Teachers recommend their favourite reads

Our favourite reads

Our favourite reads - Credit: Getty Images/Hemera

As Pride and Prejudice tops teachers’ favourite books in a national survey by the TES (Times Educational Supplement), we decided to find out about teachers’ recommended reads here in the south-east…

Suzanne Trivière

Role: Head of English

School: Burgess Hill School for Girls, Keymer Road, Burgess Hill, West Sussex RH15 0EG. Tel: 01444 241050 / burgesshill-school.com

Favourite book: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

“Set in a small liberal arts college on the east coast of America, this novel tells the story of Richard and his involvement with an elite group of students and their powerful and manipulative classics tutor, Julian.

“This is a huge novel – it borrows from the Victorian gothic tradition but is thoroughly modern too, and asks the really big questions – about identity, belonging, right and wrong, greed and power.

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“It’s also a brilliant ‘who dunnit’ although we know from the very first page.

“What the story does so brilliantly is keep us reading until the very end to find out whether the crime is ever exposed and punished.”


Sally Barr

Role: Head of English and drama

School: Sutton Valence Prep School, Church Road, Chart Sutton, Sutton Valence, Maidstone, Kent ME17 3RF. Tel: 01622 842117 / svs.org.uk

Favourite book: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

“This is a beautifully written story about two Afghan women and how their friendship led them to face the most awful events during the time of Taliban rule in Afghanistan. The story is one of friendship, fear and brutality and as I began to feel entwined in their plight I could not put this book down.

“The stunning description is so vivid that you feel, with every sense, as if you are there. It brought home to me the brutality of this country and how its women are treated but also inspired me as I read of their courage and determination to overcome hatred and to let love conquer. I was moved to tears by this book, as I thought of how these events must be happening for real.

“I chose this book as my favourite read because the emotion and beauty of the language have stayed with me ever since reading it; it is one of the most heartbreaking and uplifting stories I have ever read.”


Caroline Lawson

Role: Head of First Form

School: Reigate Grammar School, Reigate Road, Reigate, Surrey RH1 6BH. Tel: 01737 222231 / reigategrammar.org

Favourite book: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

“I have always favoured the chilling drama genre and Sarah Waters really mastered the ultimate novel for me in that type.

“She manages to capture brilliantly the eerie mood of the large Georgian house together with detailed and believable character drawings. The unreliable narrator and the sinister activities in the house also make for compelling reading. In fact, the author manages to draw you in to the point that I found the scene in the nursery harrowing and frightening. The end of the book still chills me now and makes the hair on the back of my neck prickle.

“Sarah Waters has the amazing ability to set the scene perfectly, whatever time she chooses to set her books in. An excellently written book and a truly page-turning read, The Little Stranger is a book that will stay with me for a long time.”


Leisa Chapple

Role: Physics teacher

School: Tormead School, Cranley Road, Guildford, Surrey GU1 2JD. Tel: 01483 575101 / tormeadschool.org.uk

Favourite book: House on the Strand by Daphne Du Maurier

“This is a book that I can read many times over and it will still leave me with thoughts and echoes of the story for days after; does he really travel back in time?

“The descriptions of the countryside are vivid and remind me of my many trips to Cornwall as well as evoking clear images of the past. The author develops the characters well (as she does in all her books) and you begin to really care and feel the desperation of Richard.

“I enjoy any book that switches from one time to the next, frequently building parallel stories that interlink and developing the lives of the families in both times. Here, Daphne Du Maurier succeeds in building both tension and wonder.”


Marc Broughton

Role: Head of Third Year, teacher of English

School: Caterham School, Harestone Valley Road, Caterham, Surrey CR3 6YA. Tel: 01883 343028 / caterhamschool.co.uk

Favourite book: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières

“As an English teacher, there are many novels I could write about but this one evokes great personal memory.

“Set on the Island of Kefalonia, I read the book while staying there with my wife, then girlfriend, and so many aspects of the book resonated with me as I read.

“While there, we managed to visit areas of this beautiful Island mentioned by de Bernières in his writing.

“The journey he takes his protagonists on and the fact that it is set against a backdrop of war makes the novel all the more poignant and moving.

“There are some wonderfully creative moments that work equally well as stand-alone pieces of writing or as a part of the novel as a whole.

“It is also a novel that has allowed me to remember a very happy moment in my life.”


Yve Akehurst

Role: Head of the Learning Resources Centre

School: Burgess Hill School for Girls, Keymer Road, Burgess Hill, West Sussex RH15 0EG. Tel: 01444 241050 / burgesshill-school.com

Favourite book: Sophie’s Choice by William Styron

“One of my all-time favourite reads is Sophie’s Choice by American author William Styron. It’s a truly sad and moving tale and one that has stayed with me ever since I first read it back in the 80s. It’s also one of the few novels I feel has been adapted skilfully by Hollywood.

“It’s actually a story within a story; the book’s narrator is Stingo, a naïve young Southern writer who has just moved to post-war Brooklyn, New York, to pen what he feels will be his ‘masterpiece’. In comparison is the heart-wrenching tale of Sophie’s life written through Stingo’s eyes before, during and after her time in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

“The power of this story as it unfolds is unparalleled; it moved me to tears the first time I read it and still does.”


Penny Dreghorn

Role: Head of English

School: Tormead School, Cranley Road, Guildford, Surrey GU1 2JD. Tel: 01483 796065 / tormeadschool.org.uk

Favourite book: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

“Strongly influenced by my father’s love of Zane Grey and informed when very young that The Good wore white stetsons and The Bad, black, I have had a lifetime attachment to the genre of the Western. This eventually resulted in my first choice of long-haul venue being the West Coast of the USA and a daughter’s Gap Year employment on a dude ranch in Wyoming.

“McMurtry’s masterpiece exemplifies all the atmosphere, characters, danger and unlimited horizons that I (completely mistakenly, I realise) attribute to that culture; Gus and Woodrow, Blue Duck and Jake Spoon continue to inhabit my imagination, whilst The Hat Creek Outfit and their long trail to Montana make me yearn to put aside the marking pen, abandon Shakespeare, don spurs and ‘move ‘em out’!”


Sue Trumble

Role: Librarian

School: Cranmore Prep, Epsom Road, West Horsley, Surrey KT24 6AT. Tel: 01483 280340 / cranmoreprep.co.uk

Favourite book: The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

“I first read this book when I was about eight years old and was utterly enchanted from the very beginning.

“I had no idea before then of the wonderful worlds that a book could take you into, and was enraptured by this land of hobbits, dwarves, dragons, trolls and elves, with its strange languages, its myths and legends. I subjected my poor family to a blow-by-blow synopsis of it and then rushed like an addict to get The Lord of the Rings from the library, even though this frightened me to such an extent that I was afraid to go to sleep for a long time afterwards.

“Later, I read The Hobbit aloud to my own children and I find that our prep school pupils still love this book.

“It has everything: adventure, excitement, humour, heroes and villains, but best of all that sense of wonder that comes with a work of such powerful imagination.”


Paul Henderson

Role: Headmaster

School: Eltham College, Grove Park Road, London SE9 4QF. Tel: 0208 857 1455 / eltham-college.org.uk

Favourite book: The Magus by John Fowles

“As an author, John Fowles always tries to challenge his readers to look at the novel in a different way.

“The Magus takes the story of a love affair set on a Greek island when nothing seems as it should be.

“In many ways, it imitates Shakespeare’s The Tempest in the way The Magus of the title toys with the hero through deception and tricks.

“In the end, I was left still not knowing what had really happened but I felt intrigued throughout and exhausted too.

“As a teacher of Latin and Ancient Greek myself, I also found a certain affinity with the protagonist, Nicholas Urfe, as he found himself witnessing ancient Greek myths coming to life before his very eyes.

“The fact that I read it first on a holiday on a Greek island may have given the whole story greater piquancy!”


Mark Zacharias

Role: English teacher

School: Epsom College, College Road, Epsom, Surrey KT17 4JQ. Tel: 01372 821000 / epsomcollege.org.uk

Favourite book: Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

“’It is fatal to look hungry. It makes people want to kick you.’

“In this age of austerity, Orwell’s largely autobiographical account of life on the breadline speaks as loudly today as it did when it was first published in 1933. Orwell was an old Etonian, but unlike so many of the ruling elite, he had first-hand experience of poverty, and this vigorous tale of life in the restaurant kitchens of Paris and then as a wandering vagrant around London both compels us and yet also challenges our lazy attitudes towards the poorest members of society.

“It is not only an engaging yarn with vivid characters and sharp observations; in the words of J.B. Priestley, it is also a ‘valuable social document’ and one that demands our attention still.”


Ed O’Connor

Role: Deputy head

School: St Edmund’s School, St Thomas Hill, Canterbury, Kent CT2 8HU. Tel: 01227 475600 / stedmunds.org.uk/

Favourite book: Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties by Ian MacDonald

“This is essential reading for all Beatles anoraks (like me!). MacDonald starts with erudite analysis of the Sixties in terms of their social and political significance, paying close attention to the central importance of The Beatles. He then deconstructs every Beatles song, explaining their context, underlying creative processes and technical features. At times, the writing is so compelling (for example, his memorable description of the one-take, super-charged recording of the iconic Twist and Shout) that the reader almost feels transported to Abbey Road Studio 2. MacDonald also brilliantly uses his individual song critiques as insights to the cultural history of the decade.

“I grew up endlessly playing Beatles records but this book completely changed my understanding of their music and the way I listen. It really has been a revolution in my head.”


TES teachers’ top reads…

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

3. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

4. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

5. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

6. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

7. The Lord of the Rings (series) by J.R.R. Tolkien

8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

9. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

10. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

11. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

12. The Hunger Games (series) by Suzanne Collins

13. The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

14. The Chronicles of Narnia (series) by C.S. Lewis

15. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

16. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

17. His Dark Materials (series) by Philip Pullman

18. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

19. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

20. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

n Find out more by visiting the TES website at tes.co.uk