Summer School 2013

tumblr_m28hunkihb1rqmm3jo1_1280It’s Summer School time again, or more accurately, it’s time to start organising this year’s Summer School.  Those of you who have followed this blog since its inception will know that every year I put together a literary Summer School for a group of friends who, like me, can’t afford the sometimes four figure sums charged by those commercially run organisations who offer something similar.  Four years ago now, I decided that there was no point in gazing longingly at the professional brochures, rather it was time to stir myself and orchestrate a Summer School I could afford.  So, I gathered together around a dozen like-minded friends and suggested that we should nominate a week in August when we would meet on the Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons to discuss three books linked by a shared theme or characteristic.  We would meet in a different person’s home each day and there would be a different leader for each book so that no substantial burden would fall on any one individual.  Tea and biscuits would be provided, for which we would contribute the princely sum of fifty pence a day.  Thus, our Summer School costs us all of £1.50 a head.  It’s worked well for the past three years and so here I am putting together five possible sets of three books for the participants to choose from for Summer 2013.

Last year, with the Olympics in mind, I went for books set in the same country – one from each of the major continental land masses.  This year my selections are rather more random.  Participants are asked to rank the five lists from one to five, with one being their preferred choice and then the list with the lowest score is the one chosen.  Here are their options:

Investigating Art

(Three books all to do with investigations around either works of art or the artists who created them.)

‘The Swan Thieves’ ~ Elizabeth Kostova

‘Headlong’ ~ Michael Frayn

‘People of the Book’ ~ Geraldine Brooks

The Perfect Spy

(Speaks for itself, really, three books based on spy stories.)

‘Sweet Tooth’ ~ Ian McEwan

‘Spies’ ~ Michael Frayn

‘Restless’ ~ William Boyd

From Dublin’s Fair City

(Three books with associations with Dublin)

Paddy Clarke, Ha-ha-ha’ ~ Roddy Doyle

‘Christine Falls’ ~ Benjamin Black

‘Dracula’ ~ Bram Stoker

Resurrecting the Past

(These books are all to do with bringing the past back to life in one way or another.)

‘Remarkable Creatures’ ~ Tracy Chevalier

‘A Month in the Country’ ~ J L Carr

‘The Dig’ ~ John Preston

Made in Brum

(Each of these authors was either born in Birmingham or has made their home there.)

‘After Such Kindness’ ~ Gaynor Arnold

‘Astonishing Splashes of Colour’ ~ Clare Morrall

‘The Crysalids’ ~ John Wyndham

It will be about a month before I know which set has been chosen, but in the meantime I wonder which you would select?  It would be interesting to know if your option would be the same as those who are going to participate.  Perhaps we might even be able to set up an on-line group to run parallel.  What do you think?


18 thoughts on “Summer School 2013

  1. Such fun lists! I’d be torn between investigating art and the the spies list. Hmm, I think spies would be my first choice. The US has been having spy issues lately so I think it would be fun to mull over such a topic. August is still far away so it is easy to say an online version would be great fun 🙂

    1. Those are two of the three that are at the top of my own preferences, Stefanie. I have to vote before anyone else otherwise I might be tempted to give the final vote and swing the overall decision towards the three I most want to discuss.

  2. I vote for Made in Brum. It’s not that I know the authors, except for Wyndham (Day of the Triffids), but it’s an interesting theme.

    1. The books are very different, Kat, so it will be interesting to see if the proximity of birth has influenced the writers’ choices in any other way. I suspect not.

  3. Ooh lovely lists. I think I’d have to go for the Brum theme as it’s got the most books on it that I a) haven’t read yet and b) would like to read. Though my second choice would have to be ‘resurrecting the past’.

    1. It ‘s always a problem for me that in order to put these lists together I have to have already read the books. It means that my August is spent re-reading which I quite enjoy but not for a whole month. I know, though, that the list that has books on it that they haven’t already read is often a criteria for the other members choices. Unless, of course, they haven’t read them because they don’t like the genre. I know there’s one member who is going to have to really bit the bullet if the spy theme is chosen.

  4. What an inspired idea!! Now if I was joining your summer school it would be the art group I’d opt for as number one. Headlong is superb.


    1. Yes, I love ‘Headlong’, Karen. I think it was the first book I read with an art based story and I’ve been searching them out ever since.

    1. I have to admit, that there are three I prefer over the other two, Naomi, but I have to put together lists that are likely to appeal to every one in the group and so I can’t just stick to my personal favourites.

  5. Fab suggestions – Hard to decide. Although I love spies, I’d go for ‘Resurrecting the past’ – but have read 2 out of 3 already there, adoring The Dig, and Remarkable Creatures. So maybe I’d go for the art one which has 3 books I haven’t read…

    1. Those are the three lists that will be going at the top of my selections as well, Annabel. In the end it often comes down to the list that has the most books on it that people haven’t read, but this year one of the most avid readers said to me that she’d only read one out of the fifteen, so it may not be as easy for others to choose this time.

    1. I rather like the spy list myself, Sarah, although you’ll notice that there is no actual Le Carré on it. I very much enjoy his work, but a lot of the others aren’t so keen.

    1. Those are amongst my favourites, Karen, but I have to vote first, otherwise I would be tempted to cast my vote in a way that tipped the final result the way I wanted.

  6. Such interesting lists! I’d go for the Art one, with the Past being a close second choice. And I must say, the £1.50 per head investment at your Summer School sounds like great value for money! 😉

    1. Both of those are in my top three as well, Michelle. I have to be careful to vote first because if I left it until all the other votes were in it would be too easy for me indulge in tactical voting and swing the result the way I wanted it to go.

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