What the academic elite will be reading on the beach this year

27th July 2001 at 01:00
WHEN it comes to reading, it seems, even the academic elite of Winchester College needs a little encouragement. Dr Tate has introduced a headmaster's reading list which has been sent home with every boy this summer.

The list, which contains more than 200 books, is very different from the literary canon which he produced in his previous job as chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Emily Bront and Jane Austen do feature but so do many contemporary writers such as John le Carre, Nick Hornby and Martin Amis.

Winchester's dons (the school's name for its teachers) compiled the list at a meeting where they had to argue the case for their favourite titles.

"The discussion," as Dr Tate says in his letter to parents enclosing the selection, "was frequently heated. It was felt very strongly that all works included should have the merit of being well-written - though this proved to cause the liveliest discussion." Dr Tate then added some titles of his own.

There are eight sections with books aimed at boys aged between 13 and 18, fiction written in English; fiction in translation; science fiction; crime fiction; travel; war; works which don't fit another category and three works "produced by monomaniacs" (TH Huxley's The Courtship Habits of the Great Crested Grebe, TH Clarke's The Rhinoceros from Durer to Stubbs: 1515-1799, and Redcliffe N Salaman's The History and Social Influence of the Potato). Poetry is to have its own list.

The books are marked either A for younger readers or B for older ones, though some dons felt that no distinction should be made. Dr Tate's letter points out that the list is "entirely optional".

He said: "I wanted to raise the profile of reading in the school. People here do read obviously, but there are a lot of contrary pressures, even in a place like this."

And what would be his own choices? Anita Brookner's The Bay of Angels, Virginia Woolf's The Waves, Joseph Conrad's Nostromo and Guiseppe di Lampedusa's The Leopard.

THE A LIST

Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange

Bram Stoker: Dracula

Margaret Atwood: Cat's Eye

Voltaire: Zadig

Italo Calvino: The Non-existent Knight

Harry Harrison: Bill the Galactic Hero

Pamela Branch: Murder Every Monday

Robert Harris: Enigma

THE B LIST

Norman Mailer: The Executioner's Song

Samuel Johnson: The History of Rasselas

Carlo Levi: Christ Stopped at Eboli

Philip K Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Chester Himes: Cotton Comes to Harlem

Bruce Chatwin: In Patagonia

Ludovic Kennedy: Pursuit

Izaak Walton: The Compleat Angler

Tom Wolfe: The Electric Kool-aid Acid Test

Sir Thomas Browne: Pseudodoxia Epidemica

Dylan Thomas: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog

William Beckford: Vathek

A selection from the canon according to Winchester (and Dr Tate)

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