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:

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.


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!





More ‘Reading around the World’ What new reading will you try in 2019?

Encouraged by our English teacher who is continuing to ‘Read around the World’, we are enjoying diversifying our library stock and discovering new authors. We’ve just focused on broadening our range of books from various African writers, with special emphasis on African women writers. Gary Younge’s article in The Guardian from December 2018 was particularly helpful with numerous recommendations. We already had a reasonable number of books from writers around the world but have added less obvious choices and the brilliant graphic novel trilogy ‘The Arab of the Future’ by Riad Sattouf.

Have you ever stopped to think how broadly you read? Do you tend to stick to one favourite author or genre? If you have a Good Reads account (or keep a paper record) you can do a yearly audit to see how many women, men or BAME authors you have read.

Every term we put a small collection of library books in boarding houses. These mini-libraries are a way of providing a varied selection of books – including fiction non-fiction and graphic novels to the students where they live and enjoy their free time. At the very least it reminds our students about the library and encourages them to pick up a book and dip in or have a quick browse of the collection and often starts a conversation about reading with their peers and staff. Whilst chatting to a Y11 student about project research I was delighted to hear that she had borrowed ‘Brown Girl Dreaming’ by Jacqueline Woodson  from her House library and was loving it.

Reading authors from a wide range of countries or books set in different places can be a great way to learn about cultures, history, societies, politics and more in an accessible and often exciting way. We have a wide ranging collection of graphic novels on historical themes – often memoirs – for example: ‘Such a lovely little war’ by  Marcelino Truong, Guy DeLisle’s comic books on Burma, North Korea, Jerusalem and more, and Marguerite Abouet’s ‘Aya’ books set in the Ivory Coast.

Try something new in 2019!

Top Ten most popular books 2018 – issued from Wellington College Library

Despite being into the second week of the new year I am unable to curb my interest in lists from 2018! Here are a few interesting statistics:

Inspired by New York Public Library here are our Top Ten Most Popular books of 2018.

  • The Territory: Escape (Book 2 in the trilogy) by Sarah Govett
  • After the Fire by Will Hill
  • The Territory by Sarah Govett (book 1)
  • The hate u give by Angie Thomas
  • Where the world ends by Geraldine McCaughrean
  • Factfulness:ten reasons we’re wrong about the world – and why things are better than you think by Hans Rosling
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • Moonrise by Sarah Crossan
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Most Popular Authors 2018

  • Sarah Govett
  • Robert Muchamore
  • Pittacus Lore
  • Will Hill
  • Celeste Ng
  • Madeline Miller
  • Philip Reeve
  • Geraldine McCaughrean
  • Yuval N. Harari
  • Khaled Hosseini

A big thank you to Sarah Govett, last year’s visiting author for inspiring our Y9s to read for pleasure and eagerly devour your dystopian trilogy.

It is interesting to see that Y12  were our most enthusiastic borrowers in 2018, followed by Y9, then Y13. The House which borrowed the most books is the Wellesley followed by the Hardinge. This is not taking into consideration size of houses or number of students in the year groups.


Best Books 2018 – Fiction

Looking for novel inspiration this Christmas holiday?

Here are the favourite fiction choices of our students and staff. All the books were read during 2018.

Circe by Madeline Miller
After the Fire by Will Hill
The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris
Good Omens – Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma
Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
Mortal Chaos by Matt Dickinson
Brave New World by H. G. Wells
Othello by William Shakespeare
Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas
Milkman by Anna Burns
Their Lost Daughters by Joy Ellis
Small Great Things – Jodie Picoult
Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices, #2) by Cassandra Clare
Small great things / Handle with care by Jodi Picoult
Slapstick or Lonesome No More – Kurt Vonnegut
I am Legend by Richard Matheson
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
Invasion: A Military Action Thriller by D C Alden
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Martian by Andy Weir
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Circe by Madeline Miller
The Food of Love by Anthony Capella
Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Cherub series by Robert Muchamore
W S Graham Selected Poems
The Territory by Sarah Govett
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness
My sister’s keeper by Jodi Picoult
The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan
Carrie by Stephen King
No hero for the Kaiser – Rudolf Frank
A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee
Stoner by John Williams
Dead Man’s Blues by Ray Celestin
All the light you cannot see by Anthony Doerr
Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
 Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut