There's a few bookworms amongst the team here at Venture Trust, and we're always on the look-out for books that help us to articulate the issues facing our participants, the wider context of our programmes, and the need for our support.
Below are our suggestions. All of these are well worth a read as background to understanding why we do what we do, why it's so necessary, and why it works. We're always on the look out for new suggestions though, so please get in touch if you've read anything you think we should include here.
Meanwhile, we highly recommend you curl up with a cup of tea and one of the following...
Wasted, Mark Johnson.
A life story of the author - charting abuse, drug use, prison, homelessness and ultimately, recovery and success. Illustrates that change is always possible, that no one should be considered 'beyond hope', and shows the interconnectedness of the issues facing complicated young people.
"It's an all too familiar story of a loveless childhood blighted by violence and a damaged adolescent turning to alcohol and drugs. Yet what set this misery memoir apart is not the fact that he came through it and won the 2005 Prince's Trust Young Achiever of the Year Award, but that he is using its lessons to inform government policy. 'The book. It's not about me,' Johnson stresses. 'I'm opening the door for people'." - Guardian interview
Boy A, Jonathan Trigell.
A look at the difficultlies and practicalities of life after release from years in a Young Offenders Institution.
"Broadly based on the James Bulger tragedy, it tells the story of Jack, now aged 24 and trying to start again under a new identity after years at juvenile institutions. When he buys a cut-throat razor with his first earnings, the future looks bleak.
This is no born villain. There are many references to the possible contributions made by his miserable childhood. Parents and local authority seem happy to ignore his repeated truanting, punctuated by pitiless bullying in school. Then there is his truly dangerous companion, Boy B, without whom Jack would have been far too gormless to have got into such terrible trouble.
Harrowing at times, this compulsively readable novel is more optimistic than it sounds. Jack so nearly makes it, discovering love and friendship for the first time" - Independent book review
The Wild Places, Robert MacFarlane
A book about the search for 'wilderness': what it means, and why it matters. Will resonate with all of those - not least our participants - who have discovered a sense of peace, perspective and reflection out in the Highlands.
"In part this is a hymn to the bivvy bag, to a man getting to know his country, and submitting himself to its many moods and moments" - The Independent.
'Disgraced Banker' Blog
Ex-Stockbroker turned prisoner now writer, ‘DisgracedBanker’ was sentenced in 2011 to a term of imprisonment at Southwark Crown Court. During his time in prison, he was a fervent diarist and for the benefit of others who may face a period inside, he will be blogging his prison diary.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, William Kamkwamba
In short: A story about persistence, ambition, and ingenuity. This is the inspiring true story of William Kamkwamba, a boy with big dreams who built a windmill from junkyard scraps in order to help feed and educate his Malawian village. Aged 14, William encountered a book in his library called Using Energy, which described how windmills could be used to generate electricity. Recognising that to his village, electricity "meant more than just power, it was freedom", William resolved to build a windmill for his village.
A generation ago football players 'telling tales' on one another for name calling, or fans being fined and arrested for singing offensive songs would have been unimaginable. Today the new laws and regulations in football are portrayed as modern and tolerant. However, should offensive words be made illegal? Is this part of a progressive fight against bigotry? Or are these developments authoritarian and infantilising - creating a situation where grown men are treated, and encouraged to act like children who tell tales on one another?
Snobs' Law is an examination of the way football fans are regulated. Developed initially around an attempt to understand the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communication (Scotland) Bill, it begins by looking at the way fans were policed in the 1980s by the old conservative establishment who caged fans like animals and were ultimately responsible for the deaths at Hillsborough. This is done to contrast past forms of control with those being introduced by the 'cosmopolitan elite', a less overly elitist, politically correct bunch, who are more preoccupied with controlling our minds than our bodies. Words, as John Terry, Luis Suarez and Stephen Birrell have found out, are treated today as though they are weapons, and the 'offensive' use of them can result in the loss of liberty.
The Death of Bees
'I'm Marnie. Too young to smoke, too young to drink, too young to fuck, but who would have stopped me?'
Hazlehurst housing estate, Glasgow, Christmas Eve 2010. Fifteen-year-old Marnie and her little sister Nelly have just finished burying their parents in the back garden. Only Marnie and Nelly know how they got there. Lennie, the old guy next door, has taken a sudden interest in his two young neighbours and is keeping a close eye on them. He soon realises that the girls are all alone, and need his help - or does he need theirs?
As the year ends and another begins, the sisters' friends, their neighbours, and the authorities - not to mention the local drug dealer, who's been sniffing around for their father - gradually start to ask questions. And as one lie leads to another, darker secrets about Marnie's family come to light, making things even more complicated.
S.O.L.E’s - Self Organised Learning Environments
In this clip Dr Sugata Mitra shows that people (children especially) are capable of learning, things we might imagine are impossible to learn, when they approach learning in an interested and collaborative way. Individual development and learning through choice; individual development through experiential learning and group work - ideas that sit very much at the heart of Venture Trust’s philosophy.
9 Books set in the Highlands
Wild and beautiful, the Scottish Highlands have inspired some excellent stories. Check out this lovely list of books set in the Highlands from our friends at the Scottish Book Trust.