Summer School August 2015

DSC_0803As some of you know, every year I run a Summer School for a group of friends who, like me, can’t afford to attend any of the more formal literary gatherings that take place during the summer months. About this time of year I offer them five sets of books, each set being linked by a different theme, and ask them to choose the one they would most like to spend a week discussing. There are three books in each set so when the Summer School comes round we meet three times during the week, each meeting being hosted by a different member of the group and the discussion being led by a different participant. That way there is no real burden of preparation, other than reading the books, on anyone and the only cost that we incur is 50p a day that we contribute for tea and biscuits. It works extremely well. This will be the sixth year we’ve run it.

The forms for book selection will go out next week and this year participants will be asked to choose from amongst the following:

Musical Interlude

The Travelling Hornplayer ~ Barbara Trapido
Bel Canto ~ Ann Patchett
An Equal Music ~ Vikram Seth

The Perfect Spy

Sweet Tooth ~ Ian McEwan
Spies ~ Michael Frayn
Restless ~ William Boyd

Brave New Worlds

Brave New World~ Aldous Huxley
The Sparrow ~ Mary Doria Russell
Station Eleven ~ Emily St John Mandel

Resurrecting the Past

Remarkable Creatures ~ Tracy Chevalier
A Month in the Country ~ J L Carr
The Dig ~ John Preston

Walking The Royal Mile

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie ~ Muriel Spark
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox ~ Maggie O’Farrell
One Good Turn ~ Kate Atkinson

I’m always glad that I don’t get a vote as to which of the groups we’re going to read because of course I never offer books that I don’t want to spend my summer with and I would be very hard put to choose between these sets. However, I’m sure you’ve got thoughts as to which would top your list if you were joining us and I would love to hear what those are. It would be fascinating to see if your overall choice matches up to those who will actually be coming to the Summer School.


29 thoughts on “Summer School August 2015

  1. Lovely to see you posting here again, Alex. I’d plump for The Traveling Hornplayer for pure pleasure, Restless, Brave New World, A Month in the Country and One Good Turn. I’ll look forward to seeing what your group comes up with.

    1. I have my fingers crossed this year because there is one group that I really am not that keen on even though I’ve made the selections. Still, it is always good to read books that you are a bit iffy about in company because so often you get a new perspective on them.

  2. What a fabulous idea – your friends are lucky to have you round to organise this! I would plump for A Month in The Country too – it’s such a wonderful book. In the other categories, I don’t think I’d know which to choose – an excellent selection!

    1. I read that when it first came out and loved it so much. I have been looking for an opportunity to re-read it for ages and if that isn’t the chosen group this year I will probably try and get it on one of my book group lists for 2016.

  3. It’s great to see you posting again – are you feeling better now? I do very much hope so. Your summer school is always such an excellent idea. I think any of those categories would be delightful!

    1. It’s not so much that I am better, Litlove, but that when I am not writing I am even worse. Then my brain clogs up as well as my body. As for the Summer School, truth to tell there is one book in there I’m not keen to re-read, so this year I do have a bit of a prejudice about what we eventually choose.

  4. Hi, Alex. Though I can’t manage to choose just one theme, I see some of my favorite authors there: Ann Patchett, Ian McEwan, Tracy Chevalier. And one of the simultaneously most horrifying and most thought-provoking books I’ve ever read is “The Sparrow.” I do hope you get to discuss that one, I’d like to know what your participants have to say.

    1. The Sparrow is one of my favourite books, although you are right, it isn’t the most enjoyable of reads. Have you read the sequel, ‘Children of God’? Not perhaps as powerful but well worth reading if you want to take the story further on.

  5. You always come up with such marvelous lists! If I had a chance to vote I’d vote for Brave New Worlds. I’ve been meaning to read The Sparrow for ages and I was a teen when I read Brave New World.

    1. Yes, I would rather like to see that one turn up, Stefanie. I’ve just done Station Eleven with one of my other groups and it was one of the best discussions we’ve had in a long time.

  6. I would choose Resurrecting the Past – I’ve been meaning to read A Month in the Country for a while now, I’ve liked other books by Tracy Chevalier, and although John Preston is an unknown author to me The Dig sounds fascinating.

    1. The Dig is the only book by Preston I’ve ever come across, Margaret. It was one of those books that you just happen to come across a review for and pick it up as a result. I would definitely recommend it. The period atmosphere is really well depicted.

  7. Ooh, I would def go for Musical Interlude (Bel Canto! An Equal Music! *swoons*) or Brave New Worlds (The Sparrow!!! *swoons again*) What a brilliant idea.

  8. Such interesting selections. There are a couple I would fancy there. The perfect spy books look like a really interesting bunch I have already read the Frayn and have that McEwan the. The only group I have read all books of is Walking the Royal mile – great title.

    1. That’s the one group that has a book in it I haven’t read, Ali. The O’Farrell is the last one of hers I still have to get round to. If I’m honest, I put that group together round that book so that I might be forced to find a gap in the reading schedule this summer when I could read it.

  9. These choices are so hard! But I’d go for the musical interlude as I’ve read the Patchett and the Seth and absolutely loved them both so I’d love to re-read and to hear what others thought of them. Yes, very nice to see you blogging again – welcome back.

    1. Thank you, Harriet. I really want the chance to go back to all three of those books too. One of the criteria when I’m selecting the titles in the first place is ‘what books do I really want to re-read.’

  10. You alwYs come up with such good choices that it’s darn difficult to decide. If pushed I would go for musical interlude. I’ve read the Seth but not Bel Canto. But then Brave New Worlds might be the combination to get me out of my “I don’t do science or futuristic books’ mindset. Welcome back to our fold, sorry to hear the health issue isn’t resolved completely though.

    1. You’ve pinned down two of the three I am hoping will come up, Karen, because all of them are books that I am certain will offer more on re-reading than they did the first time round.

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