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“We lose ourselves in books. We find ourselves there too.”

Monday 8th June 2020

Book Clubs
For the most part, reading is a solitary activity but there is a lot to be said for sharing the joys, thrills and disappointments that can be found in a book. And if anyone has ever thought about joining a book club to share these thoughts then maybe now is the time to do it. There are many small groups around the country who regularly get together to talk about one particular book that they’ve all read.

But, other than finding people with a common interest in books, what else do we get from being part of a book club? 

One friend told me “I love our book club. It’s wonderful to have a reason to meet up with others whose company I really enjoy and whose opinions I value in between cocktails and food. We share thoughts on books – sometimes – but normally just have a laugh! But seriously, it does give me a chance to read books I never would otherwise”. A thought echoed by another friend

 “ Gets you out of your reading rut, as you read books chosen by others”.

One of our staff has recently become part of such a club.

“After years of listening enviously to friends talk about their various book clubs, I finally joined one in March. A friend, who’d also looked enviously at others, had finally had enough of being left out and sent out an invite to all her Facebook friends. Within minutes enough of us had RSVP’d with a hearty “yes, please”. Some were friends of mine, some acquaintances but all were familiar faces. 

Our initial meeting – in a pub naturally- was to decide how we were going to proceed. How were we going to select books to read? We would take in turns. What were we actually going to read? The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho. When would we next meet to discuss said book?  March 27th. And finally, where would we meet? The house of whoever had selected the book with the next ‘book selector’ bringing along the nibbles. We were so very organised. However, none of us quite foresaw lockdown although coronavirus was beginning to make its presence felt. What was our fledgling book club to do?

Well, we did what any self-respecting group of (middle-aged women) people with IT at their fingertips would do and downloaded the Zoom app. By the time our first virtual meeting came around, we had all dutifully read the book. It took about 10 minutes to work out that we had all thoroughly disliked the book. We then spent a good hour talking about anything but the book. Having spent a week looking at the four walls of my house and glaring at my children for not doing the washing up, it was bliss to chat with this lovely group of people.

Our next book was chosen as The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – it happened to be sitting unread on one of the club members shelves and is, quite coincidentally, very loosely about a book club. I even reviewed it a few weeks ago”.

And if meeting up and reading books chosen by others is not your thing then you could do worse than going online to look for a virtual club. Whatever genre is your favourite, there’s a book club to be found. A good starting point would be the community page on the Good Reads website.

Saturday 20th June is National Reading Group Day organised by the Reading Agency. Their chosen book is The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri and they will be holding their own online reading group at 11am via their Facebook page where everyone is welcome to join in. For more details, please see National Reading Group Day 2020.

Around the world in eight…een book titles
Last week we had a little look at how you can travel the world and explore different countries and cultures whilst reclining comfortably with a cup of tea in an armchair in your own home – or if it’s sunny from a deckchair on the back patio. Taking inspiration from one of last week’s books, the LRC team was set the small task of suggesting a series of book titles from which we could plot a course to circumnavigate the globe. In order to keep it short and sweet, we kept the list to 18 books rather than stretch it to the full 80. 

  1. Our journey around the world begins with London Belongs to Us by Sarra Manning – a 17 year old’s overnight 12 hour journey across London from Crystal Palace to Alexandra Palace.
  2. The Cabin by Jørn Lier Horst – a thriller set on the west coast of Norway featuring Chief Inspector William Wisting as he investigates how the recent death of a politician links to a cold case from 15 years ago.
  3. Chocolat by Joanne Harries – an exotic stranger injects life into a sleepy French village when she opens a chocolate shop opposite the local church, much to the chagrin of  Father Reynaud.
  4. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann – a story of an ageing writer who travels to Venice and becomes obsessed with a young man staying in his hotel.
  5. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres – an Italian officer in 1941 is posted to the occupied Greek island of Cephalonia and becomes close to the already engaged local Pelagia.
  6. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – an epic tale of love and war in early 19th century Russia as Pierre winds his way to happiness with Natasha via the Battle of Borodino.
  7. Out of Africa by Karen Blixen – an autobiography of Danish Blixen, recounting her time on a coffee plantation in Kenya and of her love of the adventurer Denys Finch-Hatton.
  8. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini – the ramifications of events from his childhood in 1975 Afghanistan stretch across continents and time for Amir.
  9. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse – set in India, this is the story of a young Brahmin’s spiritual path on his quest for enlightenment after meeting with the Buddha.
  10. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan – girl flies to Singapore to be introduced to her boyfriend’s family only to find they are filthy rich.
  11. Wild Swans by Jung Chang – an extraordinary tale of the women from three generations of a family in China.
  12. Down Under by Bill Bryson – a journey across the Australian rich and beautiful  landscape and the people that the author meets on his travels.
  13. The Colour by Rose Tremain – the story of a 19th English couple who emigrate to New Zealand in search of gold and the harsh realities that they encountered.
  14. Touching the Void by Joe Simpson – the true story of Simpson’s ultimately successful but also near fatal climb of the west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes.
  15. The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes (see this week’s book review)
  16. Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg – cheating here slightly as this mystery story is set in Denmark but the title character is from Greenland, as is the victim in this mystery. Whilst growing up in Greenland, she studied the characteristics of snow and uses that understanding – interpreting the snow around a dead body –  to realise that the victim’s death was no accident.
  17. Himself by Jess KIdd – part mystery, part supernatural tale, this rather lovely whimsical book is set in a small town in Ireland.
  18. And surely we couldn’t return to London for our last book without giving a nod to Charles Dickens and what better book to look at than Oliver Twist – a tale of an orphan finding himself  on the streets of Victorian London and the characters that he encounters on his way to reuniting with his long lost family (also see Paola’s slide below).

June is Pride month. In 1970, activist Brenda Howard coordinated the first Pride march held in the US to commemorate the Stonewall Riots – seen as pivotal in the gay liberation movement – that had occurred in June the previous year. Howard also played a main role in the organisation of a week-long series of events around Pride Day that were to become the foundations for the annual Pride celebrations that we now see being held around the world every June. 

Usually, these celebrations would involve parades and marches but these, like many other events, have fallen foul of coronavirus and social distancing measures. Instead, celebrations around the world will be held with the help of social media platforms.

One of our Library Assistants, Sarah thought this would be the ideal project for the LRC team to collaborate on a display. She asked each of us to give her “a photo, quote, piece of history, anecdote, doodle, sketch, (rainbow) cake…that sums up/says something about Pride month: teaching tolerance, education in Pride history and continuing to move forward in equality”. Click here to see our contributions.

The British Film Institute holds the BFI Flare festival each year and this had already been cancelled due to coronavirus. The films showcased during previous festivals can be found here. However, during Pride month the BFI has also made available for free a “ colourful and challenging collection [which] explores screen representations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lives over the past century”. Take a look LGBT Britain.

World Oceans Day, 8th June  
Sarah has also taken a look at World Oceans Day which is supported annually by the United Nations.

“Take action for 2020 World Oceans Day is growing the global movement to call oneworld leaders to protect 30% of our blue planet by 2030. This critical need is called 30×30. By safeguarding at least 30% of our ocean through a network of highly protected areas we can help ensure a healthy home for all!” 

Here’s the work Sarah has put together.. 

The Death of Charles Dickens, 9th June
150 years ago on 9th June, one of Britain’s most prolific and well-loved authors, Charles Dickens died. Paola has put together a display about Dickens and her wonderful efforts are here to share with you all.

As is to be expected, the Dickens Museum in London has been working on a very special exhibition to mark this anniversary. There’s no opening date as yet due to our current pandemic but it will be open to the public when the time is right. As a sweetener – and because it is the actual anniversary this week – the Museum has released a colourised version of a Dickens photo for us all to view to whet our appetites for this future event.

World Blood Donor Day, 14th June
This annual event supported by the World Health Organization not only aims to raise awareness for the huge need for blood and blood product donations but also sets out to give a big thank you to those that give their time and blood to help others – find out more.

It’s such a worthy cause and for most people just requires a little bit of your time in order to help others. And don’t forget –  you get a free cup of tea and biscuit afterwards.

Book Review
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
Rating: 4/5

Who wouldn’t love to read a book based on a group of female librarians in Kentucky in the 1930s.

That’s not a question. It’s a statement because, as usual with this author, it’s a great read. Jojo Moyes sometimes writes about modern times, sometimes historical, sometimes she mixes them up. On this occasion, she is sticking to 1930s America.

The book focuses on five women who involve themselves in the real-life Pack Horse Library Project. This was a programme that was developed to help deliver books to the remote regions in the Appalachian Mountains between 1935 and 1943. The only way to access many of the residents in these rural areas was by horseback.

The story starts with the formation of the library and is seen mainly through the eyes of long-time resident of the fictional Kentucky town of Baileyville, Margery O’Hare, and Alice Van Cleve, a newly-wed English lady, a true fish out of water in this environment and far from blissfully married to her seemingly All-American husband. 

Alice is eager to have a worthy project that will occupy her time and take her out of the confines of her home. Margery has spent her whole life fighting against the constraints imposed on women in the early part of the 20th century. It’s fascinating to sit in 2020 and view life and conventions in those times, as well as to read about the hardships faced by people living the rural mountains of Kentucky.

As always, there’s a little bit of romance but it is the friendships that evolve that are central to the book, as too are the developments of both central characters. As readers, we sit cheering them on as they face challenges and adversaries along the way. 

This is a great read. One that I thoroughly recommend.

– Alison M

Jojo Moyes is also the author of a series of books featuring Lou Clark (Me before You, Still Me) and, although she didn’t think she’d be writing more about her heroine, during lockdown she has put pen to paper and written a short story on what Lou is up to during this time. And she’s just put it online for free. Thank you!

Any College member can submit a book review. Simply fill out this form

We love…

Musical Virtuosos performing ‘Inspector Gadget’ and more
Over on Youtube, there’s a very talented young lady with a cello, providing lockdown renditions of some classic theme tunes. She’s very clever. This is probably a favourite. Knight Rider for 8 cellos.

There’s a little more information about Charles Dickens, along with a link to the Dickens Museum and other cultural activities that we can view remotely until the doors are flung wide open again in this blog here plus there’s the occasional book competition. 

The Globe Theatre
Theatres are really facing an ongoing struggle at the moment. Their income has all but disappeared as they’ve been shut for the foreseeable future due to coronavirus. There has been an emergency relief fund set up by the Arts Council for some theatres but the Globe Theatre in London isn’t eligible for any of this money. So a group of enterprising former students, having studied for their MAs at the theatre, came up with a fundraising initiative of their own. 

Over the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of May, they arranged to hold a 48 hour readathon of some of Shakespeare’s plays. The readings were broadcast via Youtube with the request for donations from viewers. You can now check out the read throughs yourself. All 48 hours of it. Click Read For The Globe.


Financial Times
The FT have recently extended their free access to schools programme to now cover FE Colleges. This covers all standard content online and via the app. All staff and students are now eligible to access for free by registering here: The FT – Brooklands College – SSI

Access our virtual library online
You can search for e-books on the library catalogue or directly through our e-book providers Dawson and Proquest. Click on the Shibboleth login if requested and select Brooklands College. 
Heritage Online | Proquest | Dawson

If you need a little help with ebook access, check out a guide to Dawsonera and a guide to Proquest

LRC Subject Guides
LRC staff have created subject guides for all courses – they are  located in your Tutorial Hub on Google Classroom. Here you will find links to e-books, online databases and useful websites.

Book Loans
Worried about fines? No problem. All loans have been renewed and fines waived while the LRC is closed.

Don’t forget to follow us on @BCLibraryWA. We will be posting useful information on a regular basis.

Please contact us at if you need support with e-books, e-resources or anything else.

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