Summer reading

11th July 2008 at 01:00
Fiona Norris - Team leader for language and literacy at Learning and Teaching ScotlandI've cheated
Fiona Norris

Team leader for language and literacy at Learning and Teaching Scotland

I've cheated. I tried to put aside half a dozen books to take with me to Sorrento, but you know what it's like - the pile of books just sits there, pristine and tempting, and before you know it you've broken one open....

One I couldn't wait to read was The Sorrows Of An American, by Siri Hustvedt. I wasn't disappointed: strong characters, family secrets, haunting imagery - mysterious and intoxicating. And on the theme of families, I've also earmarked Anne Donovan's new novel, Being Emily. I'm expecting sparkling dialogue with a strong Scots flavour and a twist of humour.

I don't suppose there'll be much humour in The Grave Tattoo, Val McDermid's latest, but any mystery which links Christian Fletcher and William Wordsworth has already grabbed my attention. A new writer for me, recommended by a friend, is Catherine O'Flynn, winner of the Costa first novel award with What Was Lost.

The only male writer on my list is not a novelist, but Richard Holloway is always a pleasure to read. So I'm packing Between The Monster And The Saint: Reflections on the Human Condition.

Finally, because I'm middle-aged, and because she's a genius, Joyce Carol Oates's Middle-Age: A Romance.

Fiona Gillies

Young people and schools librarian, Aberdeenshire

I shall be busy this summer helping children to "wriggle into a good book" - the library and information service's annual summer reading challenge. It encourages children to read six books over the summer; I have only four on my summer reading list.

The first is one I have just taken out of the library - a non-fiction book called Welcome to your Brain: The Science of Jet Lag, Love and Other Curiosities of Life by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang, which I heard about on the radio. One of the questions that hooked me was: "Which of these three items uses the most brain power: looking at a picture; advanced calculus; or reading a complicated journal?" The answer was "looking at a picture".

I also want to read a young adults' book because I deal with that age-group through my work: Abela: The Girl Who Saw Lions by Berlie Doherty, about a girl in an African village dealing with the problems of HIV, Aids and poverty, who comes to this country as an illegal immigrant. I'm looking forward to The Lollipop Shoes by Joanne Harris, which picks up where Chocolat left off. A colleague introduced me to Philippa Gregory's historical fiction last year. I didn't think it was my genre, but I was totally hooked on her Tudor stories, so I'm going to pre-order The Other Queen, about Mary Queen of Scots, which comes out on August 25.

Susan armstrong

Depute head, Peel Primary, Livingston

One of the great luxuries about being on holiday for me is about being able to read at breakfast time. I've not much time for reading during the term and most of the stuff I read is related to the job: HMIE reports, documents and policies.

I have several authors that I'm a great fan of. Ian Rankin is one of them, so I'm hoping to read Exit Music; John Grisham's The Appeal is another one I quite fancy. One that is going to be a challenge is Christopher Brookmyre's, A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil, which my son gave me. I'm slightly dubious. He likes Brookmyre and finds him really funny and I'm not sure I do. It starts with a lot of swearing, which is typical Brookmyre, and seems to be concerned with a boy starting his school life, so we'll see.

I love cooking and would be as keen to pick up a cookery book as fiction. I see Gordon Ramsay has a new one out: Healthy Appetite. My birthday is coming up, so I've earmarked that one for someone to buy me.

Mag Stewart

Headteacher at Muiredge Primary, Uddingston, South Lanarkshire

I loved A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil by Christopher Brookmyre, and I'm going to read it again. It transported me back in time and reminded me so much of schools I worked in 35 years ago.

The blurb says, "We could tell you about the suspects, the evidence, the investigators; join the dots, throw you a motive. But what would be the point? You're going to make your own assumptions anyway. After all, you know these people, don't you? You went to school with them. We all did." I taught them and I worked with them!

The plot: DS Karen Gillespie has a double murder on her hands; one victim and both suspected perpetrators were her schoolmates. Unravelling the crime is interwoven with the story of their years at St Elizabeth's Primary.

I like the use of "snotters", "scoobie", "skoosh case", "jobbie", "hingmy" and, my favourite, "pish", only because I have a wonderful story that could take pride of place in the book.

Picture George, a tall heidie nearing retirement: a kind, well spoken man who had to reprimand a youngster for urinating in the playground: "Did you make your water in the playground?" To which she shot back: "Whit? D'ya mean did I pish?"

The book is a funny trip back to the classroom, with references to the good old days when you could have a laugh.

David Drever

President of the Educational Institute of Scotland and depute head of Kirkwall Grammar, Orkney

My summer reading is not really any different from the rest of the year - it's just that there is time for more of it.

I've been working my way through the Latham and Matthews edition of Pepys's diary (I'm on Volume 5, 1664, just now), so I've got The Century of Revolution by Christopher Hill, my favourite historian of the 17th century, to add political and economic muscle to Pepys's wonderful flesh-and-blood narrative.

I was given Timothy Neat's biography of Hamish Henderson at Christmas time and I've been savouring the prospect of finding out more of the early life of one of Scotland's key figures in the current and past century.

I'll catch up with three favourite, but very different, writers: two novels - Romanno Bridge by Andrew Greig and Kieron Smith, Boy by James Kelman; and Darling: New and Selected Poems by Jackie Kay. Can't wait.

Ken Cunningham, General secretary, School Leaders Scotland

I had an eclectic mix of five books on my list but confess to finishing one. I bought Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns on the back of thoroughly enjoying The Kite Runner, because of the quality of the story-telling and language, and because I had been at and participated in the Bassant kite festival in Pakistan, the book brought it all back to life again for me. Having browsed the early pages of Suns, I just kept going.

I bought an older book of Michael Crichton's, Airframe, having only come to him recently. I intend finishing Sebastian Faulks's Human Traces which I barely started because I was too busy, but also I was not so captivated by it as by most of his earlier works.

The other two books are gifts and I'm looking forward to them for different reasons. Francine Rivers's Sons of Encouragement is a study of the lives of five not-so-well-known Bible characters who "quietly changed eternity". There are so many life and leadership lessons from such studies, often with relevance to our world today. The other is lighter - The Wit and Wisdom of British Prime Ministers by Phil Dampier and Ashley Walton. Just the kind of book for the plane!

Alana Ross, Primary supply teacher, Glasgow

My daughter said to me the other night: "I know what I like, and I like what I know." That's my attitude when it comes to reading. I don't read to acquire knowledge or to be educated - I'd rather pull my teeth out. I spend my life in education and when I read I want to relax.

I like who-did-it and why-they-did-its. I like Peter Robinson, Nikki French, Minette Walters. I would have put Ruth Rendell in there but I've read all of hers. I am eternally grateful to a friend of mine for introducing me to Lorna Landvik and have her book Tall Pine Polka, waiting for me. Generally, I'm not into what you might call "women's books" but these are great, especially if you are a woman of a certain age.

Mark Gimenez's second novel, The Abduction, is also waiting for me. His first, The Colour of Law, was about how the black man doesn't get a fair crack of the whip in the legal system in America. It was a fantastic book. My serious read of the summer, which promises to be quite harrowing, is We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. I've spent a lot of time with parents of children with behaviour problems who were at the end of their tether. Nothing as bad as this, obviously, but I'm interested to read it and see if I can spot where things went wrong.

Jeremy Purvis

Lib Dem MSP and member of the Scottish Parliament education committee

One might think that, after reading endless Government and Parliamentary documents, the last thing I would want to do is sit back and read a political biography for my summer reading. I set myself very low expectations at the start of the summer to do something different; with depressing inevitability, I fail to live up to them.

On my list this summer? American presidents; biography of Walter Scott by John Buchan; architecture of the Scottish practice Gillespie, Kidd Coia, and one that I have already started and am loving: Eats Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss. If you haven't heard of the amusing Panda story about how we can get punctuation wrong, look it up. Truss's book is a handy guide as to how I get my punctuation wrong, but also a delicious account of a militant who wants nothing more than to inflict physical pain on those butchering the appropriate use of the apostrophe. For the English teachers among the readers of this, I can only apologise if I got my semi-colon wrong before. My defence is that I haven't finished the book yet.

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