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Books are not about passing the time…

Monday, 1st February 2021

They’re about other lives. Other worlds.

So says Alan Bennett. And right now who wouldn’t appreciate a bit of escapism that reading a book provides? Just maybe not read a book set in a dystopian future where life has irrevocably changed due to a global pandemic. There’s plenty of those types of books out there to choose from! 

Since the beginning of the first lockdown, our HR Department has been keen to establish what staff feel they need to help with their well-being whilst working remotely, and has offered a variety of activities over the last few months. A little while ago, a survey was sent out to the staff to see what else they felt they needed. One suggestion that popped up concerned book clubs. We have talked about book clubs before and how much people participating take away from these regular meetings. Traditionally, the idea is simple: a group of people decide on a book to read, and agree on a time and place to hold a discussion about it. Tea, wine, and cake often feature heavily too.

And this may well be the way our book club shapes up naturally. And if it does, then it will be quite wonderful to have a regular date with staff who we’ve not seen for a while and have something we can all talk about that doesn’t concern work or the weather!

It may be that we present a slightly different version – one more akin to BBC 2’s Between the Covers, hosted by Sara Cox. Each week, Sara and her guests had one book to have read beforehand that formed part of a group discussion but each guest also had to bring books that fell into rather obscure categories. For example, what books took them back to their teenage years?, or what books would make them feel positive about the world? One question posed  that was quite interesting was what book would you give to someone on a blind date? Answers to that one could reveal quite a lot about a person and contribute to opinion formed of that all important first impression.

These ideas are geared towards staff. However, thoughts have turned to what we could do for students. Rather than ask them to read a book and discuss it – this does sound rather like the English literature lessons and studying set texts they’ve only recently left behind – one colleague suggested we create an online meeting place where students can talk about a wide range of different media – they could make recommendations of TV shows they’ve binge watched, or talk about a film they have on constant repeat, or discuss the music they’re listening to. Which brings us full circle as to what a book club really is. A chance for people to meet up with others and have a good old chin-wag about things they really like.

Stuck on selecting which book to read next?
The Duchess of Cornwall is a great supporter of reading and literature. For the last five years, she has been an honorary judge of The 500 Words competition, created by Chris Evans whilst he was at Radio 2 and is now hosted by his Breakfast Show successor Zoe Ball. It’s a lovely competition. Children from all across the UK are invited to write an original story using no more than 500 words. Not an easy task.

Last year, as well as delivering her 500 Word speech virtually from a Wendy House formerly ‘inhabited’ by Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, she created a list of recommended spring and summer reads. For 2021, she is going to do this more regularly under the title of “The Duchess of Cornwall’s Reading Room” – it’s her way of celebrating books and their authors.

This is also a great way for books to be promoted. Speaking of which…

A recent article in the Guardian entitled Book sales defy pandemic to hit eight-year high highlights how we are reading more during the pandemic. Not sure this is an example of the British public “defying” the pandemic. That creates images of people rising up against the coronavirus, armed with the latest Hilary Mantel. Hefty tome it may be but it’s unlikely to be much of a defence against this insidious disease. It’s more likely that, with so many activities cancelled and venues closed, time has simply been freed up to allow people to get back to reading. 

Although book sales are looking very healthy, this is down in no small part to the sheer time and effort that booksellers are taking to keep their customers happy and their businesses afloat.

As one bookseller said in reply to the article “This is great but it doesn’t reflect the incredible hard work it’s taken by booksellers to accomplish this, I’ve had about 5 days off this past year, worked regular 12-14 hour days, lived and breathed selling books every waking moment so we can survive. Our cafe is closed, our events, festivals and school visits aren’t happening, but the book loving online community is keeping us going!”

And the winner is…
The Costa Book of the Year has been announced and it’s Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey. A story set on a Caribbean island in the 1970s about a mermaid and a fisherman that the Costa judges described as “utterly original…and feels like a classic in the making”.

Almost certainly this is future reading material for book clubs up and down the country.

LGBTQ+ History Month February  
“Claiming our past. Celebrating our present. Creating our future”
LGBTQ+ History Month is run by Schools OUT UK every February. It was established in the US in the early 1990s to recognise the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, and the history of the gay rights and related civil rights movements. The US celebrates the day in October to coincide with National Coming Out Day on 11th October but in the UK we celebrate it in February – the month where in 2003 there was cause for celebration as Section 28 was abolished. (See this article from the BBC).

The first celebrations in 2005 saw over 150 different events around the UK, and received some financial backing from the Department for Education but now has support and sponsorship from many other organisations such as the Metropolitan Police Service and Amnesty International.

Since 2011, LGBTQ+ History Month has had a theme that relates back to the national curriculum, and for the second time it’s a PSHE related one. In 2017, it was ‘Citizenship and Law’ but this time the title is ‘Body, Mind, Spirit. There are a lot of resources to be found on the organiser’s website. The LRC has compiled a presentation from some of them that can be viewed here.

There’s a great article here from Stonewall Youth in 2017 about 10 key events in LGBTQ+ history.

English Heritage has collected a range of stories about LGBTQ+ people and their roles in some wonderful English Heritage sites.

Displays

Life Skills: Housing 
Some of our tutorial topics for the students this term are focusing on Life Skills. This week the subject is Housing. Sian has done a very detailed presentation. Click here to view.

This is part of a series of Life Skills topics. Click here to see last week’s Banking presentation by Glenn).

Book Review 
Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop
Rating: 4/5

Victoria Hislop has written a series of fictional books about Greece in current times and looking back at its twentieth century history. She feels a great affinity to Greece and its people and has been popular there since writing her first novel about it called The Island.

I’ve read several of her books which I’ve enjoyed, although some are better than others. The latest one I’ve read is ‘Those who are loved’ and this is definitely one of her better novels. The title is taken from a poem by a well known  Communist Greek poet, Yannis Ritsos. ‘Those who are loved…They shall not die’.

The novel begins in 1930s Athens and takes us right up to the present day and centres around the Koralis family and in particular the life and perspective of the main character, Themis who we meet as a little girl in the 30s and read about her life experiences until she reaches her 90s.

This takes us through an amazing amount of Greek history. So much happened and was experienced by Greek people in the twentieth century which I had almost no idea of before reading this novel. The novel takes us through the Nazi occupation of Greece, the poverty and destitution of many of the inhabitants, the civil war that followed and the coup by the military colonels who ran the country with strict rules and regulations right up until the Greek democracy that we know today. 

The four Koralis children are very divided politically as young people and argue continually about their own visions for the future of Greece. Themis Koralis decides to join the Communist army and fights for them during the civil war. She is eventually captured and endures terrible treatment and privations in various prison camps where prisoners are ill treated and sometimes even executed unless they sign the ‘dilosi’ which says that they give up all their Communist beliefs. Themis is pregnant when she enters the camps and upon giving birth to her son, Angelos finally gives in and signs the dilosi so that she can return to her family with him. She makes friends with a young woman in the camp who is executed simply for drawing pictures of the inmates. Themis promises to find and look after her friend’s young son, Nikos which she does and brings him up as her own, keeping his origins a secret. 

Upon her return to Athens, Themis settles down to a quiet family life with her new husband, Giorgis and her young sons but there are still many family tragedies yet to come. 

I enjoyed this novel and the way Victoria Hislop brings us the modern history of Greece via the experiences of one family. I had no idea of the suffering that the Greek nation went through during the last century to get where they are now and as well as entertaining us the author also educates us.

– Angela 

We love…

Still going…

Last week, we mentioned Eddie Izzard running 31 marathons – one for each day in January. (She’s still going strong as I write but should have run her last marathon now that this blog entry has reached publication date). Each marathon is on a treadmill using the Zwift app (people logging in to the app could actually run alongside her) allowing her to virtually run well-established marathon courses. She started on January 1st in London and has since been around most of Europe for this challenge. Each day, she is joined via Zoom by a series of friends and celebrities offering lots of chats and encouragement. 

What we failed to mention last week is that at the end of each marathon, she is performing a stand-up gig. So 31 marathons in 31 days PLUS 31 stand-up routines. Phew.

You can view the opening London run here and watch the introduction to the whole event.

#MakeHumanityGreat


Students

Book Loans
Worried about fines as we enter another lockdown? No problem. All loans have been renewed and fines waived while the LRC is closed. Book returns can wait until the College has safely reopened.

E-Book of the Week

Each week, the LRC will be highlighting an e-book that we feel will be of special interest to certain students. This week, it’s an e-book for our electrical installation students.

Simply click the Brooklands College Login link here and access the book using your College student ID and password.

Access our virtual library online
You can search for e-books on the library catalogue or directly through our e-book providers.. Click on the Shibboleth login if requested and select Brooklands College. If you have any problems please do not hesitate to contact us at library@brooklands.ac.uk.

Heritage Online | Proquest | VleBooks

Contact us with an area you are interested in or your assignment title and we can suggest some resources for you.

LRC website 
The LRC website contains links to our resources, our online catalogue and is full of information about LRC use, plus there are book reviews, links to our displays and other items of interest. It is only available to College members (sorry) and can be found through links on the LRC Google Classroom, and on the staff and student intranets.

LRC Google Classroom page
Tutors have been invited to join the Classroom and will be passing the joining code on to their students. It’s full of links to resources, and helpful advice and tips.


Please contact us at library@brooklands.ac.uk if you need support with e-books, e-resources or anything else.

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