Brighton College

Mr B. Cooper, Deputy Head Academic - Brighton College Dubai

The best ten books you may not have heard of:

What do we like to read? A person’s bookshelf tells you a lot about them. The unashamed romance fan, the cerebral mystery reader who wants to exercise the little grey cells, the classical fantasy fan who delights at any mention of the Inklings – you could be one, other or all of the above. At Brighton College Dubai, as long as you’re reading, that is enough. We want the pupils to read wide, read varied, read linearly and jump about like a historian, picking away at a dusty tome like a lion does a zebra for the juiciest (or most scandalous) morsels. The staff at Brighton College Dubai got together to try and think left field – what are the best books that people will not have heard of. In this year of Tolerance, it is an appropriate time to step away from the comfortable literature you have enjoyed for so long and perhaps a chance to try something new you may not have thought of - reading is the answer. Here at Brighton we encourage every child to read, everyone to visit the library once a week and everyone to share what they love about books: whether it’s Harry Potter or Sherlock Holmes, Nadia Al Najjar or A.A. Milne, Dan Brown or Daniel Dennett there is something for everyone.

We asked the faculty to recommend works to parents that they may not have heard of:

Crow - Ted Hughes

Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow is a literary work by poet Ted Hughes, first published in 1970 by Faber and Faber, and one of Hughes' most important works. The poems in crow are dark, visceral and sometimes funny. Crow, like Loki or Coyote is a trickster, a mythology all of Hughes creation who argues with all and respects none. This is not a collection for those who desire rhyming couplets or pretty visions. The poems challenge our senses, our ideas, our morality and our relationship with the natural world. They are not for the faint hearted and certainly not for younger readers.

1Q84 – Haruki Murakami

1Q84 is a work of magical realism by the perennial Nobel Prize favourite Haruki Murakami. His work all exists here in our universe, except that it doesn’t. Every work allows for magic, for fantasy, for the absurd to creep in and flavour, what are often musings on life, death, love, age, regret; essentially the human condition. This is his master work, a sprawling thousand-page exploration of fate in twin universes. Do expect a vividly drawn picture of a modern Japan with an air of magic. Don’t expect to have everything explained.

In Praise of Shadows – Junichiro Tanizaki

An essay from 1933 on the aesthetics of Japan does not, at first glance, seem like the ideal commute/beach/bedtime reading. But give this a chance. The thoughts, words, expression, sheer joy in the simple pleasures of flickering candles, the reflection in a lacquer bowl or the effect of lamplight upon a puppet show are from a man at the height of his powers. Tanizaki, through his exploration of the shadows of Japan in this period gives us not only an insight to the nature of the world he lived in, but also his fears for the future as all of creation is blasted with the horrors of electric light. One of the greatest Japanese writers his other classics include Naomi and Some Prefer Nettles; both musings on the modernity he felt was destroying the Japan he loved.

The Long Run – Matt Long

In November 2002, Matt Long was cycling to work in the early morning when he was struck by and sucked under a 20-ton bus making an illegal turn. His story is an emotional and incredibly honest story about Matt's determination to fight through fear, despair, loneliness, and intense physical and psychological pain to regain the life he once had. Prior to the accident Matt had competed in more than 20 events including several triathlons and marathons and had qualified for running's most prestigious race, the Boston Marathon. After the accident, his doctor told him he'd be lucky if he could even walk without a cane. The book details his road to recovery as he taught himself to walk again and 18 months later complete the NYC marathon.

Muqaddimah - Ibn Khaldun

The Muqaddimah is a book written by the Arab historian Ibn Khaldun in 1377 which records an early view of universal history. It is a unique work from an Arab writer who delves into historiography in a way no other writer had done before. He is critical of other historians and attempts to set out a structure for the analysis of history – being one of the first examples of someone writing about the impact culture will have on the perception of events. It is very much a foundational work and one that should be held in the same library as Herodotus, Plutarch, Gibbon and Hume as great, universal historians. I am reliably informed it is far better in the original Arabic than the translation.

Mauri Ora: Wisdom From The Maori World - Peter Aslop and Te Raumawhitu Kupenga

A combination of beautiful old photographs and meaningful proverbs, this book feels like a gift from generations ago.  And that’s what these words are – proverbs passed down from generation to generation.  The Maori people are very proud of their storytelling and their ability to connect their virtues and beliefs back to early ancestors. Beautiful insight into a culture and perspective on what still matters to them today.

Legacy – James Kerr

You don’t have to have been a rugby fan to have heard of the All Blacks.  You also don’t need to understand rugby to read this book.  It’s about leadership and values.  It goes behind why the team are the best in the world – and it’s not because of great players and passion.  It’s the whole crew involved knowing that they have a mission, about the sense of belonging, and the challenge of being better every day, This books shows why the team is more important than individuals, and is about values, integrity and being coherent to what you believe.

Married to a Bedouin – Marguerite van Geldermalsen

I think many of us have a fascination with aspects (fabled or true) of the Middle East – we read Arabian Nights, we drew heavy kohl on our eyes, and we tried all the carpets in our house in case one flew.  This author took it further and visited Petra – falling for a Bedouin man when she did.  Fascinating recount of her adventures and life with him – whilst adjusting to a way of life that some still live today.  It’s a love story – both for the man she married and for the caves of Petra.  It’s also makes you think about the value of material possessions – you were warned!

The Day of the Locust - Nathanael West

An interesting, and distinctly American, take on the nature of desire written by a lesser known contemporary of F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Dos Passos. Tod Hackett finds himself acquiring a motley crew of rather odd friends after moving to Los Angeles to work in the film industry.  The author twists the lens in order to force the reader to focus on the nature of desire at a basic primal level, through Tod’s relationships, as well as the societal acquisition of desire, through the company Tod immerses himself in.  The book is rife with symbolism, but the most notable example is perhaps Tod’s painting: ‘The Burning of Los Angeles.’ Ultimately, the novel is a satirical critique of the capitalist culture in America and how far the pursuit of the ‘American Dream’ will drive people, as a collective, to go.

Idgah - Munshi Premchand

A short story that delves into the intricacies of working life in India on the day of Eid. It follows a group of villagers celebrating the festival and delves into the relationships they have with the celebration and looks at the dynamic between the haves and have-nots: especially the orphan Haamid. Premchand was critical in his writing of the power structures in India, especially the use of culture and tradition by the rich to keep the poor downtrodden. Almost socialist in his approach to the social structures of the day he was a firm supporter of the independence movement.

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