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‘Forgotten books inspire a love of reading’

The compulsory reading list is infamous among secondary school students, and for all the wrong reasons. This prompted the Faculty of Humanities and the Onderwijsnetwerk Zuid-Holland (South Holland Education Network) to launch the Alternative Reading List Award, in search of books that motivate young people to read more. With his pitch on a Dutch detective novel, Dutch Language and Culture student Goran Bouaziz won the very first award.

Goran nominated the book Het Mysterie van de Mondscheinsonate (The Mystery of the Moonlight Sonata), a Dutch detective novel by Willy Corsari. ‘It’s an exciting, and sometimes funny, read. It’s full of colourful characters, not too long  and – despite its publication date – still quite easy to follow,’ Goran sums the book up. ‘But there is more to Mondscheinsonate than just those characteristics. You can also have really interesting discussions about it. It’s such a rich book and it has a lot of depth, despite what you might assume considering the entertainment value.’

A little overwhelmed

Goran was overjoyed when he heard he had won. ‘I was in the middle of a book market in the main hall of the Lipsius building, when I was awarded the prize out of the blue,’ he explains. ‘I’m glad this book is finally getting the recognition it deserves and is now a part of the wonderful list of entries compiled through this competition.’

And yet his entry was very much a spur of the moment. Goran did not have a plan of action. The participants were asked to give a one-minute pitch explaining why their entry should be on the reading list. ‘The night before the deadline, I pressed a camera into the hands of one of my fellow students, found a classroom with an empty white wall, and simply improvised three pitches one after the other,’ he confesses. ‘I ended up choosing the one where I sounded the most animated.’

An accessible stepping stone

His somewhat impromptu entry notwithstanding, Goran is very happy that the current reading list is getting more attention. ‘Young people don’t read nearly enough, which might not be so strange considering that the standard titles on the reading list don’t appeal to everyone, nor are they an accessible stepping stone,’ he explains.

‘If you look past the standard “classics”, you’ll soon discover many wonderful books that never made it to the literary canon. In some cases, the entire genre has been looked down on for years. Detective fiction, for example, was quickly dismissed as pulp. It’s precisely these forgotten books, which are often much more accessible than the well-known classics or that appeal to a completely different audience, that have the ability to excite young people and – besides the fact that they are simply entertaining – might motivate them to move on to other literature as well. I hope there will be many more Alternative Reading List Awards !’

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