Two big Book Prize announcements this week – The Baillie Gifford Book Award (Non-Fiction) and the Costa Book Award Shortlists

Baillie Gifford Book Award Winner Announced!

On 24th November the most prestigious award for non-fiction in the UK announced its 2020 winner. The shortlist was very strong and varied but Craig Brown triumphed with his work on the Beatles. The judges praised the biography as ‘innovative and experimental’.

One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time

One Two Three Four traces the chance fusion of the four key elements that made up The Beatles: fire (John), water (Paul), air (George) and earth (Ringo). It also tells the bizarre and often unfortunate tales of the disparate and colourful people within their orbit, among them Fred Lennon, Yoko Ono, the Maharishi, Aunt Mimi, Helen Shapiro, the con artist Magic Alex, Phil Spector, their psychedelic dentist John Riley and their failed nemesis, Det Sgt Norman Pilcher.

From the bestselling author of Ma’am Darling comes a kaleidoscopic mixture of history, etymology, diaries, autobiography, fan letters, essays, parallel lives, party lists, charts, interviews, announcements and stories. One Two Three Four joyfully echoes the frenetic hurly-burly of an era.

 

The 2020 shortlist is:

 

Costa Book Award 2020

On the same day, the Costa Book Award Shortlists were announced. These are for the categories – novel, first novel, biography, children’s and poetry and provide an interesting range of outstanding books published this year to explore. Why not pick up some great suggestions for Christmas holiday reading?

  • Category Winners announced: Monday 4th January 2021
  • Costa Book of the Year announced: Tuesday 26th January 2021

The Costa Book Awards started in 2006 (formerly the Whitbread Book Award from 1971). Have a look at the list of fantastic books which have been shortlisted and won over the history of the  Costa prize

Douglas Stuart wins the Booker Prize with ‘Shuggie Bain’

Thursday 19th November 2020 The Booker Prize Winner was announced.

I was delighted to see that this year’s winner was  Douglas Stuart with his incredible debut novel ‘Shuggie Bain’.

We read this novel for the Wellington College Community Book Club and had a fascinating discussion about it. I was, at first, quite reluctant to read such a harrowing and gritty novel set in grinding poverty, hunger and unemployment in Glasgow in the 1980s. However, I’m very glad I did as it was a poignant, touching and beautifully written story of a young boy’s relationship with his mother who was struggling with alcoholism. Shuggie is a a remarkable boy who we travel with as he grows from 5 year old to teenager – fiercely loyal to his mother Agnes. This is a novel which transports the reader to that time and place and once read is never to be forgotten.

20th November 2020: Here are a selection of the latest book reviews and recommendations from the 3rd form:

Factfulness by Hans Rosling (recommended by Harry G)

It is a great book but does seem to drag on a bit with the same idea all the way through but  still a great book and very interesting and really made me think.

Geek Girl by Holly Smale (Lydia R)

I loved this book and how inspiring and interesting it was.

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman (Theo B)

A very emotional book which covers a lot of modern problems

The Territory by Sarah Govett

(Alexander C) The book was very emotional and moving and had all the right things to keep you interested throughout the book.

and another 5 star review for The Territory:

A unique book, the first one I have read that is in a diary form. It has interesting plot development. Even though it has a diary like form, it has great scenery description and also because it is in a diary form, the story was told from one person only, keeping the readers guessing for what the other characters are thinking.

Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah  (Nina G)

I rate this book 5 stars. It was very well written as it was based off a little boy struggling in a new country alone. It made me think about my life and how different it could be. It was quite an emotional book and my thoughts on all the characters changed constantly.

Royal Society Book Prize Shortlist 2020 – winner announced

Winner Announcement

On Tuesday 3rd November the Royal Society held a fascinating live streamed event discussing the importance of popular, accessible science writing which was followed by the winner of the Royal Society Insight Investment Book Prize announcement. This year’s prize was won by Dr Camilla Pang for her book ‘Explaining Humans’

Subtitled – ‘What science can teach us about life, love and relationships.

Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of eight, Dr Camilla Pang struggled to understand the world around her. Desperate for a solution, Camilla asked her mother if there was an instruction manual for humans that she could consult. But, without the blueprint to life she was hoping for, Camilla began to create her own. Now armed with a PhD in biochemistry, Camilla dismantles our obscure social customs and identifies what it really means to be human using her unique expertise and a language she knows best: science.

We are continuing to read and promote the shortlist. Our Academic Support staff are reading ‘Explaining Humans’, a keen Physicist in Y11 is reading ‘The world according to Physics’, I’m thoroughly gripped by Susannah Cahalan’s ‘The Great Pretender’ and our Psychology staff and 6th formers are reading it too. Our Head of Economics read ‘The Double X Economy’ over half-term and wrote that ‘ it made me quite sad, as there are so many distressing stories about women. But equally it is so important that we are aware of what is going on, so I would definitely recommend it’. A biology teacher is reading Gaia Vince’s ‘Transcendence’ so I’m looking forward to hearing feedback on that book too.

9th October 2020 update. Our copies of the Shortlisted books have just arrived and we have an eye-catching display in the library. 5th and 6th form Scientists (and interested others!) are encouraged to borrow a copy and read it over the half-term break. Science Society will be leading this and we look forward to some lively discussions of the shortlisted books. I’m going to start with ‘The Great Pretender’ by Susannah Cahalan. Review here

We have e-books of 3 of the titles on our VLeBooks platform.

The Royal Society Science Book Prize Shortlist for 2020 has just been announced. As in previous years we are looking forward to reading the 6 shortlisted books with Science Society and other interested 6th formers.  The books are billed as ‘representing the very best in popular science writing from around the world for a non-specialist audience’.  From past experience the books are engaging, fascinating and informative and have enthused our students to extend their reading in academic subjects. As well as Physics and Biology being represented this year there is a book of interest to Economists – ‘The Double X Economy’ by Linda Scott. This book is considered ‘the first book to demonstrate the true impact of women’s economic exclusion – and map out the exciting potential for change. Psychology students and the curious general reader can explore ‘The Great Pretender’ by Susannah Cahalan which uses detective work to explore the famous 1973 Stanford study of psychiatric hospitals. She asks the questions ‘what if that ground-breaking and now-famous experiment was itself deeply flawed? And what does that mean for our understanding of mental illness today?’

We have e-books of ‘The Double X Economy’ by Linda Scott and ‘The world according to Physics’ by Jim Al-Khalili and ‘The Great Pretender’ by Susannah Cahalan on our VLeBooks platform which can be read immediately. ‘Explaining Humans’ by Dr Camila Pang and ‘The Body’ by Bill Bryson are already available in print form from the library.

You can view all the past winners here  Many of them are available to borrow from the Library.

The winner will be announced on 3rd November 2020. We look forward to our discussion meeting where students have the opportunity to champion the book they read if they feel it is a strong contended for the prize.

Christmas reading lists and books of the year 2019

It’s that exciting time of year when everywhere you look people are sharing their ‘Best books’ lists from 2019. This is a brilliant opportunity to be reminded of the great books you might have missed or stocking up on holiday reading or Christmas present ideas. The winter is a perfect time to cosy up with an enjoyable book. I firmly believe it is vital that our young people are reading, for so many crucial reasons – developing focus and sustained concentration, expanding vocabulary and developing reading skills, widening subject knowledge, building empathy by learning about other cultures and situations. Fiction helps us empathise with characters struggling with difficulties and can help us resolve our own issues. Research has shown that children and teenagers who read for pleasure are more successful in life. See the National Literacy Trust Report on this subject and p6 Reading is a form of mindfulness – a calming absorbed time to escape from daily pressures and worries. Aside from all the worthy and important stuff it’s fun and escapist to lose yourself in a grand adventure or story of your choosing. For anyone interested in the subject of how the digital world is affecting our deep reading and concentration I recommend Maryanne Wolf’s book ‘Reader, Come Home’.

Waterstones have announced their book and author of the year. These are voted for by Waterstones booksellers and represent books they consistently love and recommend to customers.

Charlie Mackesy won Book of the Year with his charming The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse and Greta Thunberg was voted Author of the Year for her book ‘ No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference.

In October The Independent newspaper has pages of best books on themes including ‘best plastic-free living books’ 

100 novels that shaped our world

I’m looking forward to exploring the BBC’s recent list of ‘100 novels that shaped our world’ You can also watch the accompanying programmes ‘Novels that shaped our world’ on BBC iPlayer .There are 3 episodes exploring class, the novel’s link to the rise and fall of the British Empire and women as readers and writers.

Here is the Guardian Best Books of the Year list  

Here are the Best Books of the Year 2019 chosen by writers

Best thrillers of the year

The FT Business Books of the Year Won by Caroline Criado Perez with ‘Invisible Women: Exposing data bias in a world designed for men’ (which also won the Royal Society Science Book Prize 2019)

The Telegraph 50 Best Books of 2019

New York Times Critics’ Top Books of 2019 

NYT best children’s and YA books of 2019

For a view from America here are the New York Public Library’s favourites from this year – arranged in  5 categories You can explore the Library’s top 10 books in five categories: kids, Spanish-language kids, teens, adults, and poetry.

Here are the ‘Five Books’ website Best books of 2019This excellent website interviews experts in many areas of expertise and asks them to pick the best 5 books in their field. This creates a vast bank of suggestions on many topics from Science to Crime Fiction, Business to Poetry. A bookish delight!

Browsing all the lists, a novel which keeps featuring is Olive, again’ Elizabeth Strout’s sequel to ‘Olive Kitteridge’. This highly regarded and frequently recommended novel has somehow passed me by so I’m looking forward to reading them both.

Costa Book Awards Shortlists 2019

The Costa Book Award category shortlists have recently been announced. Many of these books feature prominently on books of the year lists. Some great reading suggestions in these lists too. The categories are for Novel, First Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s book and the ultimate Costa Book of the Year will be announced on 6th January 2020. Here is the list of past winners and shortlists.  I’ve bought the shortlists for library stock so we can read and join the conversation about this titles.

Our most popular fiction of this term so far has been the ‘Scythe’ trilogy by Neal Shusterman. This has proved incredibily popular and has caught on further as students have seen many of their friends walking around with this book. It’s a dystopian series which is ideal for ‘Hunger Games’ fans. It has also been popular with English teachers and librarians and my 19 and 21 year old children. I sent them the final book ‘The Toll’ at University and it is so gripping they are getting distracted from all else!

Our top 4 fiction titles this term are:

  • Scythe Book 1 by Neal Shusterman
  • The Territory (Book 1) by Sarah Govett (previously our visiting author)
  • Burial Rites by Hanah Kent (Wellington Community Book Club read)
  • Joint 5th Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Hit by Melvin Burgess and Thunderhead (Scythe Book 2) by Neal Shusterman

Our top 5 non-fiction titles were:

  • Clearing the air: the beginning and end of air pollution by Tim Smedley
  • Talking to strangers: what we should know about the people we don’t know by Malcom Gladwell
  • Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
  • Factfulness by Hans Rosling
  • The Body: a guide for occupants by Bill Bryson

Inspirational reading initiatives!

This academic year our Headmaster has highlighted three main areas he would like us to focus on – inspiration, independence and inclusivity. He is particularly keen for our students (and staff) to be inspired in everything they do and for us all to share books that have inspired us.

It’s exciting to see that reading has taken off in a big way already this term and is branching out beyond the confines of the library and the English Department. We have always encouraged students to read books to extend their academic subject knowledge and bought prize shortlisted books particularly in the field of popular science for Library stock. For the past few years we have promoted the Royal Society Book Prize  and bought multiple copies so students can read and discuss them together.

Royal Society Book Prize Shortlist 2017 – Student shadowing.

This year Biology teacher Nik Light has taken this idea from a library Tweet and run with it. Our 6th Form Science Society are ‘shadowing’ the Royal Society Prize – each reading a shortlisted book (or as much as possible of it in the short time available!) before they meet to deliver their verdicts and debates the merits of each book just before the winner is announced by Brian Cox on 19th Sept. We’ll have the live Twitter feed up in the library as I don’t think the ceremony is broadcast live. One of the students has already declared that their book (described only as ISBN 978-1784700171 as we don’t want to pre-empt the judging!) is the best Science book they have ever read.

Y9 Chemistry reading – ‘The Disappearing Spoon’ by Sam Kean

Dr Caroline Evans, Head of the Chemistry Department is reinforcing the drive to encourage our students to read more and read widely, particularly to extend their subject knowledge in an interesting and entertaining way. She explains:

The Chemistry Department has decided to incorporate more literacy into our lessons for the third form. We have a class set of ‘The Disappearing Spoon’ by Sam Kean which students will be reading and discussing once a fortnight. It is a fantastic book with lots of interesting tales about the Periodic Table.  The plan is for students to be able to use their newly acquired knowledge in the lessons about the Periodic Table. 

She adds:

As a student I didn’t warm to fiction and I didn’t realise that popular science existed. I’m hopeful that for some of our keen scientists that we can combine their love of science with a love for reading. If you’d like to read the book alongside your tutee then there are copies available in the library. Unleash your inner-geek!

We’ve also been holding book discussions with our new Y9s about ‘Z for Zachariah’ the book they were given to read over the summer holiday. In conjunction with Rob Murphy, head of Y9, the students have been thinking about their 8 ‘Desert Island Books’. This has been easier for some than others – Robert Muchamore’s ‘Cherub’ series seems to be a universal favourite and the book ‘Lion’ has been popular this summer with the film tie-in. Based on the Desert Island Discs format with a twist, the students were allowed to take one luxury and one track of music to the island. We’re hoping that this work will lead to some interesting book discussions with tutors. Emphasis was placed on the students saying why they liked a book and the impact it had on them.

Here’s a charming and impressive example by a Y9 boy.

Desert Island books

Robert Harris The Cicero Trilogy: Imperium, Lustrum and The Dictator

These three books are probably the greatest examples of Harris’s writing. I loved the attention to history and the sheer drama which he made out of Cicero’s Lawyer/Politician life. And they were my first meaty and proper books, all of the books in the trilogy are about 400 pages long.

Robert Muchamore: Brigands M.C. (Cherub series)

Cherub was what got me into reading. They’re everything, spy novels, teenage romances, gritty missions, epic training sequences. Literally everything I wanted from a children’s book. Since the series is huge I can’t choose them all. If I have to choose, the penultimate book in the first series (the James series) is the best.

PG Wodehouse: Carry on Jeeves

PG Wodehouse is the second funniest author I have ever read, and of his many eccentric characters Jeeves is by far my favourite. Jeeves and Bertie Wooster make a ludicrously funny pair. And this is the kind of book which I could spend hours just finding something new in its pages.

Jung Chang: Wild Swans

Ever since reading this I wanted to know more about Mao’s regime and how its still affecting  China today, I know so little about such an interesting country and period, and I would love to explore the area further.

The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (the first one) by Douglas Adams

This is the funniest, most plot hole ridden “book” of all time. I absolutely adored it when I first read it and keep loving it today. It’s just so quirky and different in every way.

Captain Bluebear

Read this. It’s the most charming and creative book ever. Its like a hyperactive imagination went wild but was then tamed by clear concise writing and beautiful turns of phrase.

Music: Macklemore, Drug Dealer

It’s such a soulful song and makes me really focused

Luxury: Spaghetti Bolognese

On the island there would probably be food, it’s just Spaghetti Bolognese would be better than anything I could find.

Jane Austen 200

And finally – our enthusiastic English Department and Literary Society is holding a celebration of the bicentenary of Jane Austen next week with Regency High Tea, music and readings from her novels.

 

The Carnegie Book Award 2016 shadowing takes off!

Carnegie group 2016The Carnegie Book Award Shortlist 2016 has been announced and our Y9 shadowing group members have collected their first books to read over the Easter holidays. It’s a fantastic shortlist this year including ‘The Lie Tree’ by Frances Hardinge; Costa Book of the Year 2015 and much praised and recommended by both librarians here. I thought ‘One’ was amazing and Sarah Crossan’s trademark style of writing in blank verse works well with the subject matter. Tipi and Grace are conjoined teenage twins and each chapter conveys a poetic snapshot of their life.

Read more about the shortlists here  You can watch author and illustrator videos here

Guardian reviews of all the books can be found here

Having multiple copies of the shortlisted books enables a large group of students to read the books simultaneously and provokes heated discussions about the merits and drawbacks of all of them. After the award process is over they become useful sets of contemporary fiction which can be read by tutor groups.

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The 8 shortlisted books are:

One by Sarah Crossan

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders

The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

‘The Lie Tree’ by Frances Hardinge wins the Costa Book Award 2015

Ms Dahlke writes: 

Congratulations to Frances Hardinge for winning the Costa Book of the Year award for her young adult novel, The Lie Tree. Despite the award being established in 1971, this is only the second time a book for young people has won it. I’m not surprised that it won the overall award, I read it over the summer holidays and have been recommending it to people (of all ages) ever since.

The book is set in Victorian times and begins with Faith, a teenage girl, and her family arriving on an island in order to escape the scandal that engulfed them in London. What was the scandal? And why is her natural scientist father so reluctant to talk about it? Faith is determined to find out.

This book has an original and tightly structured plot, which keeps the suspense going until the very end. Faith – stubborn and spiky, but with a sense of honour that wins out in the end – is a great character. It’s an entertaining read that will also raise questions about the nature of truth and lies. 

I would agree that this is a unique and fascinating novel, appealing to all ages. More information is available in an interesting article from Telegraph books

 

Carnegie Book Award Shadowing is underway!

carnegie shortlist 2015

CILIP Carnegie Medal 2015 shortlist:

  • Apple and rain by Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury)
  • When Mr Dog bites by Brian Conaghan (Bloomsbury)
  • More than this by Patrick Ness (Walker Books)
  • Buffalo soldier by Tanya Landman (Walker Books)
  • Tinder by Sally Gardner (Orion Children’s Books)
  • Cuckoo song by Frances Hardinge (Pan Macmillan)
  • The fastest boy in the world by Elizabeth Laird (Pan Macmillan)
  • The middle of nowhere by Geraldine McCaughrean (Usborne Books)

This year’s beautifully colour-coordinated collection of shortlisted books have arrived! We discussed them with Book Chat club on Wednesday and they chose to start reading The Fastest Boy in the World and When Mr Dog Bites first. We have multiple copies of the books and are hoping to shadow the prize with a number of 3rd form tutor groups. 5 of the titles are also available as e-books. Are you up for the challenge of reading all 8 over the Easter holidays? If this is too much you have until 22nd June to read them and choose your winner!

carnegie 2015

On Monday 23rd March the Y9 Scholars and Exhibitioners started their shadowing. They enthusiastically chose shortlisted titles to read over the Easter holidays.

Booker Prize Announcement 2014 and holiday reading suggestions

Holiday Reading

flanagan cover image

On Tuesday 14th October the Booker Prize winner was announced. This year marked the first time non-Commonwealth writers were eligible for the prize. Contrary to the fears of an American takeover it was won by Australian writer Richard Flanagan with his book ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’. The novel recounts the experiences of a fictional surgeon in a Japanese prisoner of war camp on the Thailand-Burma railway. Flanagan’s father was a Japanese prisoner of war in a camp on the Thailand-Burma railway and Flanagan felt compelled to write the book – in fact it took him 12 years and five versions to finish it. Read more about it here and have a browse of the other shortlisted titles. Another brilliant book on this harrowing subject is ‘The Railway Man’ by Eric Lomax. This is a first-hand account of the ordeal of being a prisoner on the Thailand-Burma railway (made into a film in 2013). If this is too much misery I am assured that Booker Shortlisted title ‘We are all completely beside ourselves’ by Karen Jay Fowler is “hilarious and heartbreaking” so definitely some humour amidst the sadness.

For non-fiction and subject specific suggestions don’t forget the Top 10 Books and for more fiction suggestions try Tom Wayman’s Wellington 100 and Middle School Reading List