Tag Archives: the classics

It’s classic!

By UnknownMarie-Lan Nguyen (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By UnknownMarie-Lan Nguyen (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about the classics and libraries. I was a bit intrigued by the coincidence, for my current audiobook is A Classical Education The stuff you wish you were taught in school, written by Caroline Taggart and narrated by Bill Wallis. Maybe the words would reflect my situation better if they read “The stuff you wish you retained from what you learned in school”. I did study ancient history and even retained enough of it to get a passing grade in my final year of school, but most of what I learned dissipated once the exam was done.

Although I am enjoying the audiobook, I think I will be none the wiser at its conclusion and retain little more than in earlier days. It is a reflection on my retention rather than the worthiness of the book.  At the top of Taggart’s webpage is a statement from the Yorkshire Post that I think is probably no idle boast:

Caroline Taggart…has carved out a niche for herself in user-friendly, wittily written factual books which capture the imagination and quickly find their way to the top of the bestseller lists. 

Prior to reading this statement I had thought that it was perhaps the narration that had brought the book alive in a most entertaining way. I was surprised that the narrator was not the author for the wonderful meanings and interest he evokes. If not the author then, I thought, he must be a wonderful character actor. Indeed, I was not surprised to find, he was.

According to the Yorkshire Post, the writing itself is worthy too, though it seems to me, in many ways to be little more than a list of names, dates and snippets of events brought to life by an expert narrator. I’m not sure that I would read it cover to cover as I have listened to it, but it would definitely make a useful resource for checking out who and when, which is more or less impossible to do with an audiobook.

ausines headphones

One thing I have not liked about the book is the repeated opinion that maths and science in school are boring, and that most of us would only groan when thinking of what mathematicians like Archimedes and Pythagoras have burdened us with. If you’ve read many of my posts you would probably accuse me of being inconsistent, for haven’t I often agreed with that opinion of maths at school?


However, learning in mathematics should not be that way. I wish that everything we learned in school would be alive with interest, purpose and meaning. Then there’d be no need to groan. We’d be amazed and inspired by these great thinkers who have enlightened our lives.

Arthur Benjamin, Mathemagician, would agree.

He summarises his talk with these words:

“Mathematics is not just solving for x, it’s also figuring out why.”

But I digress a little. Charli’s main point was about the joy to be found in libraries. In my younger years I spent many hours in libraries. And if I wasn’t in a library, I was reading a book I’d borrowed from a library. Our home was filled with books but there were never enough to read and my parents and many of my siblings were frequent library book borrowers. On many Saturday afternoons throughout my teenage years I would walk the 5½ kilometre journey to the local library and back. I can’t remember how many books I was allowed to borrow, but I borrowed as many as I could.

So many things about libraries have changed from those days of enforced silence, carded catalogues, and microfiche readers. But I don’t feel nostalgic for it. The systems are much more efficient now, and libraries have much more to offer the changing needs of a changing society.

What does sadden me is that many local councils and schools are doing away with their libraries, and many schools are choosing administrators over teacher librarians when organising their staffing. A teacher librarian should be first enlisted. Nobody knows books and readers better than a teacher librarian.

While I have not frequented my local library in recent years, I would be very distressed if it were to close. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to choose ownership over borrowing as I do. Libraries are important to communities and should be accessible to everyone; and not only for their books. Libraries play a significant role in developing a sense of community by providing meeting spaces for books clubs and groups of all sorts, activities for children including storytelling and reading, craft activities, films, games and puzzles, visits by authors and illustrators …

They are also a great place to brush up on the classics that you may have missed out on in school, or find a book about mathematics that may inspire you to ask a big question and figure out why.

The idea for my flash in response to Charli’s challenge, to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a library, comes from the idea of taking books to the people, in their own neighbourhoods, and connects with my thoughts for an early childhood caravan.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Another life, another dream, another possibility …

 The Book Lady

She pulled the trailer from the shed, cleaned off the grime, gave it a lick of paint and hitched it to its once permanent position behind her bicycle. A trial ride around the yard confirmed all, including her knees, were still in working order. She propped the bike against the stairs and trundled back to her library where books lay scattered, spewed from shelves no longer able to hold them. She bundled them lovingly, tied them with memories, and wished them new hands to hold and hearts to love. It was time to share, and she knew just where.

Thank you

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