Great writers shape national imagination and conscience

It’s been a good Christmas for reading, not just on a personal level, but more broadly, with the nationwide Dickensfest a touching reminder of how close to the Brits’ heart the great master is. The TV Great Expectations pulled in, I think, 6 million viewers, not that everyone will read the book, but Dickens has always captured people through different media; Edwin Drood is re-imagined too. Dickens reminds us that a great writer can have a shaping effect on the national imagination and conscience. Tomalin’s (I’m told) masterly biography will need to wait until half term, but is part of my stack of book presents that I have yet to reach. No cause to complain, though, having managed a good balance over the holidays: some stuff to keep me thinking about how I do my job (Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, fast and slow), provocative kite-flying stuff (Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist), scary stuff about the mess we’re in and its historical context (Coggan’s Paper Promises), serious history (Beevor/Cooper’s Paris After the Liberation) and one stonkingly good bit of fiction, Roth’s Nemesis. Meanwhile, the big Kindle debate rolls on – and at least one Kindle belonging to a close family member lies unloved and barely ruffled in its box – it is only a matter of time.

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music school. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.