Posts Tagged With: books

A Reading Group with a Ghost Story

Reading Group… Is it old-fashioned? Maybe some people think so. I run a reading group and I would like to share how I did it. As a librarian and a teacher it was a challenge for me. I hope you will think a bit differently about reading groups after reading about my experiences. 

Esol Cafe is a language school in Cambridge and I had a chance to have a reading group (called ’Just Read’) there. It is a well-known language school and I have been a volunteer there for 2 years. I was very lucky because I run ’Just Read’ with a lovely, native speaker teacher, Rachel. As I am Hungarian, it was a big help. She always gave us a deeper insight. If we had an expression or sentence that was difficult to understand, she explained it. We sometimes talked about the origin of a word. Later some native speaker volunteers also joined us who really enjoyed the sessions and shared a lot of interesting things with us.

I think we analyzed this novel quite deeply. We did not only talked about the story and shared our opinions, but also tried to find the typical structures and words that the author used in this novel. And we practiced some grammar as well. We talked about the atmosphere of the different scenes and our volunteers highlighted some really important and interesting things that we would not have been aware of, if we had read the book alone.

It was Michaelmas term (Autumn term in the colleges in Cambridge) in 2017 and this ghost novel really suited this season with its special athmosphere. And suited the place as well, since it sets mostly in Cambridge. I chose: Susan Hill: The Man in the Picture.

 The Man in the Picture is a ghost story, by Susan Hill, about a Venetian painting. It sets in different gloomy places in England. It starts on a cold, dark winter night in a room in one of Cambridge’s colleges, when an elderly scholar, Dr. Theodor Parmitter, feels the urge to tell his story to Oliver, one of his ex-students. (Kathlen)

The book is 145 pages and has 9 chapters. We had 8 sessions (8 weeks). We had an introduction in the first session and a summary in the last one. So we had 6 sessions to read through the book. So we read cca. 30 pages (1-2 chapters) each week. 

The book drew my attention from its first page and kept my enthusiasm high through its chapters. Especially the splendid descriptions of the places where it passes are very impressive for me. (Eser)

Our ‘weekly routine’

We had a ’weekly routine’. Every time we gave titles for the chapters (as they are just numbered). This task was very interesting. Some of them gave a simple title, others gave a more meaningful title for the chapters. 

Every week we had ’words of the week’. These could be nice, difficult, strange words. We focused on adverbs and adjectives as using more adverbs ad adjectives in the right place makes a text nicer and more colourful and helps to imagine a situation. We learnt some really useful ones e.g.: splendid, robust, meticulous, extremely grand, magnificent, tormented. And I think our favourite word was ’petered out’. And we will always remember when we shared our opinions related to this sentence (it took half an hour 🙂

’With so many billions of people born and all of us only having two eyes, one nose, one mouth, I suppose it is even more remarkable that there are not more identical.’ (p.24)

We always read loudly as well. They had to choose their favourite paragraphs in the chapter and explain why they chose them.

I sent a summary by mail to them after all of the sessions. It contained our new words, new grammar and the most important things that we talked about.

Finally everybody had to write a review. Everybody found it difficult in the first session when I shared my plan, but they could do and enjoyed it at the end of the course.

Sessions and chapters

Now I would like to mention some techniques that I used. If you choose this book to read in your reading group, feel free to use them. You can use these techniques for other novels as well.

Chapter 2

We played a scene from this chapter in pairs. It was a dialogue between Theo and a man after the auction (p.15-18). They really enjoyed being actresses and actors. It was one of the funniest sessions.

Chapter 3-4

It was a fearful part of the book and not easy to read. First we made a mind map about FEAR. This way we collected a lot of words that we

I guess Theo lived in Trinity college

I guess Theo lived in Trinity college

knew related to FEAR. After this, we talked about the following quotes about fear and oppression. (You can find some examples below. There are more in these chapters.)

’I stopped because a sense of fear and oppression came over me like a wave of fever, so that a shudder ran through my body’ – (p.32)

’The fear I felt was not of anyone of anything, it was just an anonymous, unattached fear and I was in its grip.’ – (p.32)

’It [the fear] was combined with a sense of impending doom, a dread, and also with a terrible sadness, as if someone close to me was suffering and I was feeling that suffering with them.’ – (p.32)

’What I saw made my blood freeze.’ – (p.36)

Chapter 5-6

You can find some conditinal sentences in these chapters, so it was a good topic for this session.

If I had not paused, it would have hit me on the head. (Chapter 5 – p.45)

… it would be better for your peace of mind if we let  the whole thing drop  (Chapter 5 –  p.5)

I wrote some conditional sentences from the book with some missing words and they had to find them out.

The next chapter is The Countess’s Story. It was a bit long, so I divided it into two parts.

Page 71-89

It was one of my favourite session. There are 9 scenes in this part of the book. I gave the list of the scenes to the students and a lot of words with them. They had to match the words to the scenes.


Love at First Sight

Demonic possession


The Countess’s Upbringing

Lawrence’s Father, The Earl Of Hawdon’s Death

The Countess And the Picture

A Dinner

In Venice

Home Again

An example of the words: 

Demonic Possession:  Clarissa Vigo was jeaolus  a broken heart  bitter, angry  tormented  destroy other people’s happiness  undertook exorcisms  anonymus letter

Characters of the book

Of course we talked a lot about the characters as well. I think after reading cca. 100 pages they knew the characters much better, so they could match some expressions (from the book) with the characters. E.g. :

Dr. Theo Parmitter / Dr. Theo Parmitter’s: was an only child – mother died when he was 3 – aunt and uncle were cultured people was hale and hearty – was in his eighties – was crippled by severe arthritis  had difficulty leaving his room – was one of a dying breed – was witty – was a picture dealer – was meticulous

They wrote about the characters in their reviews as well: 

I am talking about  two contrasting portraits: on one hand, the Countess, which is an example of perfect wife, submissive and devoted. Her life turns around Lawrence and his family. She has no name and her identity is a blurred one. She has no character.  On the other hand, Clarissa Vigo is beautiful, young, elegant. She has a name and a surname, a very well defined identity, and she has human feelings such as jealousy. She’s a woman who has been betrayed and who is not going to forget it.  (Felicea)

Looking at the whole story, men plays very passive roles and they tend to get killed and trapped in an haunted painting, which seems to be a blank page where women talk, fight, threaten and, maybe, forgive each other. (Kathlen)


Finally we read some other people’s opinions. (I collected them from the internet: I chose some opinions (some sentences) and printed them out. We compared our opinions with theirs. We also clarified the following expressions and talked about their importance: final line (in this case: ”I pray that I will not have a son.”) and plot hole.

I think, our last session was the best. We played two games. We laughed a lot. The first was a competition. They enjoyed it very much. They had to find out the second part (in italics) of the following sentences/expressions of the book (some example): 

Hale and hearty – One of a dying breed – Take a brisk walk – A bottle of good claret – My aunt and uncle were surprisingly widely and well read – The picture is not for sale

The second game was This or That? (also called Would you rather questions) This or that questions is an amazing talking game where players choose which of two items they prefer. They do not have to give long explanation just quickly choose one of these possibilites.

Clarissa Vigo OR The Countess  Yorkshire OR Cambridge – Theo OR Oliver – keeping the Venetian painting OR selling the Venetian painting – going to the ball where the countess and Lawrence met OR going to the large dinner where the Countess met Clarissa before her honeymoon – whisky OR claret – honeymoon in Venice OR honeymoon anywhere else – meticulous OR does not follow a clear system

They also had to write ”This or That questions” and asked each others.

I can recommend this book for older readers and for those who are the fans of ghost story. (Eser)

It is an enjoyable read on a dark winter’s evening. It is a story within a story or I could say more stories within a story. It is a bit old-fashioned. I found it interesting and held my attention. After reading it, I had just one question in my mind: ”Who gave the painting to Clarissa Vigo?” (Anita)

P.S.: I finished this book on an aeroplane. When I closed it and looked up I saw an advertisement on the back of the seat in front of me. I did not understand it. I guess it was in Spanish. What I understood was only this word: VIGO – with capital letters. I made a photo, but it disappeared from my phone. I am sure I made it. I wanted to show it in the Reading Group. Later I found out Vigo is a Spanish island. To be honest, it was scary…

Categories: Just Read, könyvek, könyvtáros, Reading Club, Susan Hill, The Man in the Picture | Címkék: , , , , , , , | Hozzászólás

”Colour” – An Exhibition With My Colours 

One the many good things about Cambridge is that it can cause surprises even after two years. You can almost be addicted to the beauty and charm of this city. No one day is like the other. They are full of surprises: interesting meetings with different people, everyday, little miracles or life-changing events… and plenty of cultural experiences which one can not get enough of. Moreover, this city always exceeds itself. As if it wanted to say: ”I could give you more than you think. Look! I can be more beautiful today than I was yesterday.” It can be a night image behind Magdalene College, near the River Cam, that the full moon painted with silver, claret and green, colouring the slightly wavy water, the bridge, and the old building with its unique shades. Or it can be a message from an old doorway, from an alleyway that opens up unexpectedly from nowhere, or a lonely but proudly rolling boat: “You are lucky to see me.” And I had this feeling when I wandered into the 200-year-old Fitzwilliam Museum with a friend of mine last Sunday. I had been there several times, but that afternoon visit was accidental. And again, Cambridge gave me an “I can be more beautiful today than I was yesterday.” feeling when I entered the exhibition called ”Colour: The Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts”. 

Especially as a librarian, I was in a flow, and this feeling took me from one book to the other: from a wonderful Bible from 1420-30, open at The Book of Genesis, decorated with a nicely painted initial ”I” that ran on the side of the old, cracked page, to a beautiful book from Boethius (1476), who is my favourite author from that time. Each volume made me feel the passage of time. I saw some Books of Hours (medieval prayer books) as well. The oldest manuscript was from 930-50, which was amazing! Of course, these are just some of the 150 manuscripts that were displayed, and most of them were more than 600-800 years old.  

The most interesting show-piece was a scroll by Sir George Ripley, who was an alchemist in the 16th century. It was at least 5 feet long and about 2.5 feet wide. You can read a poem about alchemists’ ”magic” on it.  And how does alchemy connect to writing manuscripts? It is said there were six colours that were made by alchemists and used for decorating books at the time. It must be true, because I think the moon used these colours that night when it allowed me to see how it painted that beautiful picture of Cambridge.  

Suggested links:

Colour: The Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts:

Colour: The Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts review – a rainbow of agony and ecstasy (The Guardian)

About George Ripley:


Categories: books, Cambridge, colour, Colour: The Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts, Fitzwilliam Museum, librarian, library, manuscript | Címkék: , , , , , , , | Hozzászólás

A “mini library” on Római-part, in Budapest

It was a hot afternoon. Downtown was unbearably hot. I went to Római-part (Roman Beach), because a friend of mine, who is a librarian invited me to ”Fellini Római Kultúrbisztró”.

(Here are some pictures about this place:

Római-part (Roman Beach) is a 10-kilometer-long part of the Danube shore on the Buda side, in Budapest. It is really like a resort. There are hotels, summer houses, camping sites, boathouses, sports facilities and restaurants by the riverside. You can eat pancakes and a favourite, Hungarian snack, lángos. The boathouses are standing next to each other all the way long, so you can rent a canoe or a kayak. But if you are not a sport fan, you can have a rest or listen to a concert that a local band gives on summer evenings in one of the restaurants. You can dance and have fun. 

After that busy day, I was walking by the restaurants, where people were eating fish and drinking beer and I was happy to feel the gentle wind. 

”Fellini Római Kultúrbisztró” often gives place to concerts and cultural events. And in these summer months, a ”mini library” operates there. The day I went there was the first day when you could borrow books and journals, and could read them while you were drinking a cold beer or fresh lemonade (then returned them). 

You can enjoy reading in these deck-chairs

The organizer of this mini library is one of the public libraries in Budapest, called ”Óbudai Platán Könyvtár”. This mini library is ”officially” called ”Bibliocikli”, because books and journals are brought to the ”Kultúrbisztró” by bike every day. The mini library is opened between 19th June and 19th August (Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 14.00-18.00 and Saturday, Sunday 11.00-19.00)

“Mini Library” – “Bibliocikli”


I think it is a good initiative. There are some other examples for ”summer libraries” in Hungary. Some ”beach libraries” operate at Lake Balaton (e.g. in Siófok). These ”mini libraries” ensure that books ”go to” readers. The aim of running them is to please readers and popularize books, reading and libraries.

“Mini library” (Bibliocikli) is an easy and liberal way of borrowing books. People can choose from about a hundred books/journals, and if they ask for a title, it will be ”bicycled along” the next day from the library. 

And I have to mention that it is a real “green library”.  🙂 

The “mini library” is ”closed”. Szuszi is bringing the books back to the library.

How can yout get to Római-part?

Take the No. 5 HÉV (suburban railway – green and white trains) from Batthyány tér to „Rómaifürdő” or „Csillaghegy”. Alternatively, catch a 34  bus from „Árpád híd” metro stop on the blue M3 line. You can get off at „Nánási út”. Plus 10 minutes walk. (From the HÉV station it can be a 20-30 minutes walk.)


You can find the Hungarian version of this post here:

Categories: books, Budapest, könyv, könyvek, könyvtár, könyvtáros, librarian, library, pop-up library | Címkék: , , , , , , , | Hozzászólás

”Bring a book! Take a book!” – Two ”BookStations” were opened in Obuda, Budapest

(Translated by Andrea Hagymási. The original Hungarian version:

Two free 24-hour pop-up libraries (called ”BookStations”) were created by the local government of Obuda Bekasmegyer (3rd district of Budapest), “Platan” Public Library and  “Kulturmontazs” Civil Association. BookStations were opened on 6th June, 2012. 

They are situated in the busy areas of the district: 

 1. Aquincum BookStation – Budapest, 3rd district, near Római tér 1.

2. Csillaghegy BookStation – Budapest, 3rd district, near Mátyás király út  5.

3. San Marco Bookstation – Budapest, 3rd district, 81. San Marco Street

4. Children Bookstation – Budapest, 3rd district, 9-13. Silvanus Sétány

The aim of running them is not only to popularize reading, but also to be conducive to caring for each other. BookStations operate on the basis of reciprocity. I have already written about how libraries can be public places. Libraries offer the most essential condition of community activities: a meeting place. It is especially true in case of pop-up libraries. While you are looking for a book on the shelves, you can chat with people who are around the BookStation. You can meet new people from the neighbourhood. You can pick up an unfamiliar book. Or you can choose an interesting title. And you can replace it with another.

The aim is to run BookStations by people and civil associations.

Pop-up libraries, which can be found and are very similar all around the world, have been established to ensure that books “go to” readers. These libraries are always in change. New books appear on their shelves day by day. There is a pop-up library in New York. It was created from an old phone booth.


There are some in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. You can find a list of them here (with photos):

I wish BookStations  became kind and useful places.


 Gerilla könyvtárosok a Wall Streeten. KIT Hírlevél. 2011. október 28.

Sajtóközlemény KönyvMegálló átadásáról

The “Pop-Up” Library: A Mini-Movement of Knowledge.

Kávészünet. Az Országos Idegennyelvű Könyvtár blogja. Könyvtári hírek a világból.

New York’s Pop Up Libraries. Travelletes, 2012. március 9.

„Public libraries as meeting places” – comments on Prof. Ragnar Audunson’s lecture on Books and Soul

Categories: books, BookStation, Budapest, Hungary, KönyvMegálló, librarian, library, meeting places, pop-up library | Címkék: , , , , , , , , | Hozzászólás ingyenes honlap vagy saját honlap létrehozása.