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Books – A Liberal Education for Young and Old

July 8, 2012

"thoughts from the corner"

Once again we welcome back Prof. Serendip on his eclectic rounds of the less-read books in our libraries.

As a private English tutor I deal with books that are ever-popular. I mean, of course, the ‘classics’  in the English canon. I will take a peep at what ‘makes a classic a classic’ in a future post on this blog. For now, let us take it as read (no pun intended) that classics include books such as: ‘Wuthering Heights‘ by Emily Bronte, ‘David Copperfield‘ by Charles Dickens and ‘Pride and Prejudice‘ by Jane Austen. They are probably some of the most read books in the English language because of their inclusion on the English syllabi of the examination boards in the U.K. Although, I think it is fair to say that all of the above mentioned books are to be found on many bookshelves around the world with their spines totally unbroken! Why we buy a book and then do not read it is, perhaps, the subject for a further blog post in the near future.

"private english tutor"


Excerpts from

Books that have been unnecessarily culled by libraries

Books that have been serendipitously encountered

Books that need to be saved for browsers


                             Anna Jackson & Amir Jaffer (eds), Encounters / The Meeting of Asia and Europe 1500-1800

                            (Victoria and Albert Museum 2004)

This is the ‘sumptuous’ catalogue of an exhibition showing the mutual influences between East and West. Its size, c. 25×29 cms, with 396 pages, might cause some to call it a coffee-table book. Rather it might seem to be a page-turning book since few could resist looking at page after page on art, furnishings, ceramics, clothing, topography and other cultural items. We see illustrations of how the Japanese and others saw Europeans and even a view of Rome by an eighteenth-century oriental. The book is not a hardback so the cost of such sumptuousness is only £24.95. All the same there is an acknowledgment to ‘Nomura Holdings’ for their generous financial support (must note their details to touch them for a wee grant).

One wonders how long this softback book would survive the rough-and-tumble of a common room or ordinary library shelving. Its contents with its learned commentaries by various experts are possibly a liberal education for young and old.

"home english teacher"

Or even, how long would it survive it the coffee-table of some ‘rough-and-tumble’ houses? In my wanderings as a one to one English teacher I did spy ‘Jane Eyre’ once, being used to prop up a wonky desk. Possibly, put to better use than sitting on a shelf and never read, you may say!

From → Books

  1. I did English at A level and one of the set texts was Wuthering Heights. At the time I didn’t enjoy it but now I might read it again. A friend who is in the year below me was set Handmaids Tale, so I decided that because it’s a text used in schools I won’t read it. Trying to get past this prejudice against school books I’m going to make an effort and actually read it (it’s on my reading list for this summer – ). For some reason I automatically dislike (hate’s a bit strong) books the school wants you to read just because… no real reason 🙂

    • Hi mystudentsthoughts,

      Thank you so much for taking time out to comment on my blog.

      Interesting you bring up ‘Wuthering Heights’. I first read it about the same time as you – going into my second year at uni.; although it was thirty years ago! I was on a beach on a small Greek island – but that’s another story.

      I didn’t ‘get’ it.

      I read it again this time last year (this week exactly!) and I was stunned. I don’t know if I have ever read a book with so much power and intensity – absolutely awesome. There seeems to be a time and place in life for so many things, perhaps that is why it had such a profound effect on me, thirty years after the first encounter.

      My advice to you (take it leave it – i’m only another WordPress blogger) is to leave it for a few more years and come to it when you have a few more years experience ‘under your belt’.

      Interesting you are doing Sociology. My partner is a retired Sociology lecturer from Manchester Met. She’s not into classical English novels so maybe it’s a ‘Sociology thing’ going on.

      I clicked through to you posts and decide to ‘Follow’ you. I don’t mean that in any kind of weird way but having had a bit of bumpy first year at uni. I am interested to see where scribbling, ramblings and mutterings take you.

      All the best,

      Experienced Tutors.

      • I read Pride and Prejudice this year and enjoyed that so I think it’s just books we get set at school. I’ve also read Rebecca, and like that too. I’ll have to wait to read Wuthering Heights again anyway because my only copy is heavily annotated 🙂
        Thanks for the follow 😀 My updates are about everything and anything that captures my imagination.

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