‘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

Books of the Year 2022

It’s that time of year – Christmas approaching, nights drawing in, chilly weather – the perfect time to curl up with a good book.

We’re starting to collate ‘Best Books of the Year’ lists to provide some recommendations for Christmas presents or holiday reading but first here are our most borrowed books of the year:

Top Ten Fiction:

Scythe: Book 1 Neal Shusterman
Heartstopper: Volume 1 Alice Oseman
Heartstopper: Volume 3 Alice Oseman
Where the crawdads sing Delia Owens
The Husbands Secret Liane Moriarty
Heartstopper: Volume 4 Alice Oseman
Nineteen eighty-four George Orwell
Normal People Sally Rooney
A good girl’s guide to murder: Book 1 Holly Jackson
Lessons in Chemistry Bonnie Garmus

Here are our borrowing headlines:

  • Most borrowed book: Scythe by Neal Shusterman
  • Top author: Alice Oseman (Heartstopper graphic novel series has been hugely popular)
  • Top series: Scythe (The trilogy of Scythe, Thunderhead and The Toll)
  • Top non-fiction title: Alexander the Great: A very short introduction by Hugh Bowden

Most popular series:

  • Arc of a Scythe by Neal Shusterman
  • Demon Slayer (Manga) by Koyoharu Gotouge
  • Heartstopper by Alice Oseman
  • The Promised Neverland (Manga) by Kaiu Shirai
  • Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Most popular non-fiction

  • Alexander the Great: A very short introduction by Hugh Bowden

Joint 2nd:

  • The Origins of the Second World War by A.J.P. Taylor
  • Bad Samaritans: the guilty secrets of rich nations and the threat to global prosperity by Ha-Joon Chang

Joint 3rd:

  • What you need to know about economics by George Buckley
  • Economics for the IB by Ellie Tragakes
  • Sapiens: A brief history of humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
  • Thinking fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman
  • Atomic habits by James Clear
  • Nudge by Richard H. Thaler


  • Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez

Joint 5th:

  • Ways of Seeing by John Berger
  • When China rules the world by Martin Jacques
  • Law’s Empire by Ronald Dworkin
  • Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
  • Seven brief lessons on physics by Carlo Rovelli
  • The Gothic: A very short introduction by Nick Groom
  • To engineer is human: the role of failure in successful by Henry Petroski
  • Why humans have cultures by Michael Carrithers
  • Other minds by Peter Godfrey-Smith

Books of the Year lists – round-up

Maureen Corrigan’s favorite books of the year: 10 disparate reads for a hectic 2022 (NPR)

The Waterstones blog – Best Books of the Year.  Arranged in thematic categories browse fiction, biography, thrillers and more. You can browse authors’ favourite reads here

Waterstones have chosen Katy Hessel’s ‘Story of Art Without Men’ as their Book of the Year. This is available from the library now.


The staff of The New York Times Book Review choose the year’s standout fiction and nonfiction.

Guardian Best Books of 2022

Penguin Best Books of the Year

New York Public LibraryBest Books of the Year – Adults

Young Adult (YA)

Here is a good list of the best books of 2022 for young children and teens (reviewed by the Guardian).

Most popular books this academic year

Librarians love book lists. Here we are sharing the most borrowed books from the library September 2021 – June 2022. ‘The Scythe Trilogy’ by Neal Shusterman continues to be very popular across the age range and with staff too. A dystopian, thought-provoking trilogy with a fast-paced plot and excellent characterisation. Fans of The Hunger Games this one is for you.

Also recommended is Neal Shusterman’s cli-fi thriller Dry. The scenario is the taps running dry, the setting is California and the protagonists a group of teens trying to survive…


Don’t forget to pick up some holiday reads from the wide range of new books.

If you are looking for some diverse YA novels to read over the summer the YA Book Prize Shortlist has just been announced. More information here

Top 20 most borrowed fiction titles from the library this academic year (up to 17th June 2022)

Scythe: Book 1 Neal Shusterman
Thunderhead (Scythe Trilogy Book 2) Neal Shusterman
The Territory (Book1) Sarah Govett
Nineteen eighty four George Orwell
Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe Benjamin Alire Saenz
Heartstopper (Graphic novel book 3) Alice Oseman
One Sarah Crossan
The Great Godden Meg Rosoff
Normal People Sally Rooney
The Crossing Manjeet Mann
The Thursday Murder Club Richard Osman
Unstoppable Dan Freedman
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder Holly Jackson
Heartstopper Volume 1 Alice Osman
Me Before You Jojo Moyes
Kid Got Shot Simon Mason
The Man who died twice Richard Osman
The hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy Douglas Adams
Arctic Star Tom Palmer
Am I normal yet? Holly Bourne

Top Ten most borrowed non-fiction titles from the library this academic year (up to 15th June 2022)

Anyone can do it: Building Coffee Republic from our kitchen table Sahar & Bobby Hashemi
Factfulness: Ten reasons we’re wrong about the world – and why things are better than you think Hans Rosling
The great pretender: The undercover mission that changed our understanding of madness Susannah Cahalan
Letters to a law student Nicholas McBride
Fractured: Why are societies are coming apart and how we put them back together again Jon Yates
Four thousand weeks: time and how to use it Oliver Burkeman
Ways of Seeing John Berger
Thinking fast and slow Daniel Kahneman
Sapiens: a brief history of humankind Yuval Noah Harari
Why chemical reactions happen J. Keeler & P. Wothers

Display of new books in the library.


Author visit by Manjeet Mann and responses to ‘The Crossing’

‘The Crossing’ by Manjeet Mann

Our Y9 and Y10s had a reading challenge for the Easter holidays which they enthusiastically accepted. Every student was given a copy of Manjeet Mann’s second YA verse novel ‘The Crossing’. This powerful, engrossing novel is quick to read but deeply moving and relevant to our times.

Both year groups had discussions of the book with their tutors during tutorial periods and I discussed the book with the 3rd and 4th Form boys from the Raglan House. They found it a very emotional read and a number of them particularly liked the style finding the way the two narrative voices of Nat and Sammy overlap made them feel the connection between the two more strongly. For less keen readers, who may not pick up a book as a leisure activity, this style of book was appreciated – they enjoyed the speed with which they turned the pages and the lack of detailed description helped them focus on the plot and experience of the characters.

Here are a couple of short reviews by our students:

The Crossing’ by Manjeet Mann has enlightened me on the subject of death, something which is scarcely talked about. It has a heart-breaking narrative and the poems assist in creating this effect. The way in which Manjeet makes every word powerful is amazing, and every action impacts the characters and their future.


Miles wrote a reading response poster unprompted by his English teachers as the book had a big impact on him.

My blurb:

A troubled life with dreams of swimming the channel and a refugee wishing for a bright future, by chance they meet and form a strong bond.

Will a bright future be possible?

Will the channel be swum successfully?

The book came with a sense of inspiration and happiness at hopeful times, for example when Sammy reached Calais. However, sadness was also a key theme in the book, when Sammy lost his life and Natalie was mourning the death of her mother. The story does not remind me of any previous books, as the ending of death is not common. Because the book was so unique I found it thrilling.

One of our students enjoyed ‘Run, Rebel’ and ‘The Crossing’ so much that currently she is only reading verse novels and has worked her way through our whole collection. She is particularly keen on the verse novels of Sarah Crossan (a previous visiting author who enthused our students about reading). For more recommendations of verse novels have a look at the library padlet on verse novels.

Verse Novels – why I like them by Grace (Y9)

  • They are written in poem-like verses making them different from other fiction novels.
  • It always surprises me that the author is able to express/write such a deep and meaningful story in so few phrases.
  • (Despite being in short verses.) The reader is still able to understand/picture every scenario fully.
  • The word choices are very specific, which gets the point the author is trying to prove very efficiently.
  • They’re just a quick read.
  • They are very easy to understand.
  • You can expand your thinking because it’s different.
  • It’s always good to try new things.