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Our Teachers recommend their top picks for World Book Day

Thursday, 07 March 2019

Ahead of World Book Day, we asked our teachers to tell us about their favourite books of all time. There are some interesting answers and some highly recommended reads to add to your bucket list.

Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders recommended by Miss Longhurst

I would recommend Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders. It’s pretty difficult to understand at first because it’s so experimental in style, but if you persist with it you find it’s well worth the effort. It explores grief and loss and the enduring power of love through the story of Abraham Lincoln’s son, who died at the age of 11. Saunders imagines young Willie Lincoln’s spirit remaining in the cemetery, mourned by his grief-stricken father and surrounded by other spirits who are reluctant to accept that they are dead and ‘move on’. The ability of human beings to feel compassion and sympathy for others eventually results in a resolution, even redemption, for the characters – and this is something it is worth holding on to, for all of us.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway recommended by Ms Murkett
The novel I would like to recommend for World Book Day is Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. It is completely heart-wrenching and tragic but also beautifully written, combining Hemingway’s typically sparse prose with dense layers of emotion and passion. It is also famously remembered for its myriad endings (Hemingway wrote 47 different versions for it), although I still believe the one that he chose was perfect for the overall tone and message of the book.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace recommended by Mr Riggs
Infinite Jest has a reputation for being a long book – and therefore a difficult one. The first is true. It’s around 1,100 pages long, and 200 of them consist purely of footnotes. However, it’s anything but difficult. Certainly, it requires a little effort and time to get into, but once you have started you may well find yourself reading the most dazzlingly entertaining novel of the twentieth century. It’s rather difficult to summarise the story, but much of it is set in a tennis academy for young prodigies in Boston, and some of it occurs in a rehab clinic down the road. In addition, Quebecois separatists are searching for the master copy of a film that is so pleasurable to watch that anyone who sees it expires instantly – and they are planning to use it to assassinate political figures. Set in a future USA in which time itself has been auctioned off to corporate bidders, Infinite Jest is a spectacularly enjoyable study of addiction in all its forms under consumer capitalism: drugs, sport, politics, celebrity, entertainment and so on. What Wallace does here with prose is breathtaking and anyone interested in how the novel continues to be such a relevant art form should look no further.

A Prayer for Owen Meany' by John Irving recommended by Miss Murphy
I recommend 'A Prayer for Owen Meany' by John Irving. Simply the greatest living US author, combining satire, wit and beautiful prose. He is the king of story tellers and the part in the book when the Head has a run in with a Volkswagen is one of the funniest things I have ever read. As a serious book on the US and her foreign policy it is though-provoking and inspiring and the homages to other novels is endearing and scholarly.

The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger recommended by Mr Fernandes
After my first degree at Warwick and a year at Cambridge, trying to understand some of the fundamentals to proving Fermat’s Last Theorem, I had settled for a desk job in an office. It took me three years to realise that I was a square peg in a round hole. My dreams and creative visions did not fit in with the phoney world I found myself in. When I looked around at the consultants around me, I just could not see myself becoming one of them. They gave the impression of being passionate about business, they only talked about football, and said what their clients wanted to hear. Holden Caulfield uses the word ‘phoney’ to characterize insincere people and their language. Phonies to Caulfield, are more interested in playing a part or looking good than doing or saying anything honest.

He believes that these phonies are people who try to be something that they are not, and I must admit, it is tempting to settle in on his view. It’s easy to become judgemental, just like Caulfield, of almost everything and everybody. He criticizes people who are boring, people who are insecure, and above all, people who are ‘phoney’. He is implying that lawyers are superficial, only wanting to look good.

But simply categorising all lawyers like this is itself superficial. He has no depth of understanding of what it is to be a lawyer. Making Holden Caulfield a hero is a mistake. He has failed more than one school and is unable to connect with people. But the way he vividly expresses his discontent with phoney people brings to mind deep memories and emotions I felt 20 years ago when I made a career change to teaching, which has definitely not been a phoney move.

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie recommended by Mr Hudson
Rushdie’s masterful, sprawling narrative was not named as the best of the Booker Prize winning novels for nothing. The novel recounts the life of Saleem Sinai who is born on the stroke of midnight on 15 August 1947 – the precise moment at which India achieved its independence. The novel follows the life of Saleem, through his own grandiose and unreliable narration, which mirrors the struggles of the new nation. A complex, moving and magnificent novel.

Factfulness by Hans Rosling recommended by Mr Davies
Factfulness Cuts through the media hype to give some positive tones about the future and how we are "getting there" as a global population. Not to say there is not more to do...

Miss Green told us that Great Expectations by Charles Dickens was always her favourite and Mr Robinson really enjoyed Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker and Life on Air by David Attenborough: Both fascinating for their own reasons.

Once you have started you may well find yourself reading the most dazzlingly entertaining novel of the twentieth century.
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