Category: Education


Screen shot 2019-12-31 at 18.08.08Since 2013 I have set myself a challenge of reading 50 books a year and then I track my progress on Good Reads.

I fell three short in the first year but have hit my target ever since. This year I gave the maximum five star rating to six titles: Continue reading

Screen shot 2019-11-17 at 09.51.41I am currently reading Ursula K.Le Guin’s wonderful collection of talks and essays – ‘The Wave Of The Mind’.

One essay, written for her own entertainment in the 1990s, is entitled ‘Collectors, Rhymesters And Drummers’ and contains this quote on the importance of words that I wish I had read as a student of English Literature when I was at school :

“Words, whether in poetry or prose, are as physical as paint and stone, as much a matter of voice and ear as music, as bodily as dancing.

I think it is a major error in criticism ever to ignore the words. Literally, the words: the sound of the words – the movement and pace of sentences – the rhythmic structures that the words establish and are controlled by.

A pedagogy that relies on the “Cliff Notes” sort of thing travesties the study of literature. To reduce the aesthetic values of a narrative to the ideas it expresses, to its “meaning,” is a drastic impoverishment. The map is not the landscape.”

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Ursula K. Le Guin (1929 – 2018)

I still find myself wanting to read as much as possible as a way of making sense of the world and my own place within it.

I aim to increase the number of blog posts on what I’m reading. These will probably serve more as a reminder to myself rather than offering any particularly profound insights, but who knows. In any event, writing is the best way of organizing thoughts. Making these public gives an added incentive not to be flippant, sloppy, unkind or lazy.

The simple pleasure of making new discoveries and revisiting old favorites is an end in itself. The joys are an antidote to the cynical business-minded world in which, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, consumers are conditioned to know the price of everything but the value of nothing.

To confirm this, I was happy to stumble upon something Ursula K Le Guin said in a speech at the National Book Awards in 2014 : “Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words”.

snpIn a conversation with Indian author Arundhatl Roy at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival, it was refreshing to hear Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon presenting herself as a proud bookworm and promoting the general benefits of reading.

She said: “I have a theory that if more political leaders read more literature, the world wouldn’t be in quite the state it’s in right now”. I couldn’t agree more.

Trump is obviously the most extreme example of the catastrophic effects of un-learning. It is depressing to observe how his supporters continue to lap up his incoherent torrent of hate speech and pig ignorance rather than seeing it for what it is: a blatant abuse and misuse of power. Continue reading

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