The ISL English teachers are here to give you ideas for what to read this school year so you can expand your mind. Because every day is a school day…

JEREMY LLOYD – An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

This tells the story of Roy, a young black man, who has been imprisoned for a crime he did not commit while his wife, Celestial, waits for his return. This is a story about a man desperately trying to get back home – a version of Homer’s Odyssey updated for today’s America. There is an urgent political dimension to this book, but it is not a shouty polemic; it is a quiet revolution. When I finished reading, I didn’t feel like picking up another book for a few weeks. I felt like I needed time to allow the story to sink in.

OLIVER ALEXANDER – A History of the World in 10½ Chapters by Julian Barnes

I like Julian Barnes for his philosophical playfulness and clever humour. This book I particularly enjoyed because it is a collection of ten (and a half) short stories drawn from history, art, and myth – all creative, and all reflective of concerns we face nowadays. If you enjoy the first story, you’ll probably appreciate the rest.

JOHN IVETT – Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski

This book explores a young man’s identity and sexuality in communist Poland. It’s set in 1981 when martial law was declared in the Socialist Republic of Poland to counter the popular protest movement led by the trade union Solidarity (Solidarność). The novel opens with the protagonist Ludwig alone in 1981 in the USA where he has recently escaped Poland and taken asylum.His writing is intimate, lyrical and explicit, conveying his deep sense of loss. The best novel I’ve read in a long time.

SHEILA KOROL – Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang

This novel was first published in 1991 and re-released in 2003 with a new author introduction. It is, however, a timeless memoir based on three generations of women in Chang’s life starting with her grandmother who was a concubine to a powerful warlord, her mother who lived through the rise of Mao’s Communist party, and finally the author herself who shares her firsthand experiences of the Cultural Revolution. This story is compelling, beautifully written, and entirely memorable.

CHRISTOPHER WALLACE – Educated by Tara Westover

Westover’s exploration of growing up in an oppressive and isolated family is both inspiring and shocking. I read this memoir often, reflecting on the power of faith and differing worldviews and perspectives. The narrative recounts Westover’s escape from the patriarchal home she was raised in and her journey towards a complete re-evaluation of her beliefs and identity. Filled with trauma, heartache, and encouragement, this book is a great reminder of how the world and our experiences are the ultimate form of education.

HANNAH BRENNAN – Anseo by Uni-Minh Kavanagh

Anseo (Here) is a memoir by a woman who was adopted from Vietnam to live in West Kerry, Ireland, when she was just six weeks old. Prompted to write the memoir in response to an incident of racial abuse in Dublin, the novel follows her upbringing in a loving home by her single mother and her grandfather who was a retired guard. This book certainly pushed me to look deeply at my own perceptions of my own culture, both positive and negative, and how language can make or break connections within that culture.

SHEILA KOROL – Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This novel is the story of Ifemelu, a young Nigerian woman struggling to find her place in the world. Her identity is challenged when she leaves her happy and carefree childhood in Lagos to immigrate to the United States where she struggles with racism for the first time. It’s fascinating to watch how her relationships with others – who all want Ifemelu to be different things – leads her to ultimately define on her own terms who she truly is. If you enjoy world literature, character-driven plots, and lyrical writing, I highly recommend this book.

COLETTE CORMICK – Sunfall by Jim Al-Khalili

This book is written by a real-life theoretical physicist and broadcaster best known as the presenter of the long-running weekly BBC Radio 4 programme, The Life Scientific. To me, the fact that this is a chap who knows what he’s talking about in scientific matters makes this futuristic thriller about an end-of-the-world event that could actually happen very compelling. A proper page-turner, which kept me gripped.

Gradient Issue #2: The magazine of the International School of Lausanne

In this edition, we explore how our community has coped during this special year to make the best of it. We also have a special section on multilingualism and how it can both benefit and challenge our students.