New Historical Fiction Collection

When Mr Macleod, Acting Head of History, came to me proposing the development of a Historical Fiction collection in the History Department Library, I  jumped at the chance to bring some excellent and very readable fiction to a wider audience. The History Dept came up with some of their favourite titles and we added our library team suggestions.

We now have a core collection which can be expanded and developed. It’s a bit weighty in the World War ll and Tudors area – so we welcome suggestions for different time periods and locations. Eventually we plan to link the suggested reading to the curriculum topics.

When I asked our Head of College for his favourite book in the summer he told me ‘Azincourt’ by Bernard Cornwell. This book spurred his enthusiasm for studying History.

Two memorable historical fiction titles which made a dramatic impact on me are ‘The Siege’ by Helen Dunmore and ‘The things they carried’ by Tim O’Brien.

Many of us – staff and students alike are big fans of Robert Harris. He is a master storyteller who brings historical times to life with great plotting. We have his books in print form in the library and also many of them as e-books on Browns VLeBooks.

Why not try a historical novel for the half-term holidays?

 

Science Book Discussion Group

In another collaboration between the Library and Academic Departments we are reading the 6 shortlisted books on the Royal Society Book Prize Shortlist 2019. the idea is that 5th and 6th formers read one of the titles and feed back on what they thought of it and what they learnt at a Science Book Discussion evening in the library in November.

 

Mental Health Awareness and Libraries Week – books and dogs the perfect mood boosting combination!

To coincide with World Mental Health Day on 10th October 2019 our Deputy Head (Safeguarding), Mrs Lynch, has put together a Mental Health Awareness Week (7th – 12th October) to raise awareness of the importance of good mental health and how we can all help with our own and others’ wellbeing. The library is keen to support this initiative and highlight ways libraries and reading can support wellbeing. Don’t forget it’s Libraries Week too! There are many articles and research reports linking reading for pleasure and improved wellbeing.  The National Literacy Trust has an article on Mental wellbeing, reading and writing and an in depth research study on this subject from 2017 – 2018. Similarly the Reading Agency: Reading for pleasure builds empathy and improves wellbeing research from the reading agency finds.

Libraries are non-judgmental, welcoming places and we love to see all students, parents, visitors and staff (and in particular their toddlers who confidently stride over to the picturebook boxes to take out ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’ for the nth time to the inward groans of their parents!).

Dog drop-ins in the Library next Monday to Wednesday.

If you love dogs like me you’ll be pleased to hear we are having some visits to the library next week. If you are missing your pet why not come along for some time with staff dogs at break and lunchtime? The dogs always enjoy being made a fuss of by the students. In the past we’ve had special days when friendly dogs have visited us in the library as a break from intense revision and exam stress in the summer term but this time we are having dogs individually for a calmer, peaceful atmosphere. Mrs Lynch shared some interesting articles on the benefits of pets on stress and depression. It was good to see public libraries introducing times with dogs too – Three Edinburgh Libraries to trial dog friendly days

Cardiovascular effects of human-pet dog interactions.

Alleviating Anxiety, Stress and Depression with the Pet Effect

Mood-boosting books

We are encouraging suggestions for your favourite mood-boosting books. Add your favourites to the flip-chart in the library next week and we’ll compile a list. My husband and son both went for ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ by Douglas Adams as their top feelgood read. Over lunch today teaching colleagues recommended Factfulness by Hans Rosling, The Great Gatsby, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas and Middlemarch by George Eliot.

Here is a list of feelgood books put together by young people: Mood-boosting Books – A 2018 list chosen by young people

You can read about this in a blog post from the Reading Agency – Moodboosting books for young people – blog post

I  also came across a nice libguide from Exeter University promoting their Wellbeing book collection

Exeter University students have also put together a collection of books to recommend to new students called ‘The Freshlist’ – 12 Mood-boosting books to get you through the year. I also loved ‘The Humans’ by Matt Haig.

Shelf-help – Books on Prescription

As well as escapist fiction or gritty reality stories or weepy books which can make us feeling surprisingly better at times we have a collection of factual books to help with mental health issues. We stock the books on the Reading Agency ‘Reading Well’ list which is described as:

Reading Well Books on Prescription helps you to understand and manage your health and wellbeing using self-help reading. The books are chosen by health experts and people living with the conditions covered. People can be recommended a title by a health professional, or they can visit their local library and take a book out for free. 

The books are on a range of issues including ADHD, Anxiety, worry and panic, Autism and Asperger syndrome, body image and eating disorders, bullying, confidence and self-esteem, depression, mood swings, OCD, self-harm and stress.

Book suggestions on reading for wellbeing

  • The reading cure : how books restored my appetite by Laura Freeman
  • The novel cure: An A-Z of Literary Remedies by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin This is a fascinating book to dip into with suggested books for any number of maladies from long-windedness (the cure being Cormac McCarthy as The Road is ‘an exemplary model of short-windedness’) to stubbed toe, low self-esteem and being different.

Chess and Boardgames

As well as being a place for quite individual study and group study where projects are discussed and revision worked on together, the library offers big chess, small chess and now an electronic chess set – play against the set itself using an app and an informal gathering place in the foyer particularly popular at break and lunchtime. We’ve set up a jigsaw for anyone to add to and work on during spare minutes. This provides a lovely opportunity for informal conversations and different groupings of staff and students. Quick to play board and card games are available to borrow from the library – Dobble and Wordaround are the top favourites.

Projects promoting reading for pleasure and shared reading

There are many schemes and collections promoting the value of reading for pleasure. Some Universities have excellent schemes to encourage new students to keep reading for pleasure. Kingston University initiated the Big Read – giving a novel to all new students and having author talks and discussions about the book. This year they chose to give out ‘The Unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce. This is wonderful project which fosters a sense of community and belonging and gives staff and students a focal point for informal chats and sharing the enjoyment of talking about a good book.  Edgehill University have joined the scheme too. We are planning to have a Wellington College Big Read next summer to bring the College community together over a shared reading experience.

Getting lost in an epic fantasy novel (preferably with many books in the series!) can provide wonderful escapism from daily stresses or worries. We stock a wide range of fiction from fantasy to graphic novels, short stories, contemporary literary fiction to the classics. We have quick reads and film tie-ins. We now have Wheelers eplatform so that staff and students can listen to an audio book on their way to long away Sports matches on the app on their phones. We stock plenty of interesting and readable non-fiction to extend your subject knowledge too.

What does the library offer:

  • Audio books – Particularly popular titles are ‘Ready Player One’ and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  • Graphic novels
  • E-books from Browns Books for Students VLeBooks
  • A place to meet and discuss – the library is the venue for many academic and cultural clubs and societies such as Debating, Med Soc, Creative Writing, Phil-Thy (Philosophy and Theology), Pheng (Philosophy and English) and Public Speaking.
  • Popular science – in particular the Royal Society Science Book Prize Shortlists (current and from the past few years) Join in with the Science discussion group by reading one of this year’s shortlisted books.
  • YA fiction – I’ve been recommending the ‘Scythe’ books by Neal Shusterman and these are proving hugely popular.
  • Contemporary literary fiction
  • Shelf help – Reading Agency -reading well – Books on Prescription – young people and mental health

 

Banned Books Week 22nd – 28th September 2019

This week was Banned Books Week‘A nationwide campaign for radical readers and rebellious writers of all ages to celebrate the freedom to read.’  

It is also marked in the USA with this year’s theme Censorship leaves us in the dark – Keep the Light On’  Here is a list of the Top Ten most challenged books in the USA in 2018

We had an eye-catching display to raise awareness about censorship and highlight the many highly regarded books which have been banned at some time or in some location over time. Students and staff were curious to read about the reasons particular books had been banned.

We also subscribe to the magazine ‘Index on Censorship’ in the Library.

Read more about the books which have been banned on the links below:

21st Century Banned or Challenged YA Books

50 Challenged Books

Yellow books everywhere!

Y9 reading week – Summer Term 2019

‘Moonrise’ by Sarah Crossan

‘A very quick read that will emotionally stick with you forever.’

 

Looking for a meaningful focus for the final week of the school year the Head of 3rd form proposed a ‘Reading Week’. This fitted perfectly with the whole school aim to encourage and promote more reading across all year groups and the Head of English and Library staff were keen to get involved and support this.

We agreed that we liked the idea of all students reading the same book during the week with a part of each lesson (and possibly the whole lesson in some cases) dedicated to quiet individual reading – or reading aloud in groups of around the class. We invited teachers to bring classes to the library for a change of venue in a comfortable, informal environment.

The tricky bit was deciding on a book. We agreed we wanted it to be fiction and preferably a shortish, accessible, recently published YA title with emphasis on the enjoyment of the reading experience and far removed from the feel of an English lesson ‘set text’. It was important that the book would draw in self-confessed ‘reluctant readers’ while at the same time being an enjoyable experience for keen readers. I read many YA books I’d been planning to read and English teachers recommended some of their favourites before eventually agreeing on ‘Moonrise’ by Sarah Crossan. Our Head of English raced to finish reading it and was very moved by it. We both agreed that the themes were thought-provoking and encouraged discussion of the issues of capital punishment and death row.

The reading week was launched in a year group assembly and I introduced the book and gave a brief overview of the scenario and characters. We were delighted that Sarah Crossan sent us a witty video message which we played in the assembly and the students spontaneously applauded.

As they left the assembly each student was given a copy of ‘Moonrise’ to read and keep. Any returned will be kept in the library as a loanable tutor group set.

Feedback from teachers and students was very positive. The Head of Y10 is keen to run something similar for her year group at the end of the Summer Term next year and we will refine and develop this idea for Y9 next year.  I certainly enjoyed my time reading in the library surrounded by a class,  teacher and library staff all reading in companionable silence. It was lovely to see two girls come into the library to borrow more of Sarah’s books as they’d finished ‘Moonrise’ and wanted to read other similar books. By the end of the week all the library copies of Sarah Crossan’s books had been issued (to students and staff) and she rapidly became the 2nd most borrowed author of the year.

 

 

We also had two visits from staff dogs to the library to keep the students company and ran book cover quizzes and book dingbats.

 

 

 

 

 

So far my very brief questionnaire, sent out in the holidays has had 44 responses (out of a year group of 185).

  • All of the respondents either finished reading the novel in school during the week or finished it in their free time afterwards.
  • Only 1 student said they didn’t enjoy having time to read in lessons during the week.

There were some very interesting and positive comments about the book:

It was very sad, and made me reconsider my thoughts on the death penalty.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Moonrise and thought it was an excellent read!!

It was really good I liked that it was written in verse as it was a nice change from other novels I have read.

A very quick read that will emotionally stick with you forever.

It was extremely good but had a very traumatic ending.

I thought that the ending made the book more relatable.

It’s awesome.

I found it extremely eye-opening and heart wrenching. I always enjoy these books and the format is very effective at emphasising certain aspects of the story.

Really clever the format in which the pages were written.

I liked how the pages weren’t very long, meaning it was easy to read and you felt like you had made more progress in the book than you actually had.

The writing style made the book quick and easy to read. The story builds up to a climax, ending very sadly. It made me think about what it would be like to be in a disjointed family.

I found it hard to concentrate on the story line when all the pages were printed as poems on different lines.

I asked the students to suggest a possible book for next year and these were there suggestions:

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
  • Blood Ties by Sophie Mackenzie
  • Numbers by Rachel Ward
  • After the Fire by Will Hill
  • Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
  • Red Rising by Pierce Brown
  • Release by Patrick Ness
  • Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
  • Bodyguard by Chris Bradford
  • Any Jodi Picoult
  • I think a modern classic would be good so that classics can be gently introduced to get rid of any reticence to read them!

 

Summer reading suggestions

It’s that time of year when a plethora of reading lists are published giving us so many recommendations of what to read it can feel daunting. There is the tension between indulging in a ‘beach read’ or challenging yourself with the literary tome you’ve been meaning to get around to. Each to their own I say – there is the perfect book for the perfect time and place and we shouldn’t be judging each other and ourselves – just enjoying time to read.

Here are some good starting points.

The Guardian 100 best holiday books This list includes fiction, non-fiction and YA and children’s books. My pageturner this summer is going to be ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ by Liane Moriarty. I loved ‘The Husband’s Secret’ and ‘Big Little Lies’ and this one has been recommended by an English teacher.

54 Best Books from Oprah’s Book Club or here is a selection of the best women’s writing Summer 2019 (according to Oprah Winfrey)

I like Barack Obama’s reading lists. I don’t think his summer suggestions have been published yet but he has 3 recommendations from Spring. Pachinko has been on my ‘to be read’ pile so I do want to get round to that one.

I always find Bill Gates suggestions interesting. Here are 5 books he recommends this summer:

I also can’t resist a plug for Melinda’s new book The Moment of Lift. I know I’m biased, but it’s one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

Here is my full summer reading list:

Upheavalby Jared Diamond. I’m a big fan of everything Jared has written, and his latest is no exception. The book explores how societies react during moments of crisis. He uses a series of fascinating case studies to show how nations managed existential challenges like civil war, foreign threats, and general malaise. It sounds a bit depressing, but I finished the book even more optimistic about our ability to solve problems than I started.

Nine Pintsby Rose George. If you get grossed out by blood, this one probably isn’t for you. But if you’re like me and find it fascinating, you’ll enjoy this book by a British journalist with an especially personal connection to the subject. I’m a big fan of books that go deep on one specific topic, so Nine Pints (the title refers to the volume of blood in the average adult) was right up my alley. It’s filled with super-interesting facts that will leave you with a new appreciation for blood.

A Gentleman in Moscowby Amor Towles. It seems like everyone I know has read this book. I finally joined the club after my brother-in-law sent me a copy, and I’m glad I did. Towles’s novel about a count sentenced to life under house arrest in a Moscow hotel is fun, clever, and surprisingly upbeat. Even if you don’t enjoy reading about Russia as much as I do (I’ve read every book by Dostoyevsky), A Gentleman in Moscow is an amazing story that anyone can enjoy.

Presidents of Warby Michael Beschloss. My interest in all aspects of the Vietnam War is the main reason I decided to pick up this book. By the time I finished it, I learned a lot not only about Vietnam but about the eight other major conflicts the U.S. entered between the turn of the 19th century and the 1970s. Beschloss’s broad scope lets you draw important cross-cutting lessons about presidential leadership.

The Future of Capitalismby Paul Collier. Collier’s latest book is a thought-provoking look at a topic that’s top of mind for a lot of people right now. Although I don’t agree with him about everything—I think his analysis of the problem is better than his proposed solutions—his background as a development economist gives him a smart perspective on where capitalism is headed.

 

 

Extreme reading is back this summer!

We’re happy to announce that our most popular competition is back this summer.

Get reading – Get Extreme!

Win a Kobo e-reader (chocolate prizes will also be available!)

Take a photo of yourself reading in an “extreme” place (without endangering yourself!) Be as creative or imaginative as you like.

We are looking forward to receiving your photos which will be displayed in the Library at the start of the Michaelmas Term 2019.

Entries welcome from staff, pupils and parents.

Email your photos to the Library: library@wellingtoncollege.org.uk

Or Tweet them to @welly_library

By: Tuesday 10th September 2019.

Stating your name, book title and location. You can add more information or a book comment in the email if you wish but it isn’t essential.

Slack-line reading in France

 

 

Author visit by Julian Sedgwick, 3rd June 2019

Julian Sedgwick’s visit

We were delighted to welcome Young Adult author, Julian Sedgwick, to speak to our 3rd Form students on Monday 3rd June. He held the theatre spellbound with tales of school, ghosts, 1920s Shanghai and a moving account of people trying to re-settle in the Fukushima area of Japan after the tsunami and earthquake of 2011.

Julian told us he had unhappy memories of school – he didn’t feel he fitted in and didn’t have good friends but it did prompt him to read for escapism and fuelled a desire to become a writer. He wanted to be a writer from the age of 7 but only got his first book published at 47 years old. Other early ambitions were to be a high wire walker, footballer, Zen Buddhist monk or a fire breather in the circus  – however his wife banned him from fire breathing as there is no safe way to do this!

Introducing his ‘Ghosts of Shanghai’ trilogy, Julian set the scene of exotic 1920s Shanghai – lit with neon and teeming with gangsters, spies and refugees. He recounted the Chinese ghost story of the ‘painted skin’ and now I have to get onto book two ‘Shadow of the Yangtze’ to read this full tale. You can get a flavour of the book in this video trailer

Voyages in the underworld of Orpheus Black 

Julian also talked about his new book co-written with his brother Marcus Sedgwick and beautifully illustrated by Alexis Deacon.

Voyages in the underworld of Orpheus Black  – is a lyrical and dreamlike story of two brothers in conflict amidst the devastation of WWII London. Julian wrote one of the voices whilst Marcus wrote the other. It took them around 6 years to write this novel and includes themes of conscientious objectors during World War ll (their father as a Quaker was a conscientious objector), myths and reality and Harry’s character becomes obsessed with the myth of Orpheus.

Julian went on to tell us about his recent research visit to Japan talking to people in the recovery towns around Fukushima. This was very moving and informative for our students.

The grand finale was full of tension, hilarity and jeopardy. Julian has had a lifelong interest in the arts and culture of China and Japan and a fascination with performance, street art and circus and we were treated to a display of knife juggling.

 

 

 

 

World Book Day 2019 – Cracking reading recommendations!

Here’s our latest cracking read recommended by a 6th form student this time. He and his friends have been racing through this series and are impatiently waiting for the 5th book ‘Dark Age’ to be published in July 2019.

Red Rising series by Pierce Brown

He writes:

Red Rising is a dystopian fantasy set in our Solar System,where humans have gained control of our genome and successfully breed new races for designed purposes. Known as “Colours”, the Gold rise to become the oligarchy of the new age humans. A “Red” from the loweest class decides to break the totalitarian system from the inside….

For anybody who loves Hungers Games, Divergent and Maze Runner it’s a great series to read.

Factfulness: The stress-reducing habit of only carrying opinions for which you have strong supporting facts.

We’ve promoted this brilliant book before – an informative and compelling read by the inspirational creator of Gapminder and Dollar Street – Hans Rosling. He was a medical doctor, global health expert and statistician who wanted to help people understand the world and data in an accessible way using graphs and visual images to cut through confusing and possibly misrepresented statistics. He also had a hobby of sword swallowing!

His TED Talk ‘How not to be ignorant about the world’ is essential viewing.

This book questions everything you think you know about the world and prompts us to look at the positive ways it is actually getting better. A great choice for Politics, Geography, Global Citizenship and everyone who wants to be better informed!

Our first cracking read of World Book Day was recommended by Geography teacher Mr Murray. He is a huge fan of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and has been encouraging all his tutees to read it. We urge you to read this absorbing, entertaining book before you watch the film!

Here’s his review:

“ Modern technology and the laws of physics have not yet allowed for zero gravity dancing, X-Wing commuting and living out your favourite scene from 1980s movies. In the OASIS of ‘Ready Player One’ though you can. In the OASIS you can be and do anything you want in a perfectly electronically rendered version of our imperfect world. It is a book about a quest. A quest for meaning, friendship and purpose. It is also a quest for billions of dollars and control over the most influential video game of all time (not Fortnite).

I love this book because it combines a huge number of familiar and exciting references for video game fans, Spielberg devotees and anyone who enjoys the cultural artefacts of the 1980s. It is also set in a future that is looking more and more feasible. A world strangled by inequality and the impacts of climate change where nearly all of the world’s population spend most of their lives online. Virtual reality could be the saviour of the protagonist or it could be controlled by a profit seeking juggernaut. It is a book that is a love letter to the fantasy of video games, the escapism of movies and the importance of heroes and hope. It is also about friendship.

Can you complete the quest? Log into the OASIS to find out.”

You can also listen to the fantastic audio book of ‘Ready Player One’ on our new audio book ePlatform from Wheelers.

Maths teacher Mr Wells loves the novels of Scarlet Thomas. He also recommends her book Pop Co.

The End of Mr Y

What starts off as a traditional mystery around the last surviving copy of a book, soon swerves into the most unusual mash up of genres I’ve read. A mixture of Quantum physics, giant mice and Victorian Homeopathy, this is a wonderfully surreal and eclectic novel. Scarlett Thomas’ writing is full of unusual turns of phrase and unexpected phrases that make this story come alive.

 

 

For books on a scientific theme Mrs Patterson Head of STE recommends:

Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox

In 1962, Maurice Wilkins, Francis Crick, and James Watson received the Nobel Prize, but it was Rosalind Franklin’s data and photographs of DNA that led to their discovery. Brenda Maddox tells a powerful story of a remarkably single-minded, forthright, and tempestuous young woman who, at the age of fifteen, decided she was going to be a scientist, but who was airbrushed out of the greatest scientific discovery of the twentieth century.

 

 

Ms Gutulan, Head of English, recommends:

 Bookworm: A memoir of childhood reading by Lucy Mangan

Lucy Mangan’s memoir Bookworm, a ‘witty and gloriously opinionated love letter’ to the books that saw her grow up, will appeal to anyone who, as a child, spent days glued to a book (or sneaked the torch to read under the covers past bedtime!). Bookworm is a comforting read that revives childhood memories as only a truly good book can do and is set up to become a classic in itself. Give it a try!

I could also have recommended The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt, a coming-of-age, richly visual novel, in which the creativity in many guises anchors the predicament of children from three families belonging to contrasting social classes but connected in surprising ways. The narrative is set at the pivotal time that saw the Victorian era slowly turn towards Modernity: symbolically, the story begins in the early days of the Victoria and Albert Museum and ends with the Great War. It is an evocative yarn that weaves the delights of the Arts and Crafts Movement, storytelling, adventure, social consciousness and sacrifice, leading to an ending you will struggle to forget.

 

Books of the Week 8th February 2019

Here are a few top picks proving popular this week.

Our 6th form students are going mad for Sally Rooney’s novels. We have a waiting list of boys wanting to read ‘Normal People’ and students who’ve read this are choosing her debut novel ‘Conversations with Friends’ to read next. They love her clear, crisp writing and her believable, likeable characters. No wonder Waterstones chose ‘Normal People’ as their book of the year 2018.

If you like non-fiction and you missed Mrs McColl’s talk on Monday about introverts and extroverts you can borrow the book she mentioned. ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain is sub-titled ‘The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking’. This book champions the importance of listening and the value of introverts and challenges us all to see things differently.

Head of Percussion, and avid library user and reader, Mr Smith, can’t recommend ‘Munich’ by Robert Harris highly enough. He is a big fan of Robert Harris’ well-written historical thrillers and this one is a massive page-turner. Set during Chamberlain’s negotiations with Hitler before the outbreak of World War ll this is a tense political thriller and spy novel with great attention to historical detail but with interesting fictional characters added.

Synopsis:

September 1938. Hitler is determined to start a war. Chamberlain is desperate to preserve the peace.

The issue is to be decided in a city that will forever afterwards be notorious for what takes place there: Munich.

As Chamberlain’s plane judders over the Channel and the Fuhrer’s train steams relentlessly south from Berlin, two young men travel with secrets of their own. Hugh Legat is one of Chamberlain’s private secretaries; Paul Hartmann a German diplomat and member of the anti-Hitler resistance. Great friends at Oxford before Hitler came to power, they haven’t seen one another since they were last in Munich six years earlier.

Now, as the future of Europe hangs in the balance, their paths are destined to cross again. When the stakes are this high, who are you willing to betray? Your friends, your family, your country or your conscience?

Sounds like a perfect half-term holiday read!