviews the latter...)

There are also articles by Mr Swift (difficulties with reading via Kindle), Madeleine Armstrong (responding in exasperation to a spam email), Nyla Jamieson (reviewing The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein), and by Mr McCarthy (detective fiction), as well as our own review of Selina Guinness's fine book The Crocodile by the Door. There are poems by Quirin v Blomberg and Iyobasa Bello-Asemota, and also the What's Reading Me and What's Writing Me features, as well as a list of some of the new books in the Library this term.

'Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight' & 'Sing You Home'

What was your Book of 2012? Fill in our survey here - we'll be blogging responses leading up to Christmas. 

Cathie Cahill chose Alexandra Fuller's memoir, Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight:
Beautifully written, poignant, funny, fascinating account of a Rhodesian childhood with eccentric parents. 

@gillmac went for Jodi Picoult's Sing You Home :

Stunning story, well written. Its characters stuck with me afterwards.

Monday, December 10, 2012

'City of Bohane' and more

 What was your Book of 2012? Fill in our survey here - we'll be blogging responses leading up to Christmas.

@allprops crammed in four books ... 

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward; City of Bohane by Kevin Barry;  Pure by Julianna Baggott ; A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash:-

A wonderfully dark, resolute warning for a dark resolute age. Each narrator adds to the
layers  of evil that permeate this book. The Pastor is as nasty and brutish as any Claudius or Iago.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

'The Passage of Power'

What was your Book of 2012? Fill in our survey here - we'll be blogging responses leading up to Christmas.

John Fanagan chooses The Passage of Power by Robert A. Caro:-

It is the fourth and penultimate volume of what is the best biography I have ever read. Its subject, President Lyndon Johnson, was a deeply flawed political figure, president by accident when Kennedy was assassinated. Yet he achieved more than any president in history in his great civil rights reforms. Indeed the election of Barack Obama might be said to be his political legacy. The Passage of Power deals with Johnson's miserable three years as Kennedy's vice-president up to the day of his first State of the Union address two months after becoming president. His assured assumption of power, and how he immediately set to work using it, was astonishing. You will not read a better book this year. 


Thursday, December 06, 2012

'The Yellow Birds'

What was your Book of 2012? Fill in our survey here - we'll be blogging responses leading up to Christmas.
@gutterbookshop chose The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, winner of the Guardian First Book Award recently (hear him discuss the novel on a podcast here):

I read this over the Summer and was blown away by the raw honesty of Powers' writing. An unflinching portrayal of what young soldiers go through in modern warfare and the psychological effects it has on them when they return to 'normality', this is a stunning piece of writing that stays with you long after you've finished reading it.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

'The Selfish Giant'

This morning, Mr Girdham read Oscar Wilde's fairy-tale 'The Selfish Giant' in Chapel. Here's the full story.

'Jammy Dodger', 'The New Kings of Non-Fiction'

What was your Book of 2012? Fill in our survey here - we'll be blogging responses leading up to Christmas.

@Elaine_Dobbyn went for Ira Glass's collection The New Kings of Non-Fiction:  
A brilliant collection of fascinating non-fiction articles.

Rachel Jones chose Jammy Dodger by Kevin Smith:
By a mile the best book I read this year, a hilariously funny satire about two guys trying to run a poetry magazine in Belfast. Lots of wisecracks about poetry but also about life in general, with some fabulous descriptive passages and a very convincing love story thrown in. This was recommended to me by a friend and to be honest I didn't like the sound of it but once I started reading I couldn't put it down. Comic fiction that will really cheer you up.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Edublog Awards 2012

We're delighted to feature in the finalists list in the international Edublog Awards for 2012 - as Best Group Blog (which we won in 2008), Best Class Blog and Best Use of Videos and Media in Education (for our series on key moments in Macbeth - 'Macbeth w ShowMe App).

We're also delighted that the College's science Frog Blog is a finalist as Best Teacher Blog for Mr Humphrey Jones and Best Ed Tech Blog.
Voting continues until Sunday 9th December, via the links above, or the badges on the right, or through this single link.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

'Reamde' and 'The Wind-up Girl'

What was your book of 2012? Fill in our survey here - we'll be blogging responses leading up to Christmas.

@1healigan chose two books -  

Reamde by Neal Stephenson:
This was geek, action & mythic journey all in one book. Characters I loved included a 6' 2" Chinese gamer and hacker named Marlon, a tiny Chinese big foot woman, a British-Chinese MI6 agent by default, a beautiful African adoptee magma flow scientist, a hairy Hungarian mob techie, drug smuggler turned game entrepreneur, American assassin, a chivalrous Russian hitman, an autistic Seattle programmer and gun enthusiast, Russian mobster gone crazy (?), and a charming jihadist truly worthy of a Bond movie (Abdallah Jones? really?)....a rollicking ride through a world I know nothing about. Very satisfying.

The Wind Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi:

I loved this book. Was it cynical, dystopian, fatalistic? Of course. But Bacigalupi's new Garden of Eden was gorgeous, and troubling and absolutely absorbing. An extra bonus? A new Eve.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

'Fiddler on the Roof' review

Alex Owens of V form here reviews the recent College musical Fiddler on the Roof:

On the 17th November the SCC Drama Department presented their final performance of this year’s college musical: Fiddler on the Roof. After months of hard work, starting back at the end of June when final casting was drawn up, and scripts  given out for learning over the summer, the production was completed and  staged in the BSR over three nights. 

The play itself is based on a novel by Joseph Stein, set in a small village known as Anatevka in 1905 before the Russian Revolution.  The story revolves around the main character Tevye played by the very talented Zachary Stephenson. Tevye is a father of five daughters and the story shows his attempts to maintain Jewish religious traditions and support his family.

We see how Tevye copes with his three eldest daughters taking their own choice of husband, slipping further away from him and his faith. He also has to listen and take advice from his sharp-tongued wife Golde, played by the accomplished Siobhan Brady.  

The evening opened with the Fiddler’s signature song ‘Tradition’, which is the main idea which the story is centred around, sung by the entire cast. Also accompanying the cast was pianist Margaret O’Sullivan Farrell and violinist Mary Fitzgerald, brought in especially for the performances by musical director Geraldine Malone Brady. However much more was to come throughout the night with many more numbers such as ‘Matchmaker’ sung beautifully by the three eldest daughters Sally Beeby, Molly Buckingham and Pia Gromotka. Following that, we heard a fine performance of ‘If I were a Rich Man’, sung powerfully by none other than the star of the show, Zach Stephenson and other solo parts with excellent singing by Arthur Moffitt, Sinead Alari, Siobhan Brady, Mark Russell and Mark McAuley. For the musical finale we had the mournful patriotic number ‘Anatevka’ sung by the entire cast.  

The use of light to depict the mood proved to be very effective against the minimalistic background. But the costumes without a doubt took centre stage in being a key role and completing the look of the whole performance, all of which were hand-picked carefully and created by Costume Director Karen Hennessey. In terms of the acting quality of the play, none of this would have been possible without the direction and encouragement of the head of Drama Mr Swift, and special thanks must go to Mrs Malone Brady for her superb musical contribution and coaching of such a large cast.

Overall it is quite clear that this was another enormously successful production from the Drama Department, displaying top-quality performances containing pupils from different year groups throughout the school and they should be commended for their hard work and devotion to a magnificent end result.

Click here  for a photo slideshow of the production.

'Oogy' and 'Wonder'

What was your book of 2012? Fill in our survey here - we'll be blogging responses leading up to Christmas.

@march4teachers chose Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love  -

It was the best because it didn't end with a cliffhanger-buy-the-sequel type situation. It was about unconditional love and tolerance. 

And @wilkins105 went for Wonder by R.J. Palacio, which we reviewed here in the summer -

It is a great book for all ages that teaches compassion for others with disabilities.

Monday, November 26, 2012


What was your book of 2012? Fill in our survey here - we'll be blogging responses leading up to Christmas.

Wilderness by Lance Weller is the choice of @kenc18:

Beautifully written, richly descriptive book. Two plot lines with the same protagonist: one, set in 1899, a harrowing account of a dying, ex-Confederate soldier confronting brigands in the Pacific northwest; the other, set in 1864, a gut-wrenching narrative of his service in the Civil War's Wilderness Campaign. If you like war literature and writers' writers, you'll embrace Weller's debut work.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Charles Dickens: a life

What was your book of 2012? Fill in our survey here - we'll be blogging responses leading up to Christmas.

Claire Tomalin's Charles Dickens: a life is the choice of @bellitum:

Fascinating in its detail. Wonderfully researched. Third Tomalin biog I have read (Pepys, Hardy). All great. Intrigued as to how Dickens was so humane towards the downtrodden and yet so cruel to some of his own family. A puzzle. Great springboard for reading more Dickens - read Barnaby Rudge in the past year as a result.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Best Book of 2012

What was the best (new or old) book you read in 2012?

Just click here or fill in the form below (remember to click 'Submit' at the end).

We'll be blogging your responses in the lead-up to Christmas, as well as (soon) compiling our Best of the Year lists from the media, as we did in 2011 and 2010.

Macbeth 13: Act 3 scene 4 - 'cabined, cribbed, confined'

This is the thirteenth in a series of analyses of key moments in Macbeth using the iPad app ShowMe.

Here, Macbeth finds out that Fleance escaped the murderers, and he expressses his sense of being 'bound in to saucy doubts and fears.'

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Macbeth 12: Act 3 scene 2- 'restless ecstasy'

This is the twelfth in a series of analyses of key moments in Macbeth using the iPad app ShowMe.

Here, while Macbeth plans to have Banquo murdered, we see his sense of the nightmarish 'torture of the mind' from which he is suffering.

Monday, November 19, 2012

'Fiddler on the Roof' photographs

Above, a slideshow of photographs of last week's hugely successful production of Fiddler on the Roof, taken by Mr Peter Watts.

Edublog Awards 2012

Our nominations for the 2012 Edublog Awards are:

  • Best Teacher Blog: The Frog Blog, run by Humphrey Jones - the best science blog around.
  • Best Twitter hashtag: #science140 - a brilliant idea which 'crowd-sourced' scientific facts, and quickly produced this Christmas's must-have stocking-filler book, A Neutron Walks Into a Bar.
  • Best Mobile App: ShowMe for the iPad, which we've used extensively for text annotation and analysis.
  • Best Educational Use of a Social Network: the English Companion Ning - support, connections and advice from over 30,000 English teachers around the world.
  • Best Administrator Blog: John Tomsett, for wise advice about schools and the nature of leadership.
  • Best New Blog: RAMS English: curriculum, practical ideas for the classroom and more, with consistently thoughtful and well-written posts.
  • Best Individual Blog: LeavingCertEnglish from Evelyn O'Connor of Mount Saint Michael's school in Claremorris, with lots of good advice for students, and lots of passionate commentary about education.

TY Book Recommendations 11

Sofia McConnell has read Gregory Maguire's Wicked for her Transition Year Extended Essay, and thinks it is 'brilliant':

"This tells the story tells of the life of the Wizard of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West from her point of view. The book is full of bitterness, grief and wildly imaginative sections that take you completely out of this world and in to that one. I like this book because it is so imaginative: you live the witch’s life and get a completely different perspective on the whole story. I suggest that if you are to read this book (which you definitely should) then you should also read The Wizard of Oz. I highly recommend this book to people of ages 13 to 90 who wouldn't be worried by such an imagination. It was a really enjoyable book and I loved it!"