Category Archives: Reviews

Tsitsi Dangarembga’s ‘Nervous Conditions’.

The personal is political, and this wonderful book is both entirely personal and deeply political. Nervous Conditions (1988) is the story of Tambudzai, a young woman growing up in rural Zimbabwe (then known as Rhodesia) in the late 1960’s, told … Continue reading

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Rebecca Solnit on Hope.

In a crisis, it is easy to despair. ‘Don’t mourn, organise!’ is a good mantra in such situations. Mourning has its place, but our response should be neither blind despair nor blind hope. We need to understand the objective reality … Continue reading

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In praise of lightness – Calvino’s Leggerezza.

The Italian writer, Italo Calvino, was invited to give the Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard University in 1985 but died before he was able to deliver them. Luckily, we have the text of 5 of these 6 planned lectures … Continue reading

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‘Unsheltered’ by Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver’s novels are always fascinating and rewarding and her latest, Unsheltered (2019) is no exception. We follow two stories over a hundred years apart and set in the same location; Vineland, New Jersey, a town originally established as a … Continue reading

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‘The Overstory’ by Richard Powers.

Richard Powers is an extraordinary writer. If you’ve not yet discovered his novels, I strongly recommend them. He tackles big ideas which concern all of us while at the same time telling compelling stories about complex and conflicted characters who … Continue reading

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Top posts of 2017.

Most popular posts of 2017 Of the posts I published on this site in 2017, the most read were: Sixth form resolutions for 2017: 3 modest resolutions to make 2017 better than its predecessor. 10 things which could improve education: … Continue reading

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‘What if?’ – dystopias in fiction.

Fictional dystopias use the power of ‘what if?’ to change something or extrapolate particular social or technological trends and imagine the impact on people’s lives. The best ones are also good stories, well told, about people; their hopes, fears, feelings … Continue reading

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More fictional dystopias

Reading Dystopias offered an introduction to the genre of dystopian fiction through 4 classic dystopian novels. Here are four more which are also well worth reading. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953) [211 pages] Fahrenheit 451: The temperature at which … Continue reading

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A 2016 guide to this blog.

I’ve continued to blog in 2016 and this eclectic collection of posts now numbers around 300; not all of which will interest everyone. To remain useful, such a resource needs to be well catalogued so I’ve tried to use categories and … Continue reading

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Theodore Zeldin on ‘what is worth knowing?’

What is worth knowing? It’s a good question, given how much there is to know and the impossibility of knowing more than a tiny fraction of the total. Theodore Zeldin’s latest collection of essays, ‘The hidden pleasures of life’ (Quercus, 2015) … Continue reading

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Instinct, heart and reason – Daniel Pennac on the refugee crisis.

The popular French writer and teacher Daniel Pennac, author of Chagrin d’école (translated as School Blues) and Les droits du lecteur (The Rights of the Reader) amongst others, has written a powerful essay on the refugee crisis for a book … Continue reading

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Primo Levi on work and education

In his wonderful La chiave a stella (The Wrench) published in 1978, Primo Levi shares with us an exchange of stories told by Faussone, the itinerant Piedmontese rigger, and a narrator who, like Levi himself, is an industrial chemist at the point … Continue reading

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Thinking students and student research.

In his excellent book Think Again (2012), John Taylor makes a strong case for putting philosophy at the centre of our teaching in order to develop students’ ability to think. As he says in his introduction: “Education should be all about … Continue reading

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‘Carthage’ by Joyce Carol Oates.

Joyce Carol Oates’ brilliant novel ‘Carthage’ carries the reader along on a compelling looping, zig-zag narrative which starts and finishes in the heart of a sympathetic comfortably-off family in the small upstate New York town of Carthage. Along the way, … Continue reading

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Sebald in Corsica: ‘Campo Santo’.

Campo Santo is one of four short pieces with Corsican settings in W.G. Sebald’s collection given the same title. These were fragments for a book about Corsica which remained unfinished at his untimely death in a road accident in 2001. Campo Santo … Continue reading

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