Culture vulture

3rd December 2004 at 00:00
A passage to India next year is the jewel in the crown for Judy Webster

Best book ever

The best is whatever I am reading at the time, and I read avidly. For 10 years I kept an account of everything I read, about 70 books a year. I always feel a sense of loss when a compelling book comes to an end. I tend to favour books set in a different time and a different culture. Recently, I read The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad and The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier back-to-back; I was fascinated by the idea that women's lives in 21st-century Afghanistan could be not much different from the lives of women in 14th-century Belgium. I have travelled around Africa and love to read books set there. I was very taken with The Sheltering Desert by Henno Martin, about two German geologists who disappear into the Namibian desert during the Second World War to avoid being called up. I've been there and I marvelled at the moonscape they survived in.

Best film ever My father is an amateur mountaineer and I have been trekking in Nepal so I was captivated by Touching the Void (pictured, about mountaineer Joe Simpson's near-death experience). The photography was stunning and even though you knew what the end would be, the tension was almost unbearable. I was also moved by Roman Polanski's The Pianist because I have been to Warsaw and to Auschwitz, an experience I will never forget.

Best resource I encourage my students to read widely. Genome by Matt Ridley (the role of genes in our development into adulthood looking at sex, intelligence, cancer) and Jacob's Ladder by Henry Gee, about the history of human genes and where they have come from, are popular science books which help students to realise how interesting science can be.

Best on stage I nearly died laughing during Alan Bennett's The History Boys at the National Theatre. I taught boys in the 1970s and the clothing and the attitudes were so spot on.

Looking forward to The next holiday, in India at Easter. I've never been but I've read lots of novels set there.

Judy Webster is head of science at St Martha's senior school, an independent Catholic girls' school in Hadley Wood, Barnet, Hertfordshire, where she has taught for 12 years. She was talking to Elaine Williams

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