The Reading Challenge

So the Reading Challenge is underway! It’s taking a rather different format this year – you’ll have noticed that the booklet has been completely redesigned, and has an all together more modern and stylish look than the booklets from years gone by.

There are little tidbits from Mrs Stead, Mr Bird and myself on further reading ideas, how reading goes hand in hand with writing, and writing a critique. The sixth form prefects have worked really hard to make the booklet look as good as it does, and have included little thumbnail synopses of each of the themed months.

As ever, a really great and diverse range of books are on offer, starting with the three books that comprise January’s reads:

weight of water          solace      dickens


This month we have a book about a Polish girl struggling to adjust to life in England that’s written entirely in verse, a story from a two-time Carnegie Medal winning author of a girl who shuns her old life and hits the road, and a classic coming-of-age tale from one of the greatest names in English Literature.

A diverse set of titles, then, but they all follow characters who are making fresh starts, either through choice or circumstance. We all make fresh starts in our life at some point or other, so why not pick up one of these books, or ask us to recommend you something similar, so you can start 2014 in the right reading frame of mind?

New Year, New Reading Resolutions

Happy New Year! We trust you all return from the Christmas break feeling suitably refreshed and ready for Spring term. No doubt you all would have made some New Year Resolutions to ensure that you will make 2014 your best year yet. In fact, some of you have shared these on the magnetic board outside the library.

The main reason to make New Year’s Reading Resolutions is perhaps most eloquently summed up by Richard Peck in his wonderful poem Why I Read.  I could quote the whole poem to explain why, but perhaps its closing statement is its most telling:

“I read because one of these days I’m going to get out of this town, and I’m going to go everywhere and meet everybody, and I want to be ready.”

So as you embark on your own 2014 Reading journey to help yourself be ready for the world, what will your literary adventure be? What are your Reading Resolutions? Mine is to read Evelyn Waugh, a literary genius whose books I have not yet touched, in the hopeful anticipation that his novels are as great as their reputation suggests. I threw the question out to some staff and students of Surbiton High School, and here are their answers:

Miss Handley –  My reading resolution is to get through The Luminaries, alongside a hefty pile of other Kiwi fiction in the next 7 weeks! Let the speed reading commence. I also need to try and make friends with my long neglected Kindle.

Mrs Currie – Read all the books that I have bought before I allow myself back into Waterstones, starting with ‘Mo Said She Was Quirky’ by James Kelman. Also to read any books that are still unread on my bookshelf.

Masha, Year 10 – To finally read War and Peace!

Mr Cushing –  I have one shelf on my bookshelves dedicated to books that are ‘to read’. But I buy new books faster than I can read them, so the shelf just gets bigger. This year I am going to reverse the have read : to read ratio (but still buy new books of course)

Mrs Stead – 1. To not see any film before I’ve read the book; 2.To go to at least one book signing; 3. To re-ignite interest in my book club; 4. To read Tale of Two Cities (I know, terrible omission) #neverseenstarwars

Megan, Year 8 – Go to the library more often, both the school library and my local one!

Miss Gladwyn – To take advantage of Wimbledon Bookfest and go to at least one of the events on offer and to read/ see Hamlet (gaping hole in my literary knowledge!)

Mrs Carter – To finish all the books I started in 2013 before moving on to the next!

Cecilia, Year 8 – To read more classics, and not just stick to books written for teenagers

Mr Edmonds – Finish Morrissey’s autobiography – very gloomy patch I am stuck in at the moment. Read more unfamiliar poetry for reflection and enrichment – planning to dip into R S Thomas and hurt my head with some T S Eliot.

Ms Huntley – To read the books that have been sitting on my shelves unread for years…. Just read Beryl Bainbridge’s “According to Queeny” about Dr Johnson which I notice I was given new in 2001!

Miss Bezant – To read the books on my bookcase before buying anything new and to read at least 3 Booker Prize winners, starting with Wolf Hall!

Genevieve, Year 7 – I want to read Lord of the Rings and The Fault in Our Stars this year!

Mrs Syred – Read some more Dickens.  It’s too embarrassing to admit to which ones I haven’t read…I’ll have a go at David Copperfield.

Mrs Rendle-Short – To read The Luminaries which I got for Christmas which is BIG but looks amazing, and to be on top of ‘teen fiction’ for the girls in my book club.

Miss Gilchrist – I’m finally getting down to reading Grapes of Wrath which has been on my list for a while, but I’m more ashamed of my shaky knowledge of a certain Prince of Denmark…

Elizabeth, Year 13 – Read The Luminaries because I was inspired to read it after Lit Soc, and then got more excited when it won the Booker Prize. I also want to branch out and try new things, starting with reading poetry and plays.

Miss Phillips – Great Expectations is waiting expectantly on my shelf.

Miss Pett – When pootling around book shops, I normally gravitate to books written by commonwealth writers, especially from the Indian sub-continent or West Africa. My resolution is to defy this urge and to broaden the type of authors I normally go for. I plan to start with some of the Booker shortlist once I’ve finished Rowling’s A Casual Vacancy, as well as reading some typically ‘British’ authors like Dickens.

Mr Bird – I really should stop avoiding the vast swathes of great non-fiction out there, and to this end I’ve started with AL Kennedy’s On Writing. I really should read anything pre-1900 – I’ve only read one Austen and two Dickens, now on my bedside is Clive James’ new translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Oh, and finally (for now) checking out the nobel laureates – out of the 12 female laureates for literature, until recently I hadn’t even heard of most of them!! Yikes. I’ve started with Hertha Muller.  Pure class.

Needless to say, I will be checking up on how we are all doing with this later in the year…