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Here’s your 2013 reading list – one a week for the year.
The Girl at the Lion d’Or
Having enjoyed ‘Birdsong’ by Sebastian Faulks I not only went on to read many other Faulks’ novels, I also went on to read much of Pat Barker too (for the First World War setting), and Ernest Hemmingway. Indeed, written at the time, HGWells take you to a similar place.
I find myself reading ‘The Girl at the Lion D’Or’.
As is too often the case I realise half way through I have read it before; I should know the characters and recall the events and outcome: I don’t. In fact, I am compelled as much to read it for the story as to satisfy this nagging feeling I know something dreadful or beautiful is about to happen. We get a little of each. And some wonderful interludes, as if Faulk’s wove in some short stories that weren’t going to endure as novels. (There’s a nifty idea).
I want to talk about this lovely story, how Anne comes from Paris to work at the Hotel Lion D’Or. Who and what she is touches many lives, she is a catalyst for misbehaviour, action and change.
But I can’t help but reflect on how I read, or skim read. I simply do not take it in, or rather, my mind leaves it on the surface, like a conversation overheard on a train. My mind, my kind of mind at least, or how it has formed, through a combination of genetics and experience, treats all readying as frippery. The consequence of this is that when I have academic reading to do it takes a huge effort to get anything at all to stick.
Reading on its own is pointless.
Historically I took notes long hand of everything I read. Historically, at school and university this would become an essay, the essay would be discussed in a small tutor group, filed, then looked at again months later for an exam. This kept that knowledge for the required period. Today I take notes through a QWERTY keyboard and upload. I am toying with adding pen to paper again. Then what? So long as I return to the notes and develop them the topic may become a living thing. Best of all, for me at least, are the vibrant tutor groups, or some online forums where I can find them. I need to wrestle with a topic, to agree and disagree, to read more, to seek out my own heroes and villains from further references. Then, and only over a period of months, if not years, do I make any sense of it, do I feel a sense of conviction about what I have picked up, understood or misunderstood.
I’m coming to apperciate why ‘scholarship’ takes time.
I don’t take notes when reading a novel; perhaps this allows me to enjoy the second or third reading. You discover new things, you pick up the detail, nuances that weren’t apparent the first time round. You may even get a better sense of the author’s voice and purpose.
Can anyone recommend a good read?
I feel a novel a week inbetween OU reading and employment would be a good tonic for my mental well being. I beleive I work and think better too, but escaping from it all regularly.
You can immerse yourself in a subject and drown.
100 Novels – personally recommended
100 Books (mostly FICTION)
The non-fiction choice, Book 101, is ‘The magnificent Mrs Tennant by David Waller’.
Having kept a diary since my early teens in which I recorded what I was reading (including school text books), I have an extraordinary insight into what was being put in front of my mind. What I find remarkable is how, if courtesty of the Internet and Ebay I dig out these books how quickly my mind can pick up where it left off 30+ years ago. This ‘window’ is a short one, at this level. In a few years I abandoned the set format of the ‘Five Year Diary’ with its specific pages to complete. On the other hand, are there not blog and social media platforms that go out of their way to encourage you to reveal something of yourself through what you read, watch and do?
This list is fluid and understandably incomplete. I have not put in Dan Brown’s ‘Da Vinci’ for example, as I feel it would have to come with a caveat – I read it to find out what the fuss was about. I felt as if I’d been made to play a game of snakes and ladders through an alternative and ridiculous world. It may also have put me off ever believing I could compete as a commercial author if this is what it requires. My excuse might be quaified by the French Movie Director Francois Truffaut who argued that you had to read everything, especially the ‘trash mags’ – indeed, the trashier the book the easier it is to turn into a film?
What attracts us to lists?
I should create a list of the books I’ve tried to read but could not: Ulysseys, War and Peace, Enid Blyton … any other Dan Brown! (Actually, Michael Crichton, even Stephen King, can be as daft and crass).
I see too there are still a few non-fiction works in here; I’ll filter these out in due course as I build my 100 Non-Fiction list.
I am also electing to leave out books that had to be read at school, so I ought not to have Thomas Hardy, T S Elliot or Shakespeare. Nor do I include a book if all I’ve done is see the film, which is how I suspect the ‘popular’ lists compiled by the likes of the BBC are created.
As an exercise, you make a list and immediately start to change it, indeed, I’ve just thought of a very important piece of ficton I read based on recommendation; these often turn out to be the best reads, from people who know you. All my reading of Haruki Murakimi is the product of being part of a writer’s group for a while.
As I edit I will be seeking to keep books in that matter to me, that I could discuss and defend and that I’d like others to read.
Some choices are informed by a friend who read English at Oxford; others from the Guardian’s ‘Thousands Books’ you must read before you die, which, where the library could supply them I would follow, though often having to read something else by the same author (or getting distracted by something else on the shelf).
I will also extract children’s books, those I recall reading as a child, but also those I have read to my children.
Now I’m starting to sound like a bookstore 😦
1 Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Tropic of Cancer – Henry Miller
4 Foundation Series – Isaac Asimov
5 Remembrance of Things Past – Marcel Proust
6 Tides of War – Steven Pressfield
7 Gates of War – Steven Pressfield
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 Return to Arms – Ernest Hemmingway
10 Fatherland – Robert Harris
11 The Naked and the Dead – Norman Mailer
12 Harlot’s Ghost – Norman Mailer
13 The Executioner’s Song – Norman Mailer
14 Engelby – Sebastian Faulk
15 The Birds and other stories – Daphne Du Maurrier
16 Sunset Song – Lewis Grassick Gibbon
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
18 Regeneration Series – Pat Barker
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Life Drawing – Pat Barker
21 One Day in the life of Ivan Denisovitch – Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 The Gulgag Archipelago- Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Fathers and Sons – Ivan Turgenev
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – Douglas Adams
29 Vox – Nicholas Baker
30 The Decameron – Giovanni Boccaccio
31 How the Dead Live – Will Self
32 Time Enough for Love – Robert Heinlein
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 The Foundation of Paradise – Arthur.C.Clarke
35 Enigma – Robert Harris
36 The Ghost – Robert Harris
37 Pompeii – Robert Harris
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Orlando – Virginia Woolf
40 Girl in a Coma – Douglas Coupland
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Space Trilogy series – C .S.Lewis
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque
45 A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf
46 The Wind-up Bird Chronicles – Haruki Murakami
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 The Time Machine – H.G.Wells
52The War of the Worlds – H.G.Wells
53 The Invisible Man – H.G.Wells
54 Tono-Bungay – H.G.Wells
55 The Last Kingdom – Bernard Cornwell
56 The Lords of the North – Bernard Cornwell
57 The Island – Victoria Hislop
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 The Lost Continent. Travels in small town America – Bill Bryson
61 Mother Tongue – Bill Bryson
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – James Joyce
65 Decline and Fall – Evelyn Waugh
66 Tropic of Capricorn – Henry Miller
67 Sexus, Plexus & Nexus – Henry Miller
68 Quiet Days in Clichy – Henry Miller
69 The Crimson Petal and The White – Michel Faber
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Under a Glass Bell – Anais Nin
72 House of Incest – Anais Nin
73 The Diary of Anais Nin (7 volumes) – Anais Nin
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson.
75 Boy – Roald Dahl
76 The Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle
77 State of Fear – Michael Crichton
78 The Last Juror – John Grisham
79 A Painted House – John Grisham
80 The Testament – John Grisham
81 A Time to Kill – John Grisham
82 Duma Key – Stephen King
83 Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
84 Stranger in Strange Land – Robert Heinlein
85 Going Solo – Roald Dahl
86 Crash – J.G.Ballard
87 Timeline – Stephen King
88 Super-Cannes – J.G.Ballard
89 Atomised – Michel Houellbecq
90 Platform – Michel Houellbecq
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 Steve Jobs: The Authorised Biography – Walter Isaacson
93 The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 Macbeth – William Shakespeare
96 I, Claudius – Robert Graves
97 Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl.
100 Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sandak
’Read bout a period until you can hear its people speak.’
The historian E.H.Carr said,’Read bout a period until you can hear its people speak.’
It’s what took me to Oxford to read Modern History and what for some periods in history inspired me to attempt screenplays on the events in the year 1066 … and 850 years later on the Western Front. It’s the quote that impressed Bill Clinton enough to quote it in his autobiography. It suggests, short of being their, you must immerse yourself in a subject in order to understand it, in order to be able to speak its language.
‘Research a subject until the research reveals the narrative’.
Sounds like an excuse for there being no assessment, but perhaps reflects how we pick things up through ‘doing’.
I caught this on Radio 4, Saturday 9.00am, 9 days ago? I’d reference it if I could.
On reading a book cover to cover – it can be an e-book, it is the extended and consistent voice that matters
I have no doubt that habit has something to do with it. My reading list before going up to Oxford perhaps. A stack of second hand books, a pen and notebook. I like reading a book cover to cover.
I am on my third MAODE module. You are pointed at a chapter here, a chapter there, loads of reports too, but no longer a book. We had books in 2001, a box of them and a CD-rom.
I have bought and read three topic related books. Do they now clutter up shelf-space? They are like oranges I have squeezed dry, for pulp, juice and pips.
I have bought eight e-books and have devoured two of these.
It was reading Vygotsky’s ‘Educational Phsycology’ that made me appreciate the value of reading a single author cover to cover. What is more, I enjoy the limitations of his own reading. This is 1926. How many people is he going to read and reference. Not that many, John Dewey stands out so will be my next read. There has to be value in engaging with a flow of argument from one mind over many thousands of words. Perhaps it is a relief where so much of my reading is prompted by Linked In Forum Messages, OU Tutor Group Forum Messages and feeds from blogs.
‘Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age’ is a compilation piece.
The K-tell album of e-learning authors.
All our favourites get to sing their song.
I enjoy how the editors introduce each new chapter, at least there is some attempt to bind the contributors to a theme. I wonder from amongst them if I have heard a voice I am interested in hearing again? i.e. once again, this suggestion that you tune into a person’s way of thinking and expressing themselves and by doing so surely speed up the learning process?
What counts though are my highlights and notes.
Having read each cover to cover I am now going through the 350 highlights/notes on EACH. This gives me the chance to expand, delete, add and reflect. And for those poor people who Friended me on Facebook by accident rather than design, Tweet-like updates directly from the Kindle. I need to find a better way to manage these … sending them here would be an idea, at least there’s some relevance.
I am reading no fewer than FOUR what we might term ‘popular’ books on e-learning, the DIY books primarily aimed at teachers. One is brilliant, two are also-rans, but one is dreadful: Prensky gets headlines for his headlines (Digital Natives) … there is no substance to him and I heartily wish the OU would drop him as a point of discussion.
Or is this the point?
You know you’ve learnt something once you’ve gone from nodding along with all he says to consigning him to the bin?
Vygotsky, L.S. (1926) Educational Psycholgy.
Beetham, H., Sharpe, R (eds) (2009) Rethinking E-learning Pedagogy.
Unwell and Kindling
When your 14 year old daughter is in bed with flu, and running a temperature, you relent when she pops her head up from under the duvet and wants to use your laptop to watch a movie and get in touch with friends.
I think, because I use a keyboard extension that the chances that I will pick up her germs are reduced; I forget that we both use the same mouse. She blows her nose, uses the mouse, goes to sleep for three hours. I pick up the laptop, go online, do stuff like making a sandwich …
That’s four out of four now down with the bug, only the dog and the guinea-pigs seem fine (so far).
It doesn’t take long before I wind down
An odd sensation, like your battery has gone flat.
If only it were as simply as plugging yourself into the wall or changing a battery 😦
I am just grisly and very tired
I had a flu jab in October so I should be avoiding the worst of it.
Sit back from this screen … you just can’t tell how infectious these things can be !
If it is one bonus it is the Kindle
It can be read in bed, your head on a pillow, operated with one finger, one thumb … and as my brain is mush I can make the text huge and read three words across like a TV autocue. When I fall asleep, so does it. When I wake up it is picks up where I left off. In fact, it will read the book to me … however, will it tell when I am asleep? That would be clever.
I’ve gone from one book to several
Between them Amazon and Kindle have their fingers in my wallet.
I’m 46% the way through the Rhona Sharpe book. Here’s a new concept … no pages.
In addition I have samples of six other books, two blogs and a magazine on a 14 day free trial (I will cancel these 7 days in or earlier to be sure I don’t continue with anything I don’t want)
And new books, and old books.
In the 1990s I bought CDs to get back or replace LPs of my youth. Over the last five years I’ve got rid of most of these and run with iTunes.
Books, due to lack of storage space, are in really useful Really Useful boxes in a lock up garage we rented to help with a house move … three years ago. Is there any point of a book in a box? I have over the decades taken a car load of books Haye on Wye and sold them in bulk. A shame. I miss my collection of Anais Nin and Henry Miller; I miss also my collection on movie directors and screenwriters. Was I saying that this part of my life had ended? Or I needed the space (or money). I fear, courtesy of my Kindle and lists of books I have made since I was 13 that I could easily repopulate my mind with the content of these books. Indeed there is no better place to have them, at my finger tips on a device a tasty as a piece of hot toast covered in butter and blueberry jam.
I do nothing and the page views I receive doubles to 500. What does this mean? I am saying too much? That the optimum blog is one per day? Or have folks found they can drill through here for H807 and H808? Who knows, I don’t the stats provided by the OU are somewhat limited. I’d like the works. Which pages do people enter on, which are most viewed, where do they exit, what’s the average pages viewed by an individual and so on. In my experience 500 page views means three people reading 100/150 each with a few others dipping in and out.
How Kindle has changed me in 24 hours
My bedtime reading for anyone following this is ‘The Isles’ Norman Davies.
I read this in the 1990s when it came out. I felt it deserved a second reading. It is heavier then the Yellow Pages and almost as big. Because of its bulk I may have it open on a pillow as I read; no wonder I fall asleep. (Works for me). Having downloaded it to the Kindle last night in 60 seconds and for less than £9 I may now read more than a couple of pages at a time. I can also annotate and highlight the Kindle version. I have an aversion to doing this to the physical thing … I am used to selling on my old books. Not something I can do with a Kindle version. Which makes me think, should these digital versions not be far, far, far cheaper? Take ‘The Isles.’ The dust cover is in perfect nick, I took it off and boxed it rather than get it torn. The damp in the lock-up garage hasn’t caused too much harm. I could get £8 for it, maybe £5.
More on E-learning:
- Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age. (Rhona Sharpe)
- Creating with WordPress (blog)
- Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. (2010) Will Richardson
- E-Learning by Design (William Horton)
- How to change the world (blog)
- SEO Book (Blog)
- Digitial Strategies for Powerful Corporate Communications (2009) Paul Argenti and Courtney Barnes
- The Online Learning Idea Book (Patti Shank)
- Using Moodle (Jason Cole and Helen Foster)
Some bought, some simply samples. The blogs on a 14-day free trial. Neither worth £0.99 a month.
Best on Kindle
The big surprise, the book that is so beautifully transmogrified by Kindle, lifted by it, is ‘The Swimming Drills Book’ (2006) Ruben Guzman.
No! This isn’t what happens if your swimmer gets it wrong. This is a drill called ‘dead swimmer’ in which they float head down, then slowly extended into a streamlined position, kick away and then swim full stroke.
‘The Swim Drill Book’ is a mixture of text, almost in bullet point form, and line drawings of swimmers in various stages of effort to perform a stroke or drill or exercise.
If an author needs advice on how to write for a Kindle, or for a tablet, I’d point them at this book. This is NOT how it was conceived, but it is how it works on this alternative platform.
You can try it for free
Download Kindle for PC or Kindle for Mac then find ‘The Swimming Drills Book.’ You can then view a sample which takes you beyond the acknowledgements, contents and introduction into the first chapter.
A thing of beauty
By tweaking the layout, text size and orientation, you can place the diagram/drawing full screen. It simply works, just as the stunning black and white engravings and photographs that your Kindle will feature (at random) when ‘sleeping.’
Here’s an thought: if you’re not reading a book it is gathering dust, a dead thing, whereas with a Kindle your books are simply asleep.
Buzzing in Ga-Ga- Googleand – creativity on the fly
I’m not tired, which is the worry; it’ll catch up with me. When I wake up with a clear, original thought I’ve learnt to run with it. Time was I could have put on a light, scribbled a bit then drifted off again. 17 years of marriage (and 20 years together) I’ve learnt to get up. And once I’m up, then I know it’ll be a while before I can sleep again.
(I’ll sleep on the train into London; at least I can’t overshoot. I once got on the train at Oxford on the way into town and woke up in Cardiff).
I have the thought nailed, or rather sketched out, literally, with a Faber-Castell Artist Pen onto an A5 sheet of cartridge paper in Derwent hardback sketch book. This seems like a waste of good paper (and a good pen), but this doodle, more of a diagram, almost says it all. My vision, my argument, my persuasive thought. My revolution?
Almost enough, because I then show how I’ll animate my expression of this idea by drawing it out in a storyboard. I can do it in seven images (I thought it would take more). I hear myself presenting this without needing to do so, though, believing myself quite capable of forgetting this entire episode I’ll write it out too.
I once though of myself as an innovator, even an entrepreneur. I had some modest success too. Enough to think such ideas could make me. I realise at this moment that such ideas are the product of intense mental stimulation. To say that H808 has been stimulating would be to under value how it has tickled my synapses. The last time I felt I didn’t need to sleep I was an undergraduate; I won’t make that mistake. We bodies have needs. So, to write, then to bed.
(This undergraduate thing though, or graduate as I now am … however mature. There has to be something about the culture and context of studying that tips certain people into this mode).
You may get the full, animated, voice over podcast of the thing later in the week. I’ll create the animation myself using a magic drawing tool called ArtPad and do so using a stylus onto a Wacom board.
(Never before, using a plastic stylus on an a plastic ice-rink of a tablet have I had the sensation that I am using a drawing or painting tool using real ink or paint. I can’t wait ’til I can afford an A3 sized Wacom board … drawing comes from the shoulder, not the wrist and certainly not the finger tips. You need scale. Which reminds me, where is the book I have on Quentin Blake?)
Now where’s a Venture Capitalist when you need one at 04.07am. That and a plumber, the contents of the upstairs bathroom (loo, bath and sink) are flooding out underneath the downstairs loo. Pleasant. A venture capitalist who is a plumber. Now there’s something I doubt that can even be found if you search in Ga-Ga Googleland.
How to study
Elaborately Cautious Language
’In every day life we cheerfully use language as a blunt instrument for cudgelling our way through the cut and thrust of events around us. However, in academic writing language is meant to be used more like a scalpel, cutting precisely between closely related arguments, so that they can be prised apart and analysed in detail.’ Northridge (1990:29)
An academic text is not a narrative – it is an argument.
An academic text aims to be unemotional, detached and logical.
Whilst I can understand applying this to a TMA or ECA, this is surely not the required or desired approach in what is called a Blog? And for writing in a forum, should we reference everything? It doesn’t half interrupt the flow of ideas. If talking over coffee or a glass of wine would we cite references we knowingly made? The lines distinguishing the spoken word to text or TXT or blogging and messaging are blurred if not broken.
Manage Feelings 2.6 Northridge (1990:31)
Find ways of:
* building upon your enthusiasms
* avoiding sinking into despair
* making the topic interesting
* accepting specialist language
* accepting academic text styles
* constructing valid criticisms
My preferred approach to reaching:
* while travelling (trains, planes, ferries and yachts)
Though surely not
* in bed
* on the kitchen table in the middle of the night
* in the pub
* on holiday
(though this can be exactly what I do/have done)
* a room of my own
(married life, children and a modest home have left me with a cluttered shed or lock-up garage packed with the contents of our last house – we moved three years ago).
Approaches to Reading
Skim paragraph ahead, then read more slowly using the ‘mile stones’ to guide you.
Skimming – about the text
Reading – follow the argument
Lighting skim – very fast.
I typically ‘light skim’ the last chapters of a Stephen King novel, as the plot becomes ludicrous yet I feel an obligation to have glanced across the page in case at some stage sanity returns (it never does). Though the story will reach a resolution.
Intensive Study – very slow
Something new, something I don’t understand. Something I need to understand or want to understand. But never the small print of a bank overdraft facility. Probably the diaries of Anais Nin and the novels of Henry Miller. Probably the history of WWI, as I need to glean info from it for my own writing. And of course the books and papers I read for H807 (Innovations in E-Learning) and will read for H808 (The eLearning Professional).
Is it making me think?
Am I getting a better grasp of the subject?
‘The underlying purpose of reading is to develop your thoughts; to weave new ideas and information into the understanding you already have and to give new angles to your thinking.’ Northridge, (1990:34)
My reading speed, 300 wpm? i.e. far to quick, but is a page a minute that fast? it does depend of course on the writing style and my familiarity or otherwise with the concepts.
The purpose of reading = ‘rethinking’ Northridge, (1990:34)
I like that ‘re-thinking.’ So building on what you now already, whether or not you think you know much at all … or know a great deal.
* To develop your thoughts
* To weave new ideas and information into the understanding you already have
* To give new angles to your thinking
The point of reading:
‘The point of reading is to be able to understand what you read and to be able to get back the ideas at some future point when you need them again.’ Northridge, (1990:38)
The point of taking notes:
‘Taking notes forces you to think; to ‘grapple’ with the ideas in the text as you read them, because you have to decide what to write down and how to say it.’ Northridge, (1990:44)
I don’t grapple at the note taking stage, I find it more mundane than that, I do desire a tussle at some stage, which is why I can find the manner in which we engage asynchronously (its nature) somewhat tame. I don’t recommend debating online either, or getting into an argument (or even a heavy discussion) … when in Elluminate, messaging or anything else.
This is why the face-to-face tutorial at least, fellow students over a beer in the MCR or in a formal debating chamber ideas gain a voice, that becomes your Word, and your Voice.