The POA Learning summer reading list

Bev Nolker is a Tutor at the POA Learning Centre at Eastchurch on the Isle of Sheppey, and has been involved in setting up a book club.

As summer is here, and many people are looking at a holiday reading list, Bev tells unionlearn about the book club – and a suggested reading list.


Two years ago Sheppey Matters, a local charity, asked if the Eastchurch POA Learning Centre would like to partner with them in facilitating a book club for the local community. Since then, the group has grown from strength to strength with a host of completed books under their belt (or should that be on their bookshelf?)

However, this is a book club with a difference. Yes, books are read, reviewed and discussed but we like to inject some fun and functional skills at the same time. A prime example of this is when ‘etymology’ was the topic of the week. Etymology is the study of word origins. For example; the word, ‘library’, derives from the Latin ‘liber’ (book) which then evolved to ‘libraria’ (bookshop) until eventually, our ancestors of the late middle English period, created the word ‘library’. 

Researching the etymology of words might sound like a boring task but when POA Learning and Sheppey Matters team up it always becomes entertaining. So, we revived the classic TV show, armed with dictionaries, pieces of card and our best poker faces. The group split into teams and worked hard to think of an eclectic mix of words in an attempt to outwit our opponents. We manifested our best Frank Muir (minus the bow tie), Robert Robinson and Patrick Campbell and had some fun. 

We have also used Jenga, the wooden block stacking game, to reinforce learning about a particular author or book. The group has a marvellous ability to create a story from virtually nothing at all so our Chinese Whispers (with a twist) game always commands their attention.

The beauty of informal adult learning is that it does not have to be prescriptive and results led. It can be fun and informative, encouraging lifelong learning and (hopefully) a love of reading and books in general. Indulging in a variety of genres also helps when taking part in TV quiz shows – now there’s an incentive!

Over the summer, our group has chosen three books to read and review:

  • The Lavender Keeper by Fiona McIntosh (Overview from "Provence, 1942 Luc Bonet, brought up by a wealthy Jewish family in the foothills of the French Alps, finds his life shattered by the brutality of Nazi soldiers. Leaving his abandoned lavender fields behind, Luc joins the French Resistance in a quest for revenge. Paris, 1943 Lisette Forestier is on a mission: to work her way into the heart of a senior German officer, and to infiltrate the very masterminds of the Gestapo. But can she balance the line between love and lies?"

  • The Circus Train Conspiracy by Edward Marston (Overview from "Following a string of successful performances, the Moscardi Circus is travelling by train to Newcastle for their next show. Yet a collision on the track with a couple of sleepers causes pandemonium: passengers thrown about and animals escaping into the night. When the body of a woman is discovered in nearby woodland, Inspector Colbeck is desperate to lend assistance, believing the two incidents might be connected. Who is the nameless woman and who is targeting the Moscardi's Magnificent Circus?"

  • How to be Happy by Eva Woods (Overview from "Annie has been sad for so long that she's forgotten how to be any other way. Until she meets Polly. Polly is everything that Annie is not. She's colourful, joyful, happy. Because if recent events have taught Polly anything, it's that your time is too short to waste a single day. Polly has one hundred days to help Annie find happiness. Annie's convinced it's impossible, but so is saying no to Polly. And on an unforgettable journey, Annie begins to realise that maybe, just maybe, there's still colour to be found in the world. But then it becomes clear that Polly's about to need her new friend more than ever...and Annie will have to decide once and for all whether letting others in is a risk worth taking."

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Yusuf Dadabhoy