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What I'm Reading

I'll try and update you on what I'm reading at the moment, along with any recommendations. As this is my first post on this topic, I'll round up the last year of reading.

Books of 2020

Over the past 12 months, a handful of books stand out to me as being incredible works of literature that I would happily endorse, if asked, or, possibly, even take the time out to give them a five-star rating on Goodreads.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is a wonderful novel that is perfect if, like most of us in the UK, you have spent a significant amount of time caged indoors. The main characters are wonderful and charismatic, in different ways, and the story is expertly satisfying, without being predictable.

Teaching Texts

The teaching year has, obviously, been very disjointed. However, the texts we have been teaching are generally pretty enjoyable. Casting my mind all the way back to January 2020 seems like a challenge for anyone but I've taught the following Shakespeare texts that are worth talking about.

  • Merchant of Venice - the debate around this text is whether or not it is anti-Semitic and, for me, I think we can assume that it is. There is an argument that perhaps Shakespeare was holding a mirror up to society for how the majority treat a minority, but then, if that was true, why punish Shylock so brutally at the end of the play and why not use Portia as a character who could be the playwright's voice and call for clemency? That said, I still think it is worth teaching as it can help students comprehend stereotyping, question prejudices, and develop critical thinking.

  • Romeo & Juliet - I was never a huge fan of R&J but the more I teach it, the more I understand about the immense skill that Shakespeare had in crafting his works (if he did - ooh, controversial...). It's not a soppy love story and, in fact, can be seen to be critical of Petrarchan notions of love. The violence and the sexual innuendo are also good for keeping teenagers engaged!

  • Macbeth - I ended up studying Macbeth three times during my nomadic school life but I still think it's brilliant. The 'in-jokes' are clever, the moral message is clear but well woven into the character arcs and, like a lot of his plays, Shakespeare presents a few unanswered questions; who was the 3rd murderer? Was Ross in on Macbeth's plot to kill Macduff's family? Did Lady Macbeth actually die...? I should stop before I get too many more story ideas.

Reading Recommendations

  • You can buy A Gentleman in Moscow here - probably my favourite book in the past year!

  • I loved Natives by Akala, who is an incredibly talented and driven writer too.

  • I'm trying to figure out when I'll have time to read all of the Rivers of London series - the first book makes me feel like Ben Aaronovitch is sharing a not-so-secret passion with us.

  • Although the style seems, to me at least, a bit stuck in the 90s, The Best A Man Can Get had a nice, casual charm to it that made it an enjoyable if not compelling read.


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