Mr Rees’s book choice for World Book Day

On Thursday 4th March, 2010, World Book Day, we asked teachers to talk to their classes about their favourite books or books they are currently enjoying.   Mr Rees talked with his classes about four publications that meant a lot to him.  The first is the incredible story of Joe Simpson and his climbing partner Simon, which has also been made into a moving documentary about their terrifying ordeal:

‘ “Touching the Void” is the heart-stopping account of Joe Simpson’s terrifying adventure in the Peruvian Andes. He and his climbing partner, Simon, reached the summit of the remote Siula Grande in June 1995. A few days later, Simon staggered into Base Camp, exhausted and frost-bitten, with news that Joe was dead. What happened to Joe, and how the pair dealt with the psychological traumas that resulted when Simon was forced into the appalling decision to cut the rope, makes not only an epic of survival but a compelling testament of friendship.’

Students were very interested in this book – what do you do when your only hope of survival could result in the death of a very close friend?  What a dilemma.

Mr Rees then talked of Old Berkhamstedian Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s latest book, ‘Force of Nature’ which he thoroughly enjoyed (and has his own signed copy!):

‘In January 1969, aboard his home-built wooden boat Suhaili, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston became the first person ever to sail solo, non-stop around the world. Twenty-five years later, Sir Robin again completed a record-breaking circumnavigation, co-skippering Enza with Kiwi yachting legend Sir Peter Blake. His place in sailing’s pantheon of greats was assured. Then, after the tragic death of his wife Sue, Sir Robin decided he would try again. In October 2006, at the age of 67 – when most people are settling in to a well-earned retirement – Sir Robin embarked on another gruelling single-handed race around the world. Compared to his rivals he lacked recent experience and a large shore-based support team. There were some who believed that this time he might have bitten off more than he could chew. Then early on, it looked like their worst fears might be realised.Within days of setting off, near-Hurricane-strength storms in the Bay of Biscay capsized his 60′ yacht Saga Insurance. But it wasn’t just Sir Robin who suffered. Three-quarters of the entire fleet had to run for shelter. When they re-emerged, all faced months of hardship and intensity ahead. “Force of Nature” is Sir Robin’s first-hand account his extraordinary return to the ultra-competitive, punishing world of single-handed offshore racing. It turned out to be a very different journey from the one he undertook on Suhaili, yet his experience aboard her remains a touchstone throughout this story. It’s a story of courage, ingenuity and resilience played out against the World’s oceans. But most of all it’s a powerful reminder that age is nothing but a number; no barrier to realizing one’s dreams.’  Truly inspirational.

Thirdly, he recommended Doris Kearns Goodwin’s latest biography of Abraham Lincoln:

‘In this monumental multiple biography, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin studies Abraham Lincoln’s mastery of men. She shows how he saved Civil War-torn America by appointing his fiercest rivals to key cabinet positions, making them help achieve his vision for peace. As well as a thrilling piece of narrative history, it’s an inspiring study of one of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen. This is a book to bury yourself in.’

Finally, he talked about a publication by the Royal Horticultural Society about creating a vegetable and fruit plot in your garden…  A little light relief, perhaps, from all the fascinating and heart-stopping reading…

All synopses have been taken from Nielsen BookData Online.

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Author: Berkhamsted School Library

Main aims for Berkhamsted School Library • to provide a central resource for the whole school curriculum • to encourage an ethos of enquiry and discovery • to assist pupils in becoming confident and independent learners • to develop research and information skills throughout the school • to offer resources which enrich cultural values and experiences for pupils, as well as have a role in their recreational life and promote reading for pleasure as a lifelong activity

1 thought on “Mr Rees’s book choice for World Book Day”

  1. Mr Harvey read ‘Touching the void’ during the Spring half-term break. He says:

    “I read ‘Touching the Void’ by Joe Simpson. I had already seen the excellent film of this mountaineering story and literally wept because it was so harrowing – and yet uplifting too! The book did not disappoint by comparison. Although there is some technical detail which only climbers could really appreciate, most of the content is easy to grasp and contains some brilliant description – not only of the landscape but of what the two mountaineers felt. Particularly impressive – and gripping – is when the ‘other climber’s’ point if view is introduced, since you then read alternating chapters of how each experienced the same catastrophic events. I was amazed to discover that Joe Simpson had also written the ‘Simon sections’ (i.e. the viewpoint of the other mountaineer); these are in the first person and are totally convincing, yet were based only on what Simon told Joe after their adventure. But what makes this book most compelling is that the second half is an account of incredible suffering (physical injury and mental anguish) but unbelievable determination, on Joe’s part, to survive. And he did!”

    With thanks to Mr Harvey, this is a book that all budding mountaineers should read…

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