Friday, December 19, 2014

Books of the Year 2014

Here we go again: our annual round-up of Books of the Year features in the press and on some blogs.  This list will be regularly updated  in the coming weeks. Some of the lists are specifically for children or young adults, but plenty aren't. 

[updated 5.1.15].

Previous lists are here: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

  1. The Irish Times has lots of authors' choices, on separate pages. Rory O'Neill, aka Panti Bliss, goes for one of our own choices last year, Damien Barr's Maggie and Me. Joseph O'Connor pinpoints the exciting talent of Davy Byrnes Short Story Award winner, Sara Baume. There is also a list of best children's and young adults' books, compiled by the ever-excellent Robert Dunbar.
  2. The Irish Times's Eileen Battersby is a rather erratic critic, but there is still plenty of interest in her selection of the year. She calls Richard Flanagan's The Narrow Road to the Deep North 'one of the strongest-ever Booker winners' (though some readers will find the love and sex scenes cringe-making). 
  3. The Irish Independent has Sarah Webb's selection of best children's books, from 2-5 to Young Adult. Roddy Doyle's Brilliant makes the list.  John Spain compiles the best non-fiction list, concentrating on history, including Roy Foster's widely-acclaimed Vivid Faces. John Boland does the fiction list, mentioning how bulky many novels are nowadays, and giving pride of place to Colin Barrett's award-winning short stories Young Skins.
  4. In the Telegraph, Tim Martin briskly rushes past the usual suspects to an interesting selection of the best fiction of the year, such as Jenny Offill's Dept of Speculation and Paul Kingsnorth's challenging The Wake. He also recommends 80 Days, "a collaboration for iPad between Profile Books and the game company Inkle, which revives Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days as a steampunk choose-your-own adventure in which you play Passepartout. Is it a game? Is it a story? Both, really. And a delight." The Telegraph also has Best Photography and Art, Best Cookbooks, Best Poetry (starting with Kevin Powers's Iraq War poems), Best Biographies (including James Booth's much-reviewed book on Philip Larkin which 'restores some balance and warmth'.)
  5. School Library Journal: best Young Adult books, and also non-fictionmiddle grade and picture books (such as Byron Barton's My Bus) - an informed selection all round. 
  6. The Guardian's annual feature comes in two parts here and here: writers such as Mary Beard (Colin Jones's The Smile Revolution), Josh Cohen (Marion Coutts's harrowing The Iceberg) and Mark Lawson (the late great Seamus Heaney's New Selected Poems 1988-2013) make their choices. There are separate lists for best art books, best fiction and best photography books. The full collection is here. Nicholas Lezard often spots gems: here's his best paperback list. Publishers' hits and misses is an annual good read, as is the reader-selection.
  7. Here are Guardian Australia's picks, with a predictable picture.
  8. The annual 100 Notable Books from The New York Times offers Lorrie Moore's latest short stories, Bark, Jenny Offill (on many lists) and Marilynn Robinson's widely-noted Lila, the final book in a loose trilogy. There's also Notable Children's Books and What's the Best Book, New or Old, You've Read this Year? 
  9. Another from the NYT is an interactive of the best covers of the year - some superb design here. 
  10. The New Yorker has Nine Great Poetry Books of 2014,  and more generally their contributors' Best Books of 2014, such as Elena Ferrante's Naples novels, recommended by Sarah Larson.
  11. Maria Popova on the extraordinary Brain Pickings site has the best children's books of the year and best science books, among others.
  12. Printers' Row from the Chicago Tribune has a fine selection of Best Books of 2014, including the superb doctor/writer Atul Gawande with Being Mortal (many of his previous books have interesting ideas for education, too) and Irish writer Eimear McBride's A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (also not an easy read, this time for stylistic reasons).
  13. The Herald in Scotland has selections from reviewers and staff writers,  starting with a book set in a school, Megan Abbott's The Fever ('dripping with tension'). Iain MacWhirter chooses The Circle, by Dave Eggers (out last year but now in paperback), a thought-provoking treatment of the implications of a Facebook or Google becoming yet more powerful.
  14. The London Independent has a whole battery of lists in all genres; to pluck out one, the crime list mentions reissues of the great Patricia Highsmith, such as Those Who Walk Away.
  15. Melanie McDonough in the Spectator presents her best children's books of the year. Erich Kästner's The Flying Classroom and The Parent Trap are here in new editions from Pushkin, translated by the great Anthea Bell. 
  16. The Financial Times has a review of the literary year by Lorien Kite, followed by choices by writers such as Martin Amis and Karl Ove Knausgaard (both of whom feature in many lists).
  17. There's a selection from the TLS feature here. Andrew Motion goes for the intruiging work of the 'forgotten' poet Rosemary Tonks.
  18. The StarTribune's critics select their favourite books, including Dept of Speculation (as per our illustration). Richard McGuire's Here sounds intriguing - great American cover, too.
  19. Bookpage has the 10 best mysteries and thrillers of 2014, such as Tom Rob Smith's The Farm.
  20. Time magazine's best photography books of the year includes lots of vivid images.
  21. Huffington Post's Best Books of 2014 has more substantial entries than most, garnered from reviews. Rebecca Mead's book about one of the greatest of all novels, Eliot's Middlemarch, is 'lovely' and 'illuminating'. The Unspeakable by Meghan Dunn (good cover) looks interesting. There is also a Young Adult list.
  22. The Washington Post's 10 Best Books of 2014 mentions Sarah Waters's widely-mentioned novel Paying Guests, sibilantly telling us that we will 'surrender to the smooth assuredness of Sarah Waters's silken prose.'
  23. Slate's Best Books of 2014 (including a feature on overlooked books) includes Lorrie Moore's latest short stories in Bark (at times maddening but often heart-piercing).
  24. The Daily Mail's selection is predictable enough - no harm in starting with Colm Toibin's excellent Nora Webster, though. 
  25. The Sydney Morning Herald gathers Australian writers' choices, including Michelle de Krestner going for the always excellent Dalmon Galgut's Arctic Summer, about E.M.Forster in India.
  26. History Today has an informed selection
  27. NPR in America features Maureen Corrigan's selection of 12 from 2014, including Ben Lerner's 10:04, which also pops up in some other lists.
  28. The Wall Street Journal's selection is neatly presented in graphic form, a master list of those mentioned elsewhere (Sarah Waters comes out top in fiction).
  29. Bustle has a good selection of 25 books, including the always interesting Lydia Davis's latest collection, Can't and Won't
  30. The Atlantic magazine has The Best Book I Read This Year (whenever it was published). Editor Sophie Gilbert goes for the late Kent Haruf's Plainsong
  31. There's a good list in Deutsche Welle of the 10 Must-Read German Books of 2014,  including two by Andreas Maier, who is making big waves outside Germany now.
  32. The Mother Jones staff selection has some of the usual suspects. Saga Deluxe Edition, Volume 1, by Brian K.Vaughan and Fiona Staples is a bit different. 
  33. The Seattle Times goes for a top 35. The excellent Richard Ford is here, with the terribly-named Let Me Be Frank With You
  34. In the L.A. Times, David L. Ulin reviews the year in books, starting with the 'poster child' of 'incidental things', Karl Ove Knausgaard. 
  35. In The Australian, plenty of authors and critics select their best books of the year, including Bruce Beresford calling Knausgaard's A Death in the Family 'a masterpiece'.
  36. O Magazine from the Oprah Winfrey stable has an editors' selection.  The 'must-read for our generation' is Roxane Gay's essay collection Bad Feminist.
  37. From a Canadian perspective, the Globe and Mail's feature has a series of snappy recommendations. 
  38. Blogger John Self's selection from 2014 concludes with Dept of Speculation (pictured at the top) as his favourite new book.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Importance of Being Earnest

The recent Senior Play production of The Importance of Being Earnest provided great pleasure for all its audiences over three nights in the Big Schoolroom. One of the most purely pleasurable of comedies, Earnest has had regular productions over the years here; this latest one was directed with thoughtfulness and close attention to detail by Mr Tristan Clarke and Mr Ronan Swift. It is not an easy play to put on for pupils: its wordiness can be hard-going in clumsy hands. At its best, though, the dialogue fizzes from witticism to witticism, and warms the audience along the way with its easily-worn brilliance.

That brilliance was captured well by at the start of the evening by John Clarke and Harvey McCone, as Algernon Moncrieff and Jack Worthing respectively. Both were at ease on the stage; both made the audience feel at ease. Jack's part spans most of the play, and Harvey's acting was pleasingly light of foot. Perhaps the biggest reach for anyone on this cast of twenty-first century teenagers was for Darcy Maule, playing the domineering Lady Bracknell. She did very well, with a good sense of comic timing, and, impressively, she managed that line (the handbag one) without either aping her famous predecessors or pushing unnaturally for an original angle. Melissa Halpenny also did well in her first role on the Columban stage as Lady Bracknell's daughter, Gwendolen.

Best of all in this production was Phoebe Coulter as Cecily. Appearing for the first time on the Columban stage in a major role, she played the part with a beautiful lightness of touch, micro-expressions flitting over her face vividly, with a perfect sense of comic timing (nice use of the watering can). The latter part of the play was also adorned with a different kind of comedy, in Samuel Clarke's doddery Canon Chasuble, chasing after Louvisa Karlsson-Smythe's Miss Prism with nervous eagerness.

The fine cast was completed by butlers Oisin Large and Nikolaus Eggers, who drew a round of applause for the switch of sets (a pulled back curtain on a wire).

A demanding audience, few of whom knew the play beforehand, were sent happily out of the Big Schoolroom by the pleasing ending, after a couple of hours' beautifully-achieved drama.

[At the top of this post, interviews with Mr Swift and the cast put together by Dr Bannister. Here, see excellent photos of the production taken by Liz Lawrence].

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

SCC Book Club

The second novel for discussion by the Book Club who meet in the Library is Sarah Winman's When God Was a Rabbit. Plenty of time to get a copy and read it before March (post-exams) when the next meeting will take place, again in the Library.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Eavan Boland resource: A Poet's Dublin

An excellent addition to web resources on the poet Eavan Boland (often on the Leaving Certificate course), is a new site called A Poet's Dublin, created by the Illuminations gallery at Maynooth University, as part of an exhibition of the poet's work and photography. There are audio recordings and commentaries by the poet, and also critical commentaries by other writers/critics.  

Here's her beautiful poem 'The Pomegranate'.

We've add the site to our list of helpful resources on Boland.

Eavan Boland resources

Another post summarising useful resources for the Leaving Certificate, which will be updated every now and then (see our Hamlet page here), this time on the Irish poet Eavan Boland.
  1. Our own podcast on her poem 'This Moment' [8.32 minutes].
  2. The text of 'The Pomegranate'.
  3. A Poet's Dublin: site from Maynooth University with recordings and commentaries.
  4. An interview with Elizabeth Schmidt.
  5. The page: brief biography, and commentary.
  6. The Wikipedia page, with plenty of links at the bottom (the usual cautionary note about facts on Wikipedia...)
  7. Scoilnet extract from Object Lessons on being a female Irish poet, with questions
  8. US Colleges TV Video of reading and talk by Boland ['The Pomegranate' from 6:20]
  9. Reading at Cornell University [YouTube, starts with Boland at 15:00]
[updated September 2016. Some dead links]

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Conan Doyle

Two more TY Extended Essay recommendations, both of books by Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes is really back in fashion, no doubt due to various TV series and films -
Elias Ploner recommends A Study in Scarlet:
"This is definitely one of my favourite books as it is the first Sherlock Holmes story and I love the story of Dr. Watson and Holmes meeting for the first time. I think that Holmes is probably the best or at least one of the best detectives ever imagined (alongside Simenon's Maigret) and as usual in Doyle's stories the plot is really great. All in all it is an excellent book and I hope to have as much fun reading the other books as I had reading this one".

And Igor Petrenko read The Sign of the Four:

"Do you like detective stories? If you do, you would love this book! The quality of the writing is excellent  even though at times it's pretty tough to understand the language). Holmes and Watson are very well portrayed. This is one of Conan Doyle's classics. The reader is kept in suspense throughout most of this book, which makes you want to keep on reading".

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Writing Prompts

The New York Times Learning Network has a great series of 500 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing broken down into sections such as Overcoming Adversity, Role Models and Music. You can easily download a PDF, too. 

(They also have 200 Prompts for Argumentative Writing).

Try the If Only section:
  1. What Would You Do if You Won the Lottery?
  2. What Superpower Do You Wish You Had?
  3. What Era Do You Wish You Had Lived In?
  4. Would You Want to Be a Tween or Teen Star?
  5. Would You Want to Grow Up in the Public Eye?
  6. What Kind of Robot Would You Want?
  7. What Would You Outsource if You Could?
  8. What Would You Like to Learn on Your Own?
  9. What Would You Wait in Line For?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

John Green and Cormac McCarthy

More book recommendations from the TY Extended Essay project (some of the essays themselves will be posted here later in the term).

Sophie Alexander recommends John Green's novel Looking for Alaska:-

This novel tells the story of a teenager called Miles Halter or, as he is referred throughout the novel, “Pudge”, who is tired of his lonely and predictable life. He is in search of his ‘Great Perhaps’, by which he means he is pursuing change in his life. He decides to attend a boarding school, Culver Creek for his junior year of high school.

The book is divided into two parts: ‘Before’ and ‘After’. When he arrives at Culver Creek, he meets his roommate Chip ‘The Colonel’ Martin who introduces him to the gorgeous, perplexing and emotionally confused Alaska Young.  As the story progresses, the reader is immersed in the adventures of Miles's life at Culver Creek and his growing attachment and connection to Alaska. 

The story highlights crucial elements of teenage life, such as practical jokes, bets, calamitous parties and tense meetings with the headmaster.

I found this book an interesting read as the school life in America is very different from what one would experience in Ireland or certainly here. This book fits in perfectly with my choice of ‘Love in Relationships’ for my extended essay as it demonstrates what young love and growing up really are in a remorseless and truthful light. I recommend this book to the young adult category as it was original and the themes explored relate to this age group.

Maria Herrero Tejada on Cormac McCarthy's The Road:
I personally recommend this book because the story line is brilliant, about a man and a boy walking together in a journey of danger and coldness. Not only the story line is good but it is well written as well and the English is not very difficult either - for those whose English is not their first language. I personally really enjoyed reading it and hopefully this recommendetion will get more people to read it.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Two more recommendations

More recommendations by Transition Year pupils currently writing their Extended Essays.

Freddie de Montfort on Empire of Silver by Conn Iggulden:
This is one of my favourite series. The book is set in Mongolia and this book follows Ogedai Khan trying to rule the empire. The book has a good plot, interesting characters and massive battles which were not just interesting to hear about because of the fighting but also how they used stratefies. Another note thing I liked was its degree of historical accuracy (there was an author's note in the back which noted any deviations). I really enjoyed this book and somtimes found it hard to stop reading.

Henriette Pein: Philadelphia by Christopher Davis:
My book is about discrimination of gay people in the sixties. The book is about a lawyer who is fired because he has AIDS and is gay. He decided to fight against his law firm and a homophobe helped him. I read this book in one day because it really caught my attention and I enjoyed reading it. I laughed and cried and felt with the main character, and the style of writing is easy to read.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


This morning in Chapel Mr Girdham posed these questions. Most of them are from Ian Gilbert's book The Little Book of Thunks. You can also pose your own Thunks at his website here.

  • If you could take a pill that meant you would never again fail, would you?
  • If I promised you 5 million euros, would you have your sense of humour permanently removed?
  • Is it ever right to bully a bully?
  • Should you be forced to be polite?
  • If you borrow a million euros, are you a millionaire?
  • Am I the same person as I was yesterday?
  • What colour would a zebra be if you took off its stripes?
  • If you give a homeless person money, are you just encouraging them to keep begging?
  • If you lose your memory, are you still the same person?
  • Is a leaf on the tree or part of the tree?
  • Can you be racist against your own race?
  • Is it all right if swear at you in a language you don’t understand? What about if it’s a language I’ve just made up and no- one understands?
  • Can you be best friends with more than one person? If so, what’s the maximum number of best friends you can have?
  • What is more important – being right or being kind?
  • Is a broken-down car parked?
  • If I swap your pen for one exactly the same is that stealing?
  • If I ask if I can steal your pen and you say yes, is that stealing?
  • If you always got everything you wished for, would you always be happy?
  • Is something boring because of it, or because of you?
  • If you win a sports tournament, but cheat to win it, are you truly the winner?
  • Would you rather be deaf or blind?
  • If you were identified as being genetically inclined to do bad things, should you be locked up before you do them?
  • Would you prefer to be a fool or a coward?
  • Is there more past or more future?
  • If a baby grew up all alone on a desert island, would it know right from wrong?
  • If we take the school buildings to Cork, but leave all the pupils and staff here, where is the school now?
  • Is it ever possible to learn nothing?

Monday, November 10, 2014

TY Book Recommendations

Transition Year pupils are now in the final week of their Extended Essays, with the deadline next Monday. Over the coming days, we'll be posting some brief recommendations they have made of the books they chose to read and write about.

Alexandra Malone read Lola Rose by Jacqueline Wilson and writes: 
"I really enjoyed reading this book and I would strongly recommend it to anyone from the age of 13 on. I think that the style of writing is easy and it is a quick read. The author grips you to the story, and all you want to do is keep reading. The story is about a violent father who abuses his family to the point where they have to run away and start a completely new life. The book is gripping and extremely interesting in parts. I can't recommend it enough."

Lisa Cullen recommends Emily Bronte's classic Wuthering Heights:
"Wuthering Heights is a novel written between October 1845 and June 1846. Wuthering Heights is the name of the farmhouse where the story unfolds. The characters Catherine and Heathcliff are monstrous. They are irrational, self-absorbed, malicious and pretty much any negative quality you can think of. They destroy and act with no thought of consequence. I find it fascinating that Emily Bronte chose them to be her central characters. The emotional magnitude of this book is pretty great."

Tuesday, November 04, 2014


The 7th talk in the Patterns of Poetry series looks at cliché, examining how Shakespeare in sonnet 130 and Carol Ann Duffy in 'Valentine' subvert such language.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Paul Murray visit

Here's another angle on Paul Murray's recent reading, this time from Catherine Stammschroer of VI form:-

Paul Murray, who, he stated, always wanted to be an author, was introduced by Ms Duggan before he began to read an extract from his most recent book, Skippy Dies. The book tells the tale of a group of students at Seabrook College which is based on the real secondary boarding school, Blackrock College, which Murray attended as a child. The reading piqued the interest of the audience who learned of hormonal schoolgirls from next door, a grumpy History teacher, Carl the school psychopath, Nipper the dog and so on. Murray also told the audience of the opening scene where Daniel ‘Skippy’ Juster enters a doughnut eating contest in which he chokes on a doughnut and almost dies. Note - almost. The rest of the novel is essentially a flashback of the events leading up to this day. Murray was vague as to the actual death, if any, of Skippy. Yes, someone did try and ask what actually happened to Skippy!

Once the reading was over, the audience was given the opportunity to ask questions. Murray was subject to questions involving both the book and his personal life as an author. We discovered that Skippy Dies actually took seven years to write and was, at its longest, over 1200 pages long. Murray had to cull about half of his work to create the novel it is today. We also learned of this routine as an author - that he forces himself to get to the desk every day as ‘80% of success is showing up’.

Murray studied English and Philosophy in college. He initially became interested in Philosophy, he said, when he came upon a Woody Allen film in which a philosopher killed himself. He believed Philosophy would help him answer questions like ‘what is love?’ and ‘why do we live?’ However, he was very wrong. Philosophy in Trinity focused more on Mathematics. Thus, he was quite disappointed. Nevertheless, he continued studying English. He started writing short stories. Years later, he told us, he went into a small bookshop where he met a man who convinced him to send off one of his novels to a publisher. He completed a course and officially became an author. The man he met later became the famous author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

The evening ended up with Murray talking about how his novels brought him to different places in order to do readings. Ireland, Boston, Germany, London, New York, Paris and Beijing were among those cities which he visited due to the publication of Skippy Dies. Going off on another interesting tangent, he mentioned how taxi drivers were the best at ‘suggesting’ stories while he sat innocently in the back of the cab. He referred to James Joyce’s quote and also agreed that ‘I’ve never met a boring person’. Some people he has met throughout his life have found themselves somehow integrated into Skippy Dies and make ‘cameo appearances’ in his novel (although not officially, he didn’t want lawyers involved). All we know is that Father Green, a character in Skippy Dies, is based on one of Murray’s old French teachers who was ‘terrifying, tall and constantly enraged, who hated all boys’.

Overall the evening was a mixture of funny and informative, to say the least. It was far more interesting than Claire Keegan’s reading and question-answering of Foster last year (am I allowed to say that?) and it actually did manage to encourage me to read Skippy Dies. Paul Murray is currently writing a third novel which has thus far taken five years to write. However the question remains, how did Skippy die? Paul Murray answered “Hopefully you’ll buy and read the novel to find out.”

Monday, October 20, 2014

Paul Murray visit

On Thursday last, Paul Murray, author of Skippy Dies and An Evening of Long Goodbyes, came to the Big Schoolroom to read to interested pupils and answer their questions.  Here is an account by Roman Sharykin of VI form:

On the 17th of October, the author of the novel Skippy Dies, Paul Murray, came to the school to talk to us about his book. If I am honest, I was a little sceptical about the whole event at the start, mainly because I haven’t read the book and was concerned about how much of the talk I would actually understand. However, when the author began reading his masterpiece, all my preconceptions were wiped out and for ten minutes, I sank into the world of Seabrook College.

The first thing that struck me was the way Paul Murray read his piece. He seemed to be a little shy and unsure of himself, yet through his tone and manner of expression I got an impression of a man reading his own diary. He had a very clear emotional attachment to the piece, expressing a set of emotions that could only be felt by a person who experienced everything he wrote about. What also impressed me was Paul Murray's style of writing. He described everything with very vivid imagery, seen from a child's perspective. His descriptions of boarding life and school life in general, contained some very subtle social criticisms, like the influence of the Catholic church on the culture of Ireland and the attitude to sex in particular. His characters were very extreme in a humorous way, yet extremely realistic, and even reminded me of some people I know. Paul Murray also managed to capture the essence of a child growing up, working to find and take his place in society. All the emotions of fear, confusion and wonder are masterfully captured in every line of the text. The author even goes so far as to compare the Big Bang theory to a school, a reference which is very strange, yet makes perfect sense.

After Paul finished reading from his book, he went on to answer some questions about the text and his career and life as a writer and followed up on most answers by telling personal anecdotes. He revealed to us his secret characters based on real people he used to know, like the evil priest in his book who was built on the character of Paul’s old French teacher. He also shared his routine and his approach to collecting ideas with us. I found it very interesting how he used political and historical issues in order to generate ideas for his books. For example Paul Murray looks at the Irish people who died in world war one and their contribution which has largely been forgotten, and uses that fact to generate an idea for a school trying to cover up Skippy’s death. It is an interesting criticism of the work of a system, in a sense that a good system will always try to smoothe over and eliminate things that stand in its way or do not directly fit into it.

Overall Paul Murray came across as a very knowledgeable person. His amazing critical thinking and deep analytical skills made him an incredible person to listen to. I already ordered both his books on Amazon and am eagerly awaiting their arrival in order to dive into the story of Skippy and Seabrook. Honestly, I think this was one of the best English events this year and I hope that we get to see many more amazing authors of the same caliber. A big thank you to Miss Duggan for organising such and amazing evening, and an even bigger thank you to Paul Murray who took some time to come and speak to us. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bang! Splash! The purpose of onomatopoeia

This is podcast 6 in the rerun of the Patterns of Poetry series of short discussions of poetic techniques, and looks at onomatopoeia, examining Seamus Heaney's poem 'A Constable Calls', as well as 'Sunlight'.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Paul Murray

We're delighted to welcome Paul Murray, author of Skippy Dies and An Evening of Long Goodbyes, to read to pupils tomorrow night in the Big Schoolroom at 7.30pm. A report will appear here afterwards.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

SCC Book Club

The choice for this term's Book Club discussion should be popular: Jay Asher's best-selling Thirteen Reasons Why. It's also an appropriate choice in this, our Bullying Awareness Week, as Asher's own site explains.

Those interested should get a copy in the Library, in a bookshop, or as an e-book, and read it in preparation for the discussion on Tuesday 2nd December in the Library.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Bullying Awareness Week

This is Bullying Awareness Week in the College. For more details, see the College site here.

A video shown this morning at Assembly to introduce the topic was about words, and the language we use to and about each other. Since English is all about language, and the best choice of words, it seems right to post the video on this site, too.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Symbolism in poetry

The fifth in the Patterns of Poetry series deals with the use of symbols, and uses 'The Stare's Nest by my Window', the sixth in the sequence 'Meditations in Time of Civil War' by W.B.Yeats. A longer podcast on his poem 'The Wild Swans at Coole' can be heard here. 

Listen to today's talk via the player below.


Friday, October 03, 2014

Extended Essay reading

For any Transition Year pupils who are looking for the final books in their 'package' for the comparative Extended Essay, or the more ambitious of you who want to do more reading than the required amount, here is a helpful list of suggestions put together by the Librarian, Mr McConville.

Navigate through the document by clicking once on it, clicking again for a closer view, and using the arrows.

Thursday, October 02, 2014


In this re-run of short talks, the fourth in the Patterns of Poetry series is on personification, examining Patrick Kavanagh's 1934 poem 'Shancoduff'.

Get our Audioboos as podcasts on iTunes here. Our Audioboo page is here. Listen to today's talk via the player below.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

SCC Book Club

Mr Jameson is starting off the College Book Club again. All interested should go to the Library at 1.30pm on Tuesday 7th October. The plan is to choose a book at that meeting and get it read for a second meeting in December, after the exams. The format will be: meet in the library at lunchtime and talk about the chosen book over coffee and treats.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Importance of Being Earnest

The cast for this year's Senior Play, Oscar Wilde's great comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, has just been announced.  The directors are Mr Swift and Mr Clarke, and the performances will be on November 13th, 14th and 15th in the Big Schoolroom. We'll have more news here in due course.

Jack - Harvey McCone
Algernon - John Clarke
Lane - Nikolaus Eggers
Merriman - Óisín Large
Lady Bracknell - Darcy Maule
Gwendolen - Melissa Halpenny
Cecily - Phoebe Coulter
Miss. Prism - Louvisa Karlsson-Smythe
Dr. Chasuble - Sam Clarke

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Actiontrack Video

Twenty years of Columbans have hugely enjoyed their experiences with Nick Brace and the Actiontrack crew. Here's their new promotional video, with several clips from their time recently at the College.

Actiontrack Performance Company from Actiontrack on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Alliteration and its Purpose

The next in the re-run series of brief talks on the Patterns of Poetry series of brief talks is on the technique of alliteration, and uses 'The Windhover' by Gerard Manley Hopkins to illustrate how powerfully it can be used.  Here's an article on Simon Armitage's translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

What do you first see when you look at a poem?

Four years ago we started a series of very short talks on the 'Patterns of Poetry' (they went on t0 be runner-up in the 2010 Edublog Awards in the category 'Best Educational Use of Audio'. Since these talks are buried deep in the site, and they continue to be relevant to our pupils for both prescribed and unseen poems, here's another run at them over the next couple of weeks.

This is the original introduction:-

And this is the first talk that actually looks at poems, considering the importance of titles in poetry, and uses Elizabeth Bishop's 'The Fish' and Robert Frost's 'Out, Out' in 4 minutes:-

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Inside the Brain of a Struggling Reader

Inside the Brain of a Struggling Reader: infographic

See the original infographic at

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Letters of Note

A great resource for English teachers, and a great well of interesting writing for pupils, is Shaun Usher's beautiful book Letters of Note: correspondence deserving of a wider audience, along with his website (also on Twitter as @lettersofnote). 

There are 125 letters from famous people such as F. Scott Fitzgerald (to his daughter Scottie, 'Things to Worry About'), Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin and Dororhy Parker. These are superbly presented as facsimiles, accompanied by transcripts, alongside portraits of the authors and other illustrations. There are rich opportunities here for classes.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Poetry Aloud 2014

It's that time of the year again: volunteers are needed to enter the national Poetry Aloud competition, in which we've had a fair amount of success over the years. Full details are here, and also from English teachers.

The regional heats are from 13th to 24th October, and the category poems are 'Heirloom' by Gerard Smyth, 'An Irish Airman Foresees his Death' by W.B. Yeats, and the late Seamus Heaney's wonderful 'St Kevin and the Blackbird' (see and listen to him reading it above). Then you add a poem from one of the prescribed anthologies - The Rattle Bag, Lifelines and Something Beginning with P.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Transition Year course 2014-15

The TY English course is now under way, and pupils are starting to select texts for their major Extended Essays, to be completed by mid-November.

Click here for the year's course, and here for advice and ideas on the Extended Essay. You should also go online to sites such as Amazon and Good Reads and of course visit the Library and browse...

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Ninth Season

The 2014 Michaelmas Term starts today, and also our ninth year a-blogging. We're not flagging: there are lots of interesting things ahead, including lots of resources for pupils, and plenty of pupils' work. We'll be kicking off mostly with material related to the Transition Year.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Language of Money

A good one here for senior pupils: John Lanchester on the language of money, with lots to discuss in class, including metaphor and the impact of figurative language on real lives.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

English 2016

The school year starts this time next week, and we've been preparing. An innovation this year is publishing our own Leaving Certificate book (the cover is above, with photos by Anna Herrero on the front, and Peter Watts on the back). This includes lots of advice, resources and materials for our incoming Fifth Form. A major part is an excellent version of Antigone by Sophocles, one of the comparative texts. A big shout-out here to Ian Johnston of Vancouver Island University in British Columbia, who generously makes his translation available free of charge to teachers and their students. Read more about this generosity on his site Johnstonia here.

This is the fourth time we've used the superb service of self-publishers; read about them in a previous post here and on the CESI site here. There's a gentle enough learning curve for your first publication, but then it becomes very easy to produce your own attractive books at a very reasonable cost (and save on lots of photocopying too).

All pupils involved will also receive the book in e-form, via their Google Drive.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Summer Book recommendations 6: This Boy

This Boy: a memoir of a childhood is by the British Labour Party politician (former Home Secretary, among other things) Alan Johnson. The first thought on reading it is that his life experience is light years away from the cohort of younger privileged politicians currently at the head of British public life, who have known little other than that life. Johnson's childhood in pre-developed Notting Hill was very different, being both materially deprived and emotionally tragic. However, this cleanly-written memoir has no self-pity and does not over-egg the deep sadness at its core, the awful life of his mother Lily. And it has a real life heroine, his extraordinary sister Linda, who tried to save her mother and did save her brother in all sorts of ways. She grew up very early indeed, and her brother followed: towards the end he writes "At eighteen years of age I was about to move house for the seventh time. I'd left school, had four jobs, been in two bands and had fallen for the woman I was about to marry, in  the process becoming a father as well as a husband."

This is a great read for anyone, but a real eye-opener for teenagers today, being both a fascinating social history and a story to make everyone think about their - we hope - fortunate lives.