Christmas Reading Times and Books of the Year 2023

Christmas Reading Times 2023

Every year we eagerly look forward to the Christmas Reading Times, compiled by Helen Smith, Librarian at Eckington School. Helen scours the TV and streaming listings to find films and TV series based on books. This is an every increasing task with the proliferation of streaming platforms. From Julia Donaldson picture books to Jack Reacher thrillers, there is a wide range of viewing based on books and traditional stories. A highlight for me is ‘The Essex Serpent’ and ‘Lessons in Chemistry’ on Apple TV.

There is also a Christmas Reading Times Primary listing programmes and films based on young children’s books.

It’s certainly a good year for Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Sheffler’s picture book adaptations! I’m really looking forward to the new adaptation of Tabby McTat (BBC 1 25th December 2.35pm). Here’s a trailer to enjoy in anticipation.

Here are our Top Ten most borrowed fiction titles of 2023:

  • Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
  • Scythe (Book 1) by Neal Shusterman
  • The Blue Book of Nebo by Manon Steffan Ros
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
  • Circe by Madeline Miller
  • Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
  • Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Five Survive by Holly Jackson
  • Nothing more to tell by Karen M McManus

Top Ten Most Borrowed Authors 2023

  • Sarah J. Maas
  • Robert Muchamore
  • Neal Shusterman
  • Holly Jackson
  • George Orwell
  • J. K. Rowling
  • Bonnie Garmus
  • Malorie Blackman
  • Claire Keegan
  • Karen M. McManus

Top Ten Most borrowed non-fiction 2023

  • Better day coming: Blacks and equality 1890 – 2000 by Adam Fairclough
  • Global perspectives on sustainable fashion by Alison Gwilt
  • Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
  • The Connell Guide to how to read a poem by Malcolm Hebron
  • A History of the World in 21 Women by Jenni Murray
  • Atomic Habits by James Clear
  • Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez
  • Fashionopolis by Dana Thomas
  • How to break up with fast fashion by Lauren Bravo
  • Why chemical reactions happen by James Keeler and Peter Wothers

A selection of Books of the Year lists:

Best Books for Teens of 2023 – Five Books Expert Recommendations

The best books of 2023 | Best books of the year | The Guardian

The 10 Best Books of 2023 – The New York Times (

It’s interesting to get an American perspective on the Best Books of the Year. Here are the NYT Top Ten from 2023:

Best Books of the Year 2023

The results are in – Waterstones and Foyles have announced their books of the year. It’s pleasing to see that our L6th inaugural book choice and our next Community Book Club read triumphed as Foyles Fiction Book of the Year. ‘Yellowface’ by R. F. Kuang is an addictive, clever satire. I’m looking forward to discussing it with the Book Club in January.

I couldn’t agree more with the comments on the Foyles website: As unputdownable as it is wickedly funny, Kuang’s pin-sharp thriller of the machinations of the publishing world is a novel to gobble up in one, breathless sitting.

Read more about the 3 chosen titles here: Foyles Books of the Year – Foyles

The non-fiction winner was  ‘Eve: How The Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution‘ by Cat Bohannon. Read a review here

Waterstones choice was Katherine Rundell’s fantasy ‘Impossible Creatures’ as their overall Book of the Year and it also won the Foyles Children’s Book of the Year. ‘Impossible Creatures’ has the hallmarks of a children’s classic – packed full of adventures, original world-building and sympathetic characters. The writing is exquisite and the cast of creatures endlessly entertaining and immersive. It feels like a combination of Lord of the Rings and His Dark Materials and is a magical read. Fans will be pleased to hear that Rundell is already working on a follow-up novel and a trilogy is planned.

Katherine Rundell wins Waterstones book of 2023 with ‘immediate classic’ | Books | The Guardian

Waterstones Debut Novel of the Year was awarded to Alice Winn’s ‘In Memoriam’

Waterstones Book of the Year 2023 | The Winner

Best Books of 2023 – An early round-up

Although it seems early I’m always excited about the lists of ‘Best books’ which come out in the Autumn. Satisfying to make new finds and see if our favourites agree with prize decisions and booksellers.

Why not get ahead with bookish Christmas presents or borrow some popular titles from the library? Here’s a round-up of the early lists:

Foyles Books of the Year Shortlists

My Fiction pick would be Yellowface by R. F Kuang. I read this in two days and I’m keen to hear what our L6th Book Club thought of it (from casual conversations they were bowled over by it!).

Waterstones Books of the Year Shortlists

Oprah’s Book Club List 2023 – All 103 Books Oprah Has Recommended


Book Prize News:

The Books Are My Bag Readers Award Winners 2023

The 2023 Books Are My Bag Readers Awards Winners, as voted by readers:

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (Vintage)

Strong Female Character by Fern Brady (Brazen)

The Cat Prince & Other Stories by Michael Pedersen (Little Brown)

Young Adult Fiction
Gwen and Art Are Not in Love by Lex Croucher (Bloomsbury)

Children’s Fiction
Impossible Creatures by Katherine Rundell (Bloomsbury)

Breakthrough Author
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (Transworld)

Readers’ Choice
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (Transworld)

I’m currently listening to the audiobook of ‘Impossible Creatures’ and it is captivating and beautifully written with lots of humour, interesting characters and a whole bestiary of fantastical creatures. An imaginative story for any age to get lost in.

‘Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow’ and ‘Lessons in Chemistry’ are two of my favourite fiction choices too.

The Goldsmiths Prize

Benjamin Myers wins 2023 Goldsmiths prize for ‘vital’ novel Cuddy | Goldsmiths prize | The Guardian

The Cundill History Prize | Cundill Prize

Tania Branigan’s Red Memory wins 2023 Cundill history prize | Books | The Guardian ‘Red Memory’ is available from the library now.

‘The Blue Book of Nebo’ – Summer reading for our new 3rd Form 2023

Summer Reading 2023

Pile of 'Blue Book of Nebo' paperbacks

As is our custom, we sent out a book for summer reading to our incoming 3rd Formers (Y9) and encouraged tutors and teaching staff to read it too. We deliberate long and hard to find a book which appeals to boys and girls, isn’t too lengthy for our less keen readers, is thought-provoking, and lends itself to discussion in tutor groups. This is not designed to be an English set text or feel like homework; rather a welcome to the Library and here’s a book to read for enjoyment over the long summer break. For some, it may be the only book they read over the holidays, for others a style they would not have picked up by choice and for a number of avid readers a short reading experience in a long list keenly recorded on Good Reads or their favourite reading app.

During the library induction session on Day 1 at Wellington we gave tutor groups a quick tour of the library and explained what we offer in terms of books, e-books, audiobooks, information, extensive digital resources, support with projects and inter-library loans as well as providing chess, board games and jigsaws. It was also an opportunity to canvas feedback on the summer book and start a conversation about keeping the reading habit going at Wellington.

Reading Attitudes Survey

The students also filled in a Reading Survey exploring their attitudes towards reading and their habits. We have yet to fully analyse the results but it is interesting to note how many state that they would read more if they could find the ideal book for them. Many said their preferred reading times are holidays and before falling asleep. We’ve taken steps to address the former and are keen to work with House staff to encourage the latter.

The survey helps us identify and nurture avid readers with recommendations and book clubs and also help the more reluctant readers or students who struggle with reading to find the right book.

We’re looking forward to discussing ‘The Blue Book of Nebo’ with a number of tutor groups from next week and setting up tutor group reads so they can share their reading. It is pleasing that The Blue Book of Nebo deservedly went on to win the Yoto Carnegie Book Prize.

Blue Book of Nebo cover and author photo as winner of the Yoto Carnegie Book Award 2023

Here are some 3rd Form student comments on the book:

I found it was a very interesting book. I thought the idea of a family fighting for survival in a future dystopian world very intense and page turning. It made me always on my nerves and made me want to keep on reading.

I thought it was a book with a strong message behind it – technology, pizza and the joys of modern life aren’t everything, but family is – it shows perseverance in life and teaches you to be grateful with your life at the moment – I am looking forward to seeing how the book ends.

I really liked it as some books have straight forward endings e.g. good/bad endings while in this book it really depends on how you view it while the mother wanted life to continue as it is, some people who read/reading the book ‘hoped’ everything came back to normal.

I felt it was a very enjoyable book. The idea of a dystopian future intrigued me. It was a very clever book which displayed emotion in the troubles of the family.

‘adventurous but a bit confusing.’

I really enjoyed learning about both opinions and how the mother thought of life before the end and how Dylan’s life changed after then and  how their lives changed drastically after.

I really enjoyed the book and I think that it was very insightful and interesting. My favourite but also the saddest part of the book was when the little sister died and the mother was crying at her grave.

It was an amazing book and very heart warming and interesting.

I am enjoying it but it’s not my usual type of book I like to read.

I felt like it was very upsetting and I’m not really used to reading a book like it.

I thought it shows what life is like without civilisation and without any electricity and it was an interesting plot and a good storyline.

I found the concept interesting at the start and the messages and morals about a world without tech. However, I found the ending to be underwhelming and unfulfilled.

We also sent it to our new 4th Form students and here are some of their responses:

I liked the book as it was interesting to see a dystopian world. However, it interests me because it seems such like the real world we live in which is relatively worrying because the book shows how you can lose so much so quickly which as a result makes you more grateful for what you have.

I feel like the book covers a large variety of different topics with lots of different messages. For instance, the book demonstrates that we should appreciate everything we have because things can always rapidly have a turning point. I also enjoyed reading it because it is relatable to the modern world. It is a very intriguing book where you are curious what will happen next where you also wonder whether or not the characters will survive .

At first I felt it was a bit boring because I couldn’t understand the story. But once I officially started it the different stories told by Dylan and Rowenna were interesting. It a very nice book but I wouldn’t like to read it for pleasure though.

I think that the book was really well written but I didn’t really like the fact that they didn’t explain exactly what the end was.

Some of our students would have preferred a more plot driven novel, others wanted a more clear-cut ending. Whether they enjoyed it or found it unsettling, what is clear is The Blue Book of Nebo had a lasting impact on the readers spurring them to empathise with the characters and put themselves in that post-apocalyptic survival scenario.

What’s everyone been reading? Most borrowed books this academic year.

Top Ten Authors

Joint 1st:

  • Neal Shusterman
  • Robert Muchamore

Joint 2nd:

  • Anthony Horowitz
  • Alice Oseman

Joint third:

  • George Orwell
  • J.K. Rowling

Joint 4th

  • Koyoharu Gotouge (Demon Slayer Manga)
  • Karen McManus (YA thrillers)
  • Richard Osman (The Thursday Murder Club)

Joint 5th

  • Ben Aaronovitch (Rivers of London)
  • Sarah J. Maas

Joint 6th

  • Robert Harris (historical thrillers)
  • Mick Herron (Slough House series)

Joint 7th

  • Malorie Blackman
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Stephen Hawking
  • Madeline Miller
  • Ruta Sepetys

Joint 8th

  • Bonnie Garmus
  • Holly Jackson
  • Maggie O’Farrell
  • Philip Pullman
  • Chris Riddell
  • Kaiu Shirai

Joint 9th

  • Margaret Atwood
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Alison Gwilt

Joint 10th

  • Elizabeth Day
  • Colleen Hoover
  • Liane Moriarty
  • Elizabeth Strout
  • Virginia Woolf

Most Popular Books


  • Scythe (Book 1) by Neal Shusterman


  • Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Joint 3rd

  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • Circe by Madeline Miller

Joint 4th

  • Where the crawdads sing by Delia Owens
  • Atomic Habits by James Clear
  • The Bullet that missed by Richard Osman
  • The Blue Book of Nebo by Manon Steffan Ros

Joint 5th

  • Born a crime by Trevor Noah
  • I must betray you by Ruta Sepetys
  • Persepolis: A graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi
  • The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater
  • Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Most popular series:

  • Scythe
  • Cherub
  • The Promised Neverland (Manga)
  • The Thursday Murder Club
  • Hunger Games
  • Shonen Jump (Manga)
  • Demon Slayer
  • Heartstopper
  • The Sandman
  • The Scholomance (A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik)

Here are the most borrowed books from New York Public Libraries 2022



Empathy Day – Thursday 8th June 2023

Empathy Day 8th June 2023

Reading opens our minds to the life experiences of different people through biographies and fiction.

Read Connect Act

Here is this year’s Empathy Lab ‘Read for Empathy’ book collection

Have a browse of the Mallinson Library – Reading for Empathy collection on padlet.

A book I recently read and listened to as an audiobook on our Wheelers eplatform is:

The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater

I can’t believe that I have taken so long to get around to reading this powerful book which was recommended to me by a fellow school librarian years ago. It is a book based on a devastating event which took place on a bus in Oakland, California.

One teenager in a skirt.
One teenager with a lighter.
One moment that changes both of their lives forever.

It is not an easy read and handles difficult topics but Slater shows both viewpoints – the victim and their family, the perpetrator and his family. It explores race and economics, gender and identity. The book discusses the justice system and whether Richard should be tried as a juvenile or in adult criminal court. It includes the idea of restorative justice and does a brilliant job of showing the feeling and emotions of all the people involved.

A compelling, heartbreaking book which made a huge impact on me and I think will challenge and grip our students.

World Book Day Recommendations

Thursday 2nd March was World Book Day and we’ve been celebrating with quizzes, book recommendations and our DEAL event.

DEAL stands for Drop Everything and Listen and teachers and librarians joined in to read to their classes for 20 – 30 minutes at 11.30am. Although reading aloud to classes in primary schools is common, it happens much less at secondary level. This seems a shame so at the suggestion of Deputy Head Academic, Ben Evans, we set up DEAL which we initiated last year.

It’s an opportunity for teachers to choose an extract from a novel, a favourite poem or short story or a text relevant to their subject to share with their classes.

‘West with the night’ by Beryl Markham

I thoroughly enjoyed reading to a group of 10 3rd Formers. I gathered up the comfy seating in the library for an informal layout and launched into Beryl Markham’s account of her solo flight across the Atlantic to attempt to reach New York from England in 1936. To my relief they were rapt for what turned out to be 40 minutes of reading aloud and had numerous questions – How big was the plane? What did it look like? It prompted a really interesting conversation.




Our Head of Maths, Paul Cootes, remembered one of Isaac Asimov’s ‘I Robot’ short stories making a big impression on his when he was younger so he read that to his 3rd Form Maths class. They too were fully engrossed in listening to the story.

Here are some of the student and staff Favourite Books collected on our flipchart on World Book Day:

Looking at the titles fiction certainly wins the day!


Dan Freedman and ‘Unstoppable’

We’re excited to welcome Dan Freedman to give two author talks to our Y9 in February. In 2021, during lockdown, Dan ran two online Q&A sessions for three of our Y9 boys’ tutor groups. They were fascinating and giving the boys ‘Unstoppable’ to read as a group really kickstarted their reading for pleasure.

Unstoppable  is a thriller combining a sporting theme, with family tensions and secrets. It tells the story of 14 year old sport mad twins Kaine and Roxy. Roxy is a talented tennis player who is being pushed hard by her Dad. Her twin Kaine is hoping to make it in football but is starting to get into trouble and being lured into crime. The twins become increasingly alienated and the family starts to become torn apart. Here’s Dan Freedman talking about his book and reading from it.)

This year the whole year group have been given a copy to read in advance of Dan’s visit. We’re hoping to generate a real buzz around the book, fuelling plenty of book chat. It’s really positive to see many tutors are reading ‘Unstoppable’ too so they can join in the discussions.

A former Y9 gave this endorsement:

‘It was a thrilling read and I started it on Saturday morning and had finished by that evening. It is exactly the genre that I like! I’m going to tell my friends to read it.’

And let’s give the last word to Marcus Rashford:


Most popular library books this term – Michaelmas 2022

Curious to know what other people have been reading?

Popular titles can provide inspiration for your reading. The lists below provide a wide-range of book suggestions from graphic novels and manga to science and Stephen Hawking.

Have a look at the most borrowed books this term:

Top fiction:

  1. Scythe: Book 1 by Neal Shusterman
  2. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
  3. Rivers of London: Book 1 by Ben Aaronovitch
  4. The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell
  5. Heartstopper: Volume 3 by Alice Oseman
  6. Heartstopper: Volume 4 by Alice Oseman
  7. Small things like these by Claire Keegan
  8. Oh William by Elizabeth Strout
  9. Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen
  10. The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell
  11. The bullet that missed by Richard Osman
  12. The Sandman: Book 1 by Neil Gaiman
  13. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  14. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  15. Nineeteen eighty four by George Orwell


Joint 1st

  • Alice Oseman
  • Neal Shusterman
  • Koyoharu Gotouge (Demon Slayer Manga series)

Joint 2nd

  • Ben Aaronovitch
  • Anthony Horowitz


  • Maggie O’Farrell

Joint 4th

  • Chris Bradford (Young Samurai series)
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Karen M. McManus
  • Chris Riddell
  • Elizabeth Strout

Joint 5th

  • Jessie Burton
  • Robert Harris
  • Morris Gleitzman
  • Claire Keegan
  • Robert Muchamore
  • Haruki Murakami
  • Richard Osman
  • Philip Pullman

Joint 6th

  • Margaret Atwood
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald

Most popular series:

  • Arc of a Scythe (Scythe, Thunderhead and Toll) by Neal Shusterman
  • Demon Slayer (Manga, by Koyoharu Gotouge)
  • Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
  • Heartstopper (Graphic novel series by Alice Oseman)
  • The Promised Neverland (Manga)
  • The Thursday Murder Club
  • Alex Rider by Anthony Horowitz
  • The Promise – The last airbender (Manga)

Most popular non-fiction:

Joint 1st:

  • Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
  • Born a crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
  • Twas the nightshift before Christmas by Adam Kay
  • Atomic Habits: An easy and proven way to build good habits by James Clear
  • Alexander the Great: A Very Short Introduction by Hugh Bowden
  • This is the canon: Decolonize your bookshelf in 50 books by Joan Anim-Addo

The following are the next most popular (equal number of issues).

  • Stalingrad by Antony Beevor
  • What you need to know about economics by George Buckley
  • Seven brief lessons on physics by Carlo Rovelli
  • To engineer is human: the role of failure in successful by Henry Petroski
  • Shoe dog: a memoir by the creator of Nike by Philip H. Knight
  • Thinking fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman
  • Naturalist: a graphic adaptation by Edward O. Wilson
  • A little history of economics by Niall Kishtainy
  • Nudge by Richard H Thaler
  • Hot air: the inside story of the battle against climate change by Peter Stott
  • Other minds: the octopus and the evolution of intelligent life by Peter Godfry-Smith
  • Brief answers to big questions by Stephen Hawking
  • How not to be wrong: the art of changing your mind by James O’Brien
  • Bowl. Sleep. Repeat. Inside the world of England’s  Greatest ever bowler. by Jimmy Anderson