Hay Festival – #Hay30BOOKS – Summer reading inspiration!

Last week saw the 30th Hay Festival  – a vibrant tented gathering of writers, thinkers and readers of all ages in the beautiful Welsh countryside and ‘Book Town’ of Hay-on-Wye. This year in addition to the fascinating talks and bookshop, the festival was promoting #Hay30Books:

To celebrate our 30th Hay Festival in Wales, we asked our audiences to recommend 30 books from the last 30 years that deserve more attention.

These #HAY30BOOKS will be discussed and celebrated at our festivals around the world – in Mexico, Peru, Spain, Colombia and Denmark – and on our digital channels throughout the year.

It was a chance to re-evaluate, rediscover, and honour the essential reads from the last 30 years across fiction and non-fiction.

The list is diverse and thought-provoking and would make an interesting source of reading for our students over the summer.  All the books will be available in the Library shortly and a number of them are available as e-books.

Come and browse the display in the Library! What would you read first?


Full list here:

  • A Gentle Plea for Chaos by Mirabel Osler (1989)
  • Wise Children by Angela Carter (1991)
  • Kid by Simon Armitage (1992)
  • A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth (1993)
  • A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (1995)
  • Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond (1997)
  • Any Human Heart by William Boyd (2002)
  • Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation by Olivia Judson (2002)
  • The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad (2002)
  • Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series by Michelle Paver (2004)
  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (2004)
  • How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (2004)
  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2006)
  • A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam (2007)
  • Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine (2007)
  • God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens (2007)
  • The Road Home by Rose Tremain (2007)
  • The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein (2007)
  • Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman (2009)
  • Oblivion: A Memoir by Héctor Abad (2010)
  • There but for the… by Ali Smith (2011)
  • How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell (2010)
  • The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert Macfarlane (2012)
  • Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon (2012)
  • Pink Mist by Owen Sheers (2013)
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015)
  • Brooklyn by Colm Toíbín (2015)
  • Headscarves and Hymens by Mona Eltahawy (2015)
  • One by Sarah Crossan (2015)
  • East West Street by Philippe Sands (2016)


Y9 reading and preparation for the19th century novel

Ms Gutulan, Head of English has just found a really useful blog post on The English and Media Centre entitled:

Preparing students for the 19th century novel – what to do at KS3?

Written by Kate Oliver it suggests ways of preparing Y9 students for the 19th Century novel aspect of GCSE. She concludes:

A working theory… Might an enjoyable experience of reading books which are relevant in the broadest sense be a great way to prepare KS3 for their GCSE novel?

With this in mind, we have put together a booklist which could be used to guide students towards some independent reading. The list starts with suggestions focused on the two most commonly taught 19th-century novels (A Christmas Carol and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde). This is followed by a short list of modern books set in Victorian times to help with contextual knowledge as well as suggestions for good ‘first classics’ to get students used to Victorian style and vocabulary, or have a first taste of the author they will study later.

It’s a varied book list and I like the inclusion of modern books set in Victorian times – The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge is a thrilling read – very atmospheric and evocative of the period with a great plot. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is a fantastic book which is likely to appeal to students as it is set in the present and has an immediacy and honesty which is compelling. It ‘follows Junior a teenager who leaves his troubled school on the Spokane Indian Reservation  to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.’ It has been included because it explores ‘identity and peer pressure in diary form’. It would be a perfect starting point for students who are reluctant to read or don’t read much at all.

Try our reading lists page for more book suggestions and book recommendations page for student and staff reviews.

See also Post exam reading suggestions from IB students who have already finished their final exams!



Freed to Read – post exam comfort reading!

As the majority of our students settle into their A level and GCSE exams in earnest it’s hard to believe that most of our IB (International Baccalaureate) students have already finished.

Now they are freed from the constraints of text books and revision notes we thought we’d gather some of their reading suggestions – books they’ve been desperate to read but had to put on hold until after the exams.

Good luck to all students still in the thick of exams – just think of all the amazing books awaiting you over that long summer holiday!

One of our Y13 Politics students told me he was looking forward to reading Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence by Jonathan Sacks. He was also keen to re-read classic books such as Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.

My son has been desperate to continue the Giordano Bruno historical murder mysteries I discovered through London City Read  this year. Prophecy is the second in the series and is set in London. The series starts with Heresy, set in Oxford. We have the whole series in print form in the library and the first two novels available as e-books. These books have everything – intriguing plot, maverick characters, well-researched history and humour!

He won’t thank me for the cheesy staged photo though!

Another queuing up to be read is The wind-up bird chronicle by Haruki Murakami as so many people have recommended this one to us.

Clemente, an avid library user and proposer of many titles as additions to library stock ranging from political biographies to Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino is looking forward to re-reading Papillon by Henri CharriereWhen asked for his top post-exam read he offered to email a list of 20 books on his TBR(to be read) pile! If you enjoyed Papillon you might also like Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts.







Richard Atherton, Director of IB Diploma recommends any of Robert Harris’s novels as guaranteed to be a good read. Pompeii is particularly readable and provides interesting insights into Ancient Roman life.

Sophie is embarking on William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair followed by Jung Chang’s Empress Dowager Cixi  and also recommends The man who mistook his wife for a hat by Oliver Sacks for would-be medics. Rob is going to enjoy Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy after his A levels.

Sam is about to read The Big Screen: The story of the movies and what they did to us by David Thomson (this weighty book received glowing reviews when it was published in 2013 and is described as Probably the best overview of the cinema ever written. It sparkles with insight, is packed with anecdote, and pulses with passion … a glorious celebration of one of humankind’s great inventions (John Banville Guardian BOOKS OF THE YEAR)

Mark is keen to get stuck into the whole of the Game of Thrones series by George R. R. Martin.

Ryan will read When breath becomes air by Paul Kalanithi when he finishes his A levels. This remarkable, heartbreaking and insightful autobiography was shortlisted for The Wellcome Book Prize 2017

Olivia has always meant to read The power of now by Eckhart Tolle 

For thriller fans another recommendation was Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith.

What would you read first? The Sports department recommend Watership Down by Richard Adams and any of Lee Child’s thrillers!

More of the Wellington College Big Book Vote 2017 revealed!

Wellington College Big Book Vote 2017

We do love a big list of books and hope all of you are just as keen to spot your favourites and find new reading inspiration in the next chunk of the poll. Below we have listed all the books that polled more than vote. The next blog post will reveal all the remaining books voted for by one person. Thank you to everyone who voted and enjoy this incredibly eclectic list of books. Happy reading! Visit the library to borrow copies of these books.

Here is the list of our top 20 most popular books:

1st           Harry Potter by J.K Rowling

2nd          Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

3rd          1984 by George Orwell

4th          Gone by Michael Grant

5th          Cherub by Robert Muchamore

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
  • His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green
  • One by Sarah Crossan
  • The boy in the striped pyjamas by John Boyne
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • Inheritance Cycle (Eragon) by Christopher Paolini
  • The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan
  • Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

Tied in 21st position

Bodyguard series by Chris Bradford

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Tied in 27th place

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Sherlock Holmes series by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Chaos Walking series (Knife of Never Letting Go) by Patrick Ness

 Tied in 37th place

Any Human Heart by William Boyd

Girl Missing by Sophie McKenzie

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

More than this by Patrick Ness

Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

Pig Heart Boy by Malorie Blackman

Sapiens: a brief history of humankind by Yuval N. Harari

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

 Tied in 52nd place

Alex Rider by Anthony Horowitz

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Everything everything by Nicola Yoon

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Perfume by Patrick Süskind

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

The circle by Dave Eggers

The Far Away Tree by Enid Blyton

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The outsiders by S. E. Hinton

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

Wild Swans by Jung Chang

Young Bond – Silverfin (and first book) by Charlie Higson

Tied in 72nd place

12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

A Universe from Nothing by Lawrence M. Krauss

All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr

Alone on a wide wide sea by Michael Morpurgo

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Arcadia by Tom Stoppard

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Candide by Voltaire

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

Children of the Lamp by P. B. Kerr

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevksy

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Freakonomics: a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Geek Girl by Holly Smale

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

Holes by Louis Sachar

How to be a woman by Caitlin Moran

How to build a girl by Caitlin Moran

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Long walk to freedom by Nelson Mandela

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Once by Morris Gleitzman

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Paper Towns by John Green

Papillon by Henri Charriére

Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

Poor Economics by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo

Private peaceful by Michael Morpurgo

Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Room by Emma Donoghue

Rubicon by Tom Holland

Shantaram by Gregory David

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Steal like an artist by Austin Kleon

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

The Boy on the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz

The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Selection by Kiera Cass

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets by Simon Singh

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

There will be lies by Nick Lake

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Watchmen by Alan Moore

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

When breath becomes air by Paul Kalanithi

Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? by Dave Eggers

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

Anthem by Ayn Rand

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

The Siege by Helen Dunmore

The History Boys by Alan Bennett

Maya Angelou autobiography books (7)

What If? Serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions by Randall Munroe

When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan



Harry Potter tops The Wellington College Big Book Vote 2017!

To celebrate World Book Day on Thursday 2nd March 2017  it’s time for the grand unveiling of Wellington College’s Big Book Vote 2017.

Perhaps it isn’t such a big surprise that the Harry Potter series tops the list nevertheless it is fantastic that the series that captured children and adult imaginations everywhere remains incredibly popular. Good to see Michael Grant, our visiting author from last Monday is as popular as ever with his young adult series ‘Gone’ and that Old Wellingtonian Sebastian Faulks makes it into the top 20 with his wonderful wartime novel ‘Birdsong’.

Here is the list of our top 20 most popular books:

1st Harry Potter by J.K Rowling
2nd Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
3rd Nineteen eighty-four by George Orwell
4th Gone by Michael Grant
5th Cherub by Robert Muchamore
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Looking for Alaska by John Green
One by Sarah Crossan
The boy in the striped pyjamas by John Boyne
The Martian by Andy Weir
Inheritance Cycle (Eragon) by Christopher Paolini
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

We canvassed staff and student opinion about their favourite books of all time through a short survey allowing from 1 – 5 titles to be proposed. It was a completely free vote permitting all genres of book from any time period or location – ranging from children’s picture books to graphic novels, biography to fantasy. This has generated a list of around 660 books!

We counted a series as a single book as people generally voted for a series rather than one of the named individual books. Where deciders were needed we used library issue figures to determine popularity.

We’re looking forward to publicising these popular titles and looking at the list in greater detail –  for example looking at top ten most popular authors, picture books, biographies and so on.

Watch this space for more to come and the full list!

Christmas reading and TV

Christmas Reading TV Guide 2016

It’s arrived –  the eagerly awaited ‘Christmas TV Guide’ compiled by Helen Smith at Eckington School Library. Every year Helen creates her ‘Christmas Reading Times’ scouring Freeview listings to find all TV programmes based on books. This year is a deluxe version with an alphabetical listing of authors and sections giving information on ‘featured authors’ Why not read some of the books before watching the films? The original book is invariably better…but the film adaptations can be great too, especially when they are based on a brilliant story.

I’ve yet to see the film of ‘The Woman in Black’ (I’ve read the book and seen the stage adaptation twice – once here at Wellington and once many years ago at the West End.) I have yet to read ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’  – an  ambitious task before it is shown on TV on 22nd December!

Many of our students mentioned Agatha Christie, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and The Borrowers as comfort reads – all these are available as films on TV this Christmas.

Year 10 and Y11 can watch Nicholas Nickleby,  A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations (Charles Dickens),The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle  and The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins to immerse themselves in the setting, language and characters of the 19th Century novel…but read the books first!

If you missed the ‘Paddington’ film when it was at the cinemas you are in for a TV treat.

Happy reading and watching this festive season!

Helen creates this list and puts in a lot of time and effort sharing it freely with other schools and librarians.   If you would like to recognize the work she puts in by donating to her chosen charity, Cancer Research, please do.  There’s absolutely no expectation that you do this, but if you can spare a small amount, every little helps!

Great new diverse reading list for 6th formers! Read around the world

English teacher Ms Kirby has just discovered an excellent new reading list created by The English and Media Centre

Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Glass Doors: Book List for Sixth Formers and Confident Older Readers

(Image from EMC)

(Image from EMC)

EMC explains: This list has been compiled from texts revisited, discovered and explored while putting together an EMC course last term about teaching diverse literature. It is by no means definitive and apologies in advance for any glaring omissions. In part, this is unavoidable because we have limited each author to one entry…. look out for a companion list later this term, aimed at younger secondary readers.

It includes many books already stocked in the Library and we will be filling any gaps. Amongst the titles are old favourites, such as, ‘Between Shades of Gray’ by Ruta Sepetys which became one of our most popular books when it was shortlisted for the Carnegie Book Award in 2012. We gave the moving and inspirational true story of 10 year old Enaiatollah Akbari’s escape from Afghanistan  ‘In the sea there are crocodiles’ to all our new Y9s to read during the summer before starting at Wellington a few years ago. Many interesting discussions were sparked by this book. The Library also stocks graphic novelsaya book covers including Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and the humorous and enlightening Aya books set in the Ivory Coast.

The list ranges around the world encompassing classics such as ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison and recent Man Booker Shortlisted novels. I’ve always wanted to ‘read around the world’ and this list is a wonderful starting point for that journey of literary discovery! Why not widen your horizons with books set in other countries and cultures and by less mainstream authors?

If you like this idea then visit Ann Morgan’s blog. She set herself the task of ‘A year of reading the world’ This was a remarkable project and started a dialogue with readers and writers all over the world – including more obscure, hard to reach areas!

Of course this list isn’t restricted to 6th formers so when Y10 and Y11 fancy a break from those 19th Century novels try one from this reading list!

Books and reading on the BBC – #LovetoRead campaign this autumn

This autumn it is exciting to see and hear the high profile books and reading are getting on the BBC. This half-term break I properly became aware of the BBC iPlayerRadio and I’m now a huge fan. I’ve been enjoying listening to ‘Book at Bedtime’ on Radio 4 – 15 minute daily instalments of an abridged novel or for example Stephen King’s short story ‘The Cookie Jar’ for Halloween. The iPlayerRadio is a brilliant way of making the most of the diverse and fascinating content on BBC Radio stations at times to suit you and during commutes and journeys.


#LovetoRead: Celebrating the pleasures of reading

Reading is one of life’s greatest joys and can awaken our imagination, inspire and challenge us – not just as children but throughout our lives. That’s why the BBC has launched #LovetoRead, a campaign to celebrate reading. A comprehensive and exciting season of programmes is putting reading centre-stage this autumn. … programmes featuring Sue Townsend, Michael Palin, Marlon James, Willy Russell, Julie Walters, Chris Packham, Suggs, Cerys Matthews, Andrew Marr and many more.

You can browse all the programmes on the theme here and watch and listen to them on BBC iPlayer and radio player.


Some highlights suggested below:

One fascinating TV programme on reading was The school that got teens reading

Ripley Academy in Lancaster is the biggest and one of the most successful schools in Lancashire, but despite its outstanding Ofsted report the school can’t get its teenage pupils to engage in one of the most important skills imaginable – reading. It’s a problem secondary schools and parents are facing across the country. Now Ripley are trying something completely new. They have invited actor and comedian Javone Prince to shake things up a bit – and life in school is about to change. With the help of local lass and reading champion Helen Skelton, Javone’s mission is to inspire the school’s most reluctant readers to take the plunge and make reading for pleasure a habit for life. (BBC 2 website)

Radio 4’s ‘A Good Read’ is a great way to introduce yourself to new books. Two guests and the presenter Harriet Gilbert each champions a favourite book which they all read and discuss.(Harriet also hosts a monthly programme World Book Club on the BBC World Service

Paperback Heroes Andrew Marr explores spy novels, detective fiction and the fantasy genre in his series on BBC 4 Cover stories: Sleuths, spies, sorcerers and other paperback heroes

BBC 1 Books that made Britain

The secret life of Sue Townsend (aged 68 3/4) BBC 2 narrated by Julie Walters

Sue Townsend left school at 14 with no qualifications and in her early twenties was a single mother struggling to feed her three children. A decade later, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 was a critical and commercial smash and she had become the best-selling author of her era. (BBC website)

Scotland’s Favourite Books BBC Scotland conducted a public vote in August 2016 in partnership with The Scottish Book Trust and The Scottish Library and Information Council. Viewers choose their top ten from a list of the top 30 chosen by experts.

Simon Mayo’s Radio 2 Book Club

Why not sign up for the Authors and books newsletter here for weekly highlights every Thursday?


Summer reading feedback from new Y9s – ‘The boy at the top of the mountain’ by John Boyne


john-boyne-pcsIt was lovely to receive your postcards with comments on your responses to ‘The boy at the top of the mountain’ by John Boyne. We appreciated the positive feedback and are looking forward to having our book discussion tutorials with all of you as term progresses. This is an opportunity for all our new Y9s to share their views on a book they are read over the summer and to recommend favourite books to their peers.

Here are two insightful reviews:

‘This book is filled to the brim with emotional scenes, touching moments and inspirational messages. Although depressing and dark at times, John Boyne manages to convey a meaningful message of how the people you grow up around can influence your life forever. A similar book to this is ‘The boy in the striped pyjamas’ That book is also based on WWll and the life of a German boy during the war.’

Torsten writes:

‘To Wellington Library,

Powerful, devastating and tragic are the three wors that most strongly come to mind after reading this book. The theme of manipulation scared me and that Pierrot could be controlled and transformed into a different character…..Tragic! A must read!

(I removed a small section to avoid a plot spoiler!)

Fun and fierce competition characterised the Y9 library induction sessions. After a whistle-stop tour around the library our house groups (mixed boys and girls’ houses where possible) had a go at a Kahoot online quiz based on information about the library. We were impressed at how much they’d taken in on a very busy, information rich day!