Posts Tagged ‘ reading ’

New things

It’s a season of new things in the life of the Singing Librarian. Of course, January is often a season of the new for many people, but there is no deliberate New Year impetus here.

The first area of new things is in terms of reading (having accidentally abandoned my month-by-month review of what I’d been reading, regular readers may be reassured to know I haven’t given up on books!). I seem to be alternating my general diet of fiction with a little more fact, including books on librarianship, philosophy and language. I have always read such books, but I’m picking them up a little more frequently these days. My fiction diet has widened as well – during January, I have already read work by W. Somerset Maugham, Armistead Maupin and China Miéville for the first time. I really enjoyed all three, and have already begun raiding the library shelves for more by the last two.

The other area for newness is the area of education (which, I admit, does rather overlap with reading!). I am trying out some new things in the information literacy sessions I teach and I am expanding my own horizons in terms of professional development. I have signed up for a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) from the University of Edinburgh entitled E-learning and Digital Cultures. This is a 5-week on-line course which starts next week, exploring on-line learning in a variety of interesting ways. As a number of the courses I support are taught at a distance and as almost all of ‘my’ students spend some time away from the university environment on placement, I am particularly interested in e-learning and what role (if any) it can play in the information literacy teaching and training I provide. I’m also interested in the concept of MOOCs as a whole, and doing one seems the most sensible way of understanding them. Enrolling on the course has already got me to sign up to Google+ for the first time.

I have also made plans to pursue a scheme at my workplace which would give me recognition for my contribution to learning and teaching and also, if successful, lead to Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. This will require a lot of work, gathering evidence about what I do and how it contributes to higher education learning and teaching. It’s not going to be easy, but even if I am not successful, it will be worth pursuing, as it will force me to reflect on my professional work more than ever, and the required reading will teach me an awful lot as well.

In addition to all of this, I am trying to understand the world of Open Access publication of research, which has led me to read all sorts of interesting things.

So, new things. Time-consuming new things, at that! I’m still keeping up the old things, though, which means my time management skills will have to develop at a rate of knots…

Books of the month – January 2012

I read a lot.  On the train, last thing at night, in lunch breaks or just when the opportunity arises, you will often find me with my head in a book.  It sometimes seems inconceivable that there are any books on my shelves which have not yet been read, but somehow there are.  Their ranks get topped up from time to time due to eye-catching titles in charity shops, exciting new publications or just general moments of weakness.  And then there are library books, whether from my place of employment or the public library (using the latter a lot more now, as they need the circulation statistics a lot more than university libraries do).  One of my goals for the year (in addition to sticking to my church’s scheme to read the Bible in a year) is to finish all those unread books, including one or two which were shamefully abandoned part way through.  However, of the books I finished during January, only two can claim to be from the “to be read” backlog.  So, what have I read?  Why did I read it?  And what did I think?

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Arbitrary list of books

Well, I haven’t done one of these in a while, and having been tagged in a Facebook note thing with this particular variation of the meme and then seeing it come up on Reed’s blog with an interesting extra twist, I thought I would participate. 

A list of 100 books, which may or may not have come from Auntie BBC.  The idea is to put those you have read all the way through in bold, those you have read a bit of (like I read the first 1000 pages of Clarissa before giving up in sheer boredom) in italics, and put an asterisk after those you have seen adaptations of (I have included the stage as well as the variously-sized screens).

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen * [Big screen and small screen.  The BBC’s version wins hands down.]
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien * [Seen on screen and on stage.  The films are better than the musical.]
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte *
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling *
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible [I *think* I’ve read it all – I certainly did a ‘read the Bible in a year’ thing, though it took me nearly two years.  But as I can’t be certain I’ve really read every word, I went with italics.]
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare *
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald *
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams *
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll *
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame *
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens [I’ll finish it one day.  It still has the bookmark in it, though it is back on the bookshelf.  The same fate has happened to The Count of Monte Cristo.]
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis *
34 Emma -Jane Austen *
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen *
36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis *
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne *
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell *
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown [Twice.  Why?]
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins [My favourite nineteenth-century novel.  So why didn’t I get around to seeing the musical?  Because the music I heard left me cold.]
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood *
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding *
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan *
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert [This is in the mountain of Books To Be Read].
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen *
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon [Read during West Side Story rehearsals – I wasn’t needed much during dance sessions.  What a magnificent book!]
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding *
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville [I have the cast recording of the very strange musical based on the book, but that’s as far as it goes.]
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens *
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker *
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett *
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson [Why haven’t I read this?  Hmmm.]
75 Ulysses – James Joyce [I’ve read Portrait…  That’s quite enough Joyce.]
76 The Inferno – Dante
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens * [I have seen so many adaptations.  The best one really is the Muppets one.]
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro *
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White *
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom [Hated this one.  Hated it.]
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle * [I think I’ve read the entire Sherlock Holmes canon, but most of it a long time ago.]
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton [She was on drugs when she wrote this, surely?  Weird stuff.]
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery [I have never seen an adaptation of this, but largely because I can’t see how you could adapt it without completely spoiling the book’s beauty.]
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams *
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shutwell
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas *
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare *
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl *
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo *

There are some puzzling things about the list – the Complete Works of Shakespeare are listed, but so is Hamlet as an individual work.  Likewise the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  But any list of 100 books will be somewhat, if not entirely, arbitrary.  How many books by the likes of Austen, Dickens and Hardy should be included?  What sort of balance between English, American and ‘foreign’ literature?  How about books written for children versus those for proper grown-up people?  How much genre fiction should be allowed in, and is there room for anything other than ‘the classics’, whatever they are?  Compiling lists of this type becomes more a question of what to leave out than what to leave in. 

So I have read just under half of the books on the list.  My reading displays, just like the last time I did something like this, surprising gaps.  Some of them are particularly shocking as they have been read by my book group, but at times when I was very busy and just skipped the books entirely.  I do very much want to read the rest of Jane Austen’s novels, as I have loved those that I have delved into.  And both Dune and Catch-22 have to be done, really.  But then, I clearly haven’t given French writers enough of a chance.  I have neither read any Hugo or Flaubert, nor finished anything by Dumas.  I’ve read quite a bit of Leroux, though.  Does that make it better?  Ultimately, I suppose, everyone likes different books.  There’s nothing wrong with Pratchett, or Jeffrey Archer, or even Mills and Boon as a choice of reading matter.  I just wish there was enough time to read everything I want to read.  Each book I finish leads to a quite agonising decision – what to read next?  Whatever I choose, there’s always a new world to explore.  You just can’t beat a good book.

Hey, old friend…

Well, it seems I need to blow the dust off the Singing Librarian, doesn’t it?  So very many weeks have passed since my last blog entry, and although much has happened, the world of the wonderful web knows nothing of it.  There are an assortment of reasons for the deathly silence that has hung around this little corner of cyber-space, chief among them my house move.  We didn’t have enough live power sockets to run my PC at first, and then it objected to having been neglected and went on strike.  I got it back from the lovely computer fixing people today, fought the urge to hug and kiss it, and have now got it up and running in my new room which is so very close to the city’s majestic cathedral.

This last weekend was a particularly busy one and should furnish me with sufficient material for at least three blog posts, I should think.  But first I shall return to that ‘To Do List’ which I wrote back in the mists of time.

Answer Reed’s questions.  I did that in the very next post, which allowed me to feel as though the completion of my list was a very real possibility.

Move house.  I did that too,  just over two weeks ago, and it’s wonderful to be here.  OK, so we still lack functioning lights in the kitchen, we have more loose floorboards than you could shake a whole bundle of sticks at, the television aerial cabling hasn’t been done and the hot water likes to take its time in the morning, but it’s wonderful.  It’s our house, big and old with a strange and new bit at the back.  We can see the cathedral from the front windows, and the cat has enjoyed a couple of wonderful adventures exploring the world beneath the floorboards on two different floors.  The four human inhabitants of the building have refrained from physical violence thus far as well (apart from the authorised use of force against stud walls and rubbish plastering jobs), which is encouraging.

Read.  Another mission accomplished.  Wonderful.  Both the accomplishment and the books.  I enjoyed all three of the books mentioned and would commend them to others.  I am now obsessively checking to see when the normal paperbacks of the sequels to The Lies of Locke Lamora and The Night Watch will appear.  I am tempted by the current trade paperback editions, but that would look untidy on my shelves, which just wouldn’t do.  In order of reading, my one sentence reviews.  The Moonstone is a masterpiece of plotting with some very funny characters, even if some of the details of the ending can be seen coming from a very long way off.  The Lies of Locke Lamora does an incredible job of world-building with an intriguing setting, and another exciting plot, though I felt the violence was sometimes more than a tad gratuitous.  The Night Watch is utterly compelling in its reinvention of the supernatural, combining it with elements of the police procedural and espionage thriller.  My most recent read was The Alchemist, which I can sum up in two words: don’t bother.  It is short, though.

Sing.  Ah.  Well.  I did start to learn both ‘King of the World’ and ‘Serenade’ and can do chunks of them sans sheet music, but I haven’t completed the task and I didn’t even start on the other two. 

Relax.  I actually feel very relaxed most of the time these days, actually, which makes a pleasant change.  The Library of Doom tends to rob me of the relaxation, but it soon comes back.  And this without fulfilling my promise to self.  I never did manage a day in the country or by the sea, though I did go on a remarkably pleasant walk around Bishopsbourne in a ludicrously picturesque bit of the county.

So there we go.  The Singing Librarian is alive and capable of stringing sentences together.  He did reasonably well at his summer ‘To Do List’ as well.  Who knows, another blog entry or two may appear by the end of the month as well!

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