by Henry Ling and Kelvin Shiu
In our first survey of PGS English teachers' reading habits and views of literature, Ms Burden, Mrs Kirby and Mr Burkinshaw discussed what they were currently reading, their favourite authors, least favourite books, what they read as teenagers and many other questions. Now we hear from Mrs Mitchell and Mr Richardson.
This is how Mrs Mitchell answered the questions:
1. What book are you currently reading? Untold Stories by Alan Bennett.
2. Who is your favourite author? Why? This is a difficult question to answer for obvious reasons. May I have more than one? …….. Vampire novels: Anne Rice, because she gives vampires a history, philosophies, fears, hopes and dreams (sophisticated, not Twilight!). Murder-mystery novels: PD James because she is the mistress of plot complexity whilst her language is beautifully economical. Thomas Hardy because his characters and plots make me weep! Agatha Christie because she was the first author I was addicted to, at the tender age of 10!
3. What is the least interesting novel that you have read? Why? The Shack by WM Paul Young. That was a few days of my life I will never get back! I only finished it because I couldn’t believe it was so consistently awful and was hopeful that it would improve. It is a sad, miserable character who meets God in a shack and they have deep and meaningful experiences and . . . guess what…it has a happy ending! If you want to read absolute tosh, then this is one for you. It has sold millions of copies and you will find most of them in junk shops; don’t buy a copy.
4. If you were stranded on a desert island, what novel would you take (supposing you got a choice)? Why? I am in danger of being repetitive here because most of you know this one… it would have to be Dracula by Bram Stoker or Frankenstein by Mary Shelley because both novels are full of intriguing questions about morals, life, philosophy, what it is to be human, God, and the list is endless. I am not saying they are perfect or even brilliantly written but they have moments of pure genius.
5. What features do you expect to see in a good book? Fiction: gripping plot, understated language usage and surprise endings. Non-fiction: must be about the human experience and observations of relationships (you can see I don’t read science books!).
6. What do you believe makes a book so special? When it totally engages your attention, you cannot put it down and it gives you something you have never experienced before.
7. As a teenager, what kind of books did you like? Why did you find them appealing? I was, and still am, absolutely addicted to murder mysteries. The better murder mystery writers can create the most cunning of plots and I love to see whether I can work out ‘whodunnit’ before the end of the book.
8. What is your favourite genre of novel? I am tempted to say murder mystery again, but actually recently I have been reading a lot of apocalyptic/futuristic novels such as The Road by Cormac McCarthy and I am hooked (probably still murder mystery, though).
9. What is your favourite non-fiction book? I am not a huge fan of non-fiction, thus I don’t really have a favourite, but I do enjoy a well-written autobiography like that of Dennis Potter or observational writing such as that of Alan Bennett and even Spike Milligan (he always makes me laugh).
10. Have you ever thought about writing a book? If so, what style of book would you write? I always think about writing a book. It would definitely be for teenagers and would not be serious. I would probably try and emulate (without imitation!) the style of writing in the Adrian Mole Diaries by Sue Townsend or Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding.
1. What book are you currently reading? Ghostwritten by David Mitchell.
2. Who is your favourite author? Why? Arthur Ransome.
3. What is the least interesting novel that you have read? Why? Villette by Charlotte Bronte. I was too young to cope with it.
4. If you were stranded on a desert island, what novel would you take (supposing you got a choice)? Why? Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce. Because I would need a seriously long time to work through it.
5. What features do you expect to see in a good book? A map.
6. What do you believe makes a book so special? If it has lots of maps.
7. As a teenager, what kind of books did you like? Why did you find them appealing?
Science fiction,, of course. Brilliant ideas, mad plots, exciting!!
8. What is your favourite genre of novel? Detective Science Fiction.
9. What is your favourite non-fiction book? Ordnance Survey map.
10. Have you ever thought about writing a book? If so what style of book would you write? Obviously one that features maps, in a science-fiction style, with a mystery at the heart of it, featuring childhood.
Read responses from Ms Burden, Mrs Kirby and Mr Burkinshaw here.