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.

 

The Big Jubilee Read

The Big Jubilee Read

To celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee the BBC has compiled the ‘Big Jubilee Read’ listing 70 great reads from across the Commonwealth and spanning the seven decades of her reign.  Ten books for each of the seven decades of the Queen’s reign were selected by a panel of librarians, booksellers and literature experts from readers’ recommendations spanning 31 countries.

It must have been some task to whittle down all the excellent books published in the last 70 years to 70 titles and naturally there will be some big omissions and it won’t please everyone. There is no William Golding (many would have expected to see ‘Lord of the Flies’ on this list), nor any novels by Graham Greene or J. R. R. Tolkein. However, I regard this list as an opportunity to highlight works by lesser known authors and encourage us to diversify our reading. Harry Potter and the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy really don’t need any more exposure and remain hugely popular. Nor does this list seem to be intended for children. However, it would make an excellent reading list for 6th Formers broadening their reading horizons.

You can read more on this subject here and The Metro article does state:

A panel of independent librarians, booksellers and literature specialists chose the titles from a readers’ choice longlist, with a focus on ‘celebrating great books and shining a spotlight on lesser known books and authors who deserve recognition’, according to the BBC.

The Women’s Prize for Fiction has selected  fourteen books from exceptional women that we’ll be reading from The Big Jubilee Read.

Some of my favourite recommendations from the list are:

*Life of Pi* – Yann Martel (2001, Canada)

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood (1985, Canada)

*Small Island* – Andrea Levy (2004, England)

*Wide Sargasso Sea* – Jean Rhys (1966, Dominica/Wales)

*The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy* – Douglas Adams (1979, England)

Death of a Naturalist – Seamus Heaney (1966, Northern Ireland) (I’ve loved these poems since studying them for A Level English Literature many years ago!)

Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie (1981, England/India)

*Picnic at Hanging Rock* – Joan Lindsay (1967, Australia)

Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2006, Nigeria)

*The Book Thief* – Markus Zusak (2005, Australia)

White Teeth – Zadie Smith (2000, England)

Shuggie Bain – Douglas Stuart (2020, Scotland)

Looking at my favourites I have to confess I haven’t read any of the books from 1952 – 1961 – so I’ve got some exploring to do of the the first decade of reading.

The titles with asterisks I consider more accessible for younger teens 13+.

International Women’s Day 2022 – Books and reading

Next Tuesday, 8th March, marks International Women’s Day. The theme this year is break the bias. There will be a display of books in the library ranging from inspirational biographies from Michelle Obama to Malala, books about feminism and fiction by female authors. One of the most important recent books on this subject is  ‘Invisible Women: Exposing data bias in a world designed by men’ by Caroline Criado Perez. This book won the Royal Society Science Book Prize 2019 and is on one of our 6th Formers Top Ten Books list. Two very readable and interesting history books which highlight the role women have played in history are:  ‘A History of the World in 21 Women’ and ‘A History of Britain in 21 Women’ by Jenni Murray. These are currently available in the library. On this day the Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist is also announced. One of my favourite books was the 2020 winner – Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell.

Very aptly, the Wellington College Community Book Club will be discussing ‘Old Baggage’ by Lissa Evans on Tuesday 8th March. This is a comic novel featuring a feisty former suffragette as the protagonist. It’s 1928 and Mattie Simpkin is on a mission to educate the next generation of girls on the importance of full female suffrage as the battle for votes for women is not over.

Here are some reading suggestions:

  • Invisible Women: Exposing data bias in a world designed for men by Caroline Criado Perez
  • Hidden figures : the untold story of the African American women who helped win the space race by Margot Lee Shetterly
  • We should all be feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Women & Power: A manifesto by Mary Beard
  • Women, Race and Class by Angela Y Davis
  • How to be a woman by Caitlin Moran
  • A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Misogynation by Laura Bates
  • A History of the World in 21 Women by Jenni Murray
  • A History of Britain in 21 Women by Jenni Murray
  • Dancing in the Mosque by Humayra Qadiri
  • A room of one’s own by Virginia Woolf

Some inspiring Women’s Biographies:

  • Educated by Tara Westover
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama
  • Maya Angelou’s autobiography starting with ‘I know why the caged birds sing’
  • West with the night by Beryl Markham
  • My own words: Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  • I am Malala

An excellent film to watch is ‘On the Basis of Sex’ (2018). This is a biographical legal drama based on the life and early cases of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who served as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1993 to her death in 2020, and became the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

Hidden Figures (see the book above).

Have a browse of our  Gender, Identity and Feminism padlet for more reading recommendations.

Costa Book Award 2021 – Book of the Year Announcement

We have been eagerly following the announcements in the 50th Costa Book Awards 2021. Copies of all the Shortlisted Books were added to library stock. Two of our favourite books of the year were shortlisted for the novel category – ‘The Island of Missing Trees’ by Elif Shafak and ‘Unsettled Ground’ by Claire Fuller.

We were particularly excited to see ‘The Crossing’ by Manjeet Mann won the Children’s Book Category. This powerful and moving verse novel has been very popular with our students and we are looking forward to Manjeet’s visit next term. Last year we gave all our incoming Y9s a copy of Manjeet’s first YA verse novel ‘Run, Rebel’ as a summer holiday read before joining Wellington College. This was also very well received and prompted many students to go on and read ‘Run, Rebel’. A number of them developed a new interest in verse novels and went on to read Sarah Crossan’s books. They loved the pace of the story and the look of the poems on the page.

 

 

On Tuesday 1st February 2022 the Costa Book of the Year was announced; chosen from the five category winners.

Hannah Lowe’s collection of poetry, ‘The Kids’, has won the £30,000 Costa Book of the Year Award. This book of sonnets has been described as ‘uplifting’ and ‘a book to fall in love with’. I like the judging criteria of ‘the most enjoyable book’ –  a book to read, enjoy and share. The prize ‘rewarding and celebrating highly readable and recommendable books that anyone and everyone can enjoy.’

Having read, and thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Kids’, I agree with the judges – this is a celebration of young people, their energy and diversity and also a personal story of a young teacher who isn’t afraid to poke fun at her own mistakes; the learning is both by the teacher and the students. Lowe creates an incredibly accessible and moving collection of contemporary sonnets including themes of motherhood, parents and relationships which is  often very witty. Lowe’s personality and voice buzz off the page – there is the immediacy in her writing which makes it a highly accessible collection of poetry. Many people feel wary or daunted by poetry but this book is for everyone and may convince poetry sceptics to try some more!

A particular joy is hearing Hannah Lowe read her poetry. You can listen to a reading here

Listen to an interview with Lowe by current students at City and Islington College. She was an English teacher at CANDI from 2002 – 2012.

Best Books of the Year 2021

One of the delights of December is the proliferation of lists of ‘Best books of the Year’ from a range of sources. Waterstones have just announced their ‘Children’s Gift of the Year’ as ‘Julia and the Shark’, a beautifully illustrated poetic story for children. Described as A captivating, powerful and luminous story from a bestselling, award-winning author about a mother, a daughter, and the great Greenland shark. With mesmerising black and yellow illustrations and presented as a hardback with tracing paper inserts, this is a perfect gift for 9+ fans of David Almond and Frances Hardinge.(lovereading4kids)

Waterstones Books of the Year 2021 Winner ‘The Lyrics’ by Paul McCartney

Foyles Books of the Year 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Costa Book Award Shortlists, 23rd November 2021

Booktrust – The very best books of 2021 picked by authors and illustrators

Faber have a series of beautifully presented themed book gift guides.

Penguin : The books we loved in 2021

Guardian Best Books of 2021 including categories for Politics, Crime and Thrillers, Science Fiction and Fantasy and Food so far.

Guardian Best Books of 2021 chosen by guest authors

The Times best books of 2021

This list chooses Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest novel ‘Klara and the Sun’ as its top fiction pick.

For children Phil Earle’s ‘When the sky falls’ triumphs. This moving, unique story is set in a zoo during World War ll.

FT Fiction of the Year 2021

Best books of 2021 by themed lists from Five Books

Support your local independent bookshop through in-person visits or online at bookshop.org. Have a look at the Books Are my Bag readers choice award winners.

We also loved the poetry BAMB Poetry choice and it’s available from the Library now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also have the fascinating and thought-provoking Royal Society Science Book Prize Shortlist and Winner 2021 in the library.

 

 

 

 

Popular book choices from the Library staff and borrowers this year include:

Thrillers/Detective/Murder Mystery/Spies:

  • The Appeal by Janice Hallet
  • The Man who died twice by Richard Osman (the second outing of the entertaining and sympathetic band of elderly sleuths The Thursday Murder Club)
  • Slough House by Mick Herron

Historical Fiction

  • The Passenger by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz
  • The Women of Troy by Pat Barker
  • The moth and the mountain by Ed Caesar

Young Adult:

  • Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman
  • Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe  by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  • Run, Rebel by Manjeet Mann
  • The Crossing by Manjeet Mann
  • 29 locks by Nicola Garrett

Picture Books:

  • The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess by Tom Gauld
  • Arlo the lion who couldn’t sleep by Catherine Rayner
  • The bird within me by Sara Lundberg
  • What happened to you by James Catchpole

Graphic Novels:

  • Esther’s notebooks by Riad Sattouf (in English and French)
  • Factory Summers by Guy Delisle
  • Couch Fiction: A graphic tale of pyschotherapy by Philippa Perry
  • Medusa by Jessie Burton
  • Sapiens – Graphic novel volume 2. by David Vandermeulen and Yuval Noah Harari

General fiction:

  • The Fell by Sarah Moss
  • The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex
  • Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam (Dr Hendrick’s top pick)
  • Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers
  • Still Life by Sarah Winman
  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
  • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

We continue to recommend ‘Miss Benson’s Beetle’ by Rachel Joyce as wonderful feelgood fiction and the audiobook is brilliantly narrated by Juliet Stevenson.

Non-fiction:

  • Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman
  • Vaxxers by Sarah Gilbert
  • Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake
  • The world according to colour: A cultural history by James Fox

See below for the list of books we read and discussed at the Wellington College Community Book Club (out of necessity, mostly online via Teams this year). This is a friendly, informal group of teachers, staff, parents, Old Wellingtonians and parents of OWs.

Wellington College Community Book Club – 2021 Titles

January:   Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell and My sister, the serial killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite.

March:      Jeoffry: The poet’s cat by Oliver Soden and The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.

April:         Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro and A woman is no man by Etaf Rum

June:         Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce and The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Sept:         A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Nov:        The man who died twice by Richard Osman and  Leave the world behind by Rumaan Alam

For our Book Club meeting on 25th January 2022 (7.30pm on Teams) we will be discussing Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Ten most borrowed non-fiction of 2021

The Great Pretender: The undercover mission that changed our understanding of madness Susannah Cahalan
Sapiens : a Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari
Invisible Women : exposing data bias in a world designed for men Caroline Criado-Perez
The Psychology Book Dorling Kindersley
Mindfulness Mark J. Williams
Stuff Matters Mark Miodownik
Wild Swans : Three daughters of China Jung Chang
Talking to Strangers : what we should know about the people we don’t know Malcolm Gladwell
Testosterone rex : Unmaking the myths of our gendered minds Cordelia Fine
The Story of Art E. H. Gombrich

Top 15 most borrowed authors of 2021

Neal Shusterman
Sarah J. Maas
Ben Aaronovitch
Alice Oseman
Sarah Govett
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Dan Freedman
Simon Mason
Angie Thomas
Malorie Blackman
J. K. Rowling
Kwame Alexander
Sarah Crossan
George Orwell
Leigh Bardugo

Top 20 most popular fiction titles of 2021

Scythe: Book 1 Neal Shusterman
Thunderhead: (Scythe Book 2) Neal Shusterman
The Territory: Book 1 Sarah Govett
The song of Achilles Madeline Miller
Miss Benson’s Beetle Rachel Joyce
Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe Benjamin Alire Saenz
The Hate U Give Angie Thomas
Running girl Simon Mason
Unstoppable Dan Freedman
1984 George Orwell
We were liars E. Lockhart
A court of thorns and roses: Book 1 Sarah J. Maas
The Penguin Lessons Tom Michell
The midnight library Matt Haig
Dry Neal Shusterman
The Thursday Murder Club Richard Osman
Heartstopper: Volume 4 (graphic novel) Alice Oseman
The Vanishing Half Brit Bennett
Becoming Muhammad Ali James Patterson and Kwame Alexander
Holes Louis Sachar

 

Book of the Week – Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

17th September 2021 Book of the Week:

‘Dry’ by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

It is delightful to see a number of our new 3rd form visiting the library several times a day, for a brief pause, to read a graphic novel or the next instalment of their favourite dystopian novel. We are having more book chats than usual and enthusiastic readers are recommending the ‘Scythe’ trilogy to their friends. Books not only provide an opportunity to relax and escape into other worlds in a busy boarding school day, but also the chance to connect with peers over reactions to books. Neal Shusterman’s young adult books have been incredibly popular with our students across the age range. This week’s book recommendation is ‘Dry’ written by Neal Shusterman in collaboration with his son Jarrod. The 4th form scholars have been racing through this novel. This fast-paced, thought-provoking thriller is set on the brink of apocalypse. The taps have run dry in California and a group of teens struggle to keep their lives and humanity. What would you do if a Tap-Out struck? You can read a more detailed review here.

Mental Health Awareness Week,10th – 16th May – #ConnectWithNature

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, 10th – 16th May 2021  on the theme of Nature. The Mental Health Foundation is encouraging all of us to connect with nature (Further information about why they have chosen this theme here)

What could be more perfect than getting lost in a good book in the midst of a bluebell wood listening to birdsong?

The goals for the week are described as:

  • Firstly, to inspire more people to connect with nature in new ways, noticing the impact that this connection can have for their mental health.
  • Secondly, to convince decision makers at all levels that access to and quality of nature is a mental health and social justice issue as well as an environmental one.

Here are their Top Tips for Connecting with Nature

We have a growing collection of books in the library on the theme of nature – including diaries, memoirs, what to spot in your garden, rewilding projects and including Helen Macdonald and Robert Macfarlane’s books. Have a browse of the library Nature and Wildlife padlet to explore the books available on this theme.

Many people have talked about how since the arrival of COVID and the lockdown periods they have come to appreciate their immediate surroundings and the plants and wildlife in their gardens and find it calming – a tonic for their wellbeing. I include myself in this number, having become fascinated by the birds in my garden and enjoying local walks in search of bluebells and ducklings at this time of year.  In the library we have been developing a collection of books on wildlife and nature writing. It ranges from memoirs which explore training a goshawk as a way of overcoming a sudden bereavement – ‘H is for Hawk’ by Helen Macdonald to ‘The Wild Remedy: How Nature Mends Us – A Diary’ by Emma Mitchell including beautiful nature drawings, photos and honest reflections on the author’s struggles with depression. We also have books on bird identification and ‘Bird Therapy’ by Joe Harkness and ‘The Garden Jungle: or Gardening to Save the Planet’ by Dave Goulson. Described thus: The Garden Jungle is about the wildlife that lives right under our noses, in our gardens and parks, between the gaps in the pavement, and in the soil beneath our feet.  

We are so lucky to live and work in a beautiful environment with deer in the woods and at this time of year ducklings and goslings on the lake. Have a look at the Welly Wildlife website for more about the habitats and species around us and follow @WellyWildlife on Twitter.

We also have library padlets on the themes of  Mental Health and Wellbeing and Feelgood Fiction. The books are available to borrow from the library and may also be available as e-books.

 

Mood-boosting books

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

 

 

 

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 feel 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 for Young People 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.

Here is the Reading Well list for young children

This is the list of Books on Prescription – Reading Well for adults

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.

Tutor Group and Book Club Reads

One positive aspect of lockdown has been an increase in reading. Many students and staff tell me they have been reading more than usual and book clubs have been flourishing.  I proposed the idea of tutor group book clubs with a shared read chosen either by the students themselves or I provided a shortlist of suggested titles with summaries and the students voted for their favourite. We now have 10 tutor groups from Y9 to L6th reading a book together and looking forward to discussing it in group tutorials later this term. The Picton Y9 boys read ‘Ready Player One’ by Ernest Cline over the Christmas holiday and we had a lively discussion including a number of Y8s who are joining the house in September 2021. The boys were enthusiastic about the book and volunteered insightful comments. House Master and Assistant HM Mr Murray and Mr Bilclough were brilliant champions of the book (it helped that this is one of Mr Murray’s favourite books and English teacher Mr Bilclough is a previously sceptical convert!)

The Wellington Community Book Club are reading ‘Jeoffry the Poet’s Cat’ by Oliver Soden and The Midnight Library by Matt Haig for their online discussion in March.

 

 

The Lower 6th Book Club has been flourishing and expanding and have read a diverse trio of books so far.