Academics from Oxford's English faculty have created a ‘Ten-Minute Book Club’ for anyone who wants to explore literature - but is short on time and low on energy. Their move was inspired by reports of a rise in ‘virtual’ book clubs during lockdown, as a means to escape and connect with others.
Starting this week, and every week until October, a ten-minute literary extract will be released by the project team, led by Dr Alexandra Paddock, Professor Kirsten Shepherd-Barr and Dr Erica Lombard. These will be from a wide selection of genres, including novels, essays, poetry and short stories. Each will be accompanied by a short introduction (in text, video or audio format) by an Oxford academic suggesting themes or contexts and suggestions for further reading - with a free link to the full text.
Starting this week, and every week until October, a ten-minute literary extract will be released
Dr Paddock said, ‘We noticed during lockdown that so many people turned to literature for escape, connection and excitement but, at the same time, the pressures of lockdown were making long, intense stretches of reading harder...That is why we set up Ten-Minute Book Club - although we strongly believe its content will be relevant and useful long after the current restrictions have been removed.
‘For this project, we brought forward some resources from our project LitHits, a free app being created in the English faculty, which is designed to tackle some of the barriers to reading for pleasure.'
Professor Karen O’Brien, Head of Humanities at Oxford and a founder of the project, said, ‘We believe literature is more important than ever, as we live through the current pandemic and come to terms with its challenges and meaning for all of our lives. Ten-Minute Book Club aims to make a great conversation about literature possible, and to offer a quick and accessible way into some of the greatest writing by extraordinary writers from all backgrounds, guided by Oxford’s expertise on exciting authors and books.’
Ten-Minute Book Club aims to make a great conversation about literature possible, and to offer a quick and accessible way into some of the greatest writing by extraordinary writers from all backgrounds, guided by Oxford’s expertise on exciting authors and books
Dr Paddock added, ‘We have designed Ten-Minute Book Club as a DIY collection of readings to be enjoyed alone or to spark discussion with family, friends, colleagues or anyone else…We chose a mixture of classic well-known literature and outstanding works which deserve more prominence, mostly from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.’
‘All the works are originally written in English, by authors from all over the world, including New Zealand, Ireland, the Caribbean, India, United States and Britain...Whilst our brief, curated extracts might encourage readers to dive into the full book, we also want to emphasise the worth of engaging with shorter reading.'
She concluded, ‘In choosing our writers we aim to foreground the historical importance of writers of colour and the global history of literature in English. We are committed to reckoning with the colonial values still inherent in the canon of English literature, and to the urgency and importance of working to decolonise the curriculum.’
The first book to be released is The Souls of Black Folk by the 19th century sociologist, Pan-Africanist, novelist and critic W.E.B. Du Bois. In addition, the list of authors includes: Toru Dutt, Mary Prince, Geoffrey Chaucer and Patience Agbabi, Olaudah Equiano, Katherine Mansfield, Elizabeth Keckley, James Joyce, Mary Shelley and Charlotte Brontë.
Patience Agbabi, is an Oxford English alumna, and the one modern-day writer in the toolkit. She kindly gave permission for her text to be used for free. The other books are out of copyright .
The resources in the Ten-Minute Book Club were created by Oxford's Great Writers Inspire, Writers Make Worlds and LitHits projects, and supported by the Faculty of English and the Humanities Division at Oxford University. A new book will be released here each week.