Literature list 2018-2019

Here is a sneak preview prior to the official literature list with fifteen titles to choose from:
- a victorian gothic or a comic novella about the Queen of England’s new passion for reading;
- a thrilling account of a girl’s escape from slavery or a dystopian novel about a woman who is kept for reproductive purposes only;
- a debut about the influence of social media on adolescents or another debut about a young woman whose life is built on routine;
- a novel about migration and adapting or a story of a British family of Pakistani origin and their struggle to live in the shadow of the terrorist threat;
- a book about a long-married couple reviewing their relationship or a novel about a retired judge, living alone, with a stiff-upper-lipped anguish as to where 'home' is;
- a story about two boys growing up in Switzerland during the second world war or a portrait of a Scottish architect in a village on the Suffolk coast during the first world war,
- or a coming-of-age novel set against the background of a lake, on the border of a northern Minnesota forest.

These are the titles we selected for next season:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Only Story by Julian Barnes
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
Mr Mac and Me by Esther Freud
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
Old Filth by Jane Gardam
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsay Lee Johnson
Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
Home Fire by Kamilla Shamsie
The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.

We ask your special attention for Kazuo Ishiguro who won the 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature. So we decided to put his highly acclaimed novel Never Let Me Go in the spotlight again.
Furthermore, the list would not be complete without Julian Barnes’s latest novel The Only Story - published on 1 February 2018.

Whatever your choices will be, we trust you will enjoy reading the books and will have stimulating and interesting discussions.

About the English Literature Working Group

As a result of the appeal to the participants of the reading groups three new members have joined the group, so luckily we are "fully staffed" again. These are the members from left to right: Francine Kruyt - Henny de Boer - Hans van der Weiden - Cees van den Akker -  Leo Stolk - Christa de Jager - Els de Wit. Unfortunately Elise Kleuskens was absent due to illness. 

How we work

In the period September to November, we meet once or twice to discuss and decide on plans for the coming season. Each member of the group brings a list of novels they have read and would like to propose. With different backgrounds and tastes, these lists comprise a wide range of subject matter, style and story. A potential longlist of books suitable for reading groups is put together, a mixture of new and older publications. We discuss these books and all books chosen for the longlist are then read by at least two or three members of the working group.

Then we meet again in February to select 10 to 15 books from the longlist. When we make this final selection, the most important criteria is whether they are suitable to be discussed by members of a reading group.

We try to offer a wide variety of books:
authors from various English-speaking countries;
different periods, subjects and settings;
different genres: we have chosen not only novels, but also novellas, collections of short stories, thrillers and an epistolary novel, for example.

Scrooge in the Library in Amersfoort

It is that time of the year: the jolly season, the season of holly and ivy. A season to open our hearts to one another.

It was in that mood that members of the English workgroup and members of English Senia reading groups met at the magnificent Amersfoort library on Sunday December 17th, to be once more regaled on a lively rendering of events from Charles Dickens' famous tale: A Christmas Carol, by Mr Wim Tigges who was able to fill in all the parts from Scrooge, via the ghosts to the glorious ending in which, to our mutual relief, Tiny Tim once more does not die.

Marlowe was dead, dead as a doornail, but our English reading groups are alive and kicking........and thriving.

Cees van den Akker (17 December 2017)

Interesting essay about the role of reading communities

Esmé van den Boom is the student who wrote the reader’s guide for Possession last year. Recently she has written an essay on “The role of reading communities in the canonization of authors of colour: a case study of Senia’s English reading groups” for the master course on Book History (Master Writing, Editing and Mediating).

The number of racially diverse books on the list of titles and the way they were selected is investigated in this essay. One of the conclusions of Esmé's research is “that Senia’s choice of titles leaves room for improvement concerning diversity.”
Although the English Workgroup undertakes to offer a variety of books, taking into account a.o. countries of origin, gender, year of publications etc., the most important – yet subjective - criterium is that the books should be first-rate and suitable for discussion in the reading groups.

Click here If you want to read Esmé’s essay.  

Cooperation with Rijksuniversiteit Groningen 

On the university website you can read (in Dutch) more about the cooperation between Senia and the university. Here you can also find an interesting research dissertation on ‘Communication in English Reading Groups’.