World Book Day – 7th March 2024

We’ve been having a revival of Book Face fun for WBD this year. The library team have been scouring the shelves for any books with faces on the covers – including animals! We’re encouraging staff and students to create their own. It takes some skill to match the book to the face although some of them are completely hidden and then it’s a guessing game.

Here are some of our previous Cracking Read suggestions:

The Mallinson Library, Wellington College | Cracking reads for World Book Day 2018 (

The Mallinson Library, Wellington College | Cracking reads and podcast suggestions for no screen Monday and beyond (


Christmas Reading Times and Books of the Year 2023

Christmas Reading Times 2023

Every year we eagerly look forward to the Christmas Reading Times, compiled by Helen Smith, Librarian at Eckington School. Helen scours the TV and streaming listings to find films and TV series based on books. This is an every increasing task with the proliferation of streaming platforms. From Julia Donaldson picture books to Jack Reacher thrillers, there is a wide range of viewing based on books and traditional stories. A highlight for me is ‘The Essex Serpent’ and ‘Lessons in Chemistry’ on Apple TV.

There is also a Christmas Reading Times Primary listing programmes and films based on young children’s books.

It’s certainly a good year for Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Sheffler’s picture book adaptations! I’m really looking forward to the new adaptation of Tabby McTat (BBC 1 25th December 2.35pm). Here’s a trailer to enjoy in anticipation.

Here are our Top Ten most borrowed fiction titles of 2023:

  • Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
  • Scythe (Book 1) by Neal Shusterman
  • The Blue Book of Nebo by Manon Steffan Ros
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
  • Circe by Madeline Miller
  • Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
  • Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Five Survive by Holly Jackson
  • Nothing more to tell by Karen M McManus

Top Ten Most Borrowed Authors 2023

  • Sarah J. Maas
  • Robert Muchamore
  • Neal Shusterman
  • Holly Jackson
  • George Orwell
  • J. K. Rowling
  • Bonnie Garmus
  • Malorie Blackman
  • Claire Keegan
  • Karen M. McManus

Top Ten Most borrowed non-fiction 2023

  • Better day coming: Blacks and equality 1890 – 2000 by Adam Fairclough
  • Global perspectives on sustainable fashion by Alison Gwilt
  • Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
  • The Connell Guide to how to read a poem by Malcolm Hebron
  • A History of the World in 21 Women by Jenni Murray
  • Atomic Habits by James Clear
  • Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez
  • Fashionopolis by Dana Thomas
  • How to break up with fast fashion by Lauren Bravo
  • Why chemical reactions happen by James Keeler and Peter Wothers

A selection of Books of the Year lists:

Best Books for Teens of 2023 – Five Books Expert Recommendations

The best books of 2023 | Best books of the year | The Guardian

The 10 Best Books of 2023 – The New York Times (

It’s interesting to get an American perspective on the Best Books of the Year. Here are the NYT Top Ten from 2023:

Best Books of the Year 2023

The results are in – Waterstones and Foyles have announced their books of the year. It’s pleasing to see that our L6th inaugural book choice and our next Community Book Club read triumphed as Foyles Fiction Book of the Year. ‘Yellowface’ by R. F. Kuang is an addictive, clever satire. I’m looking forward to discussing it with the Book Club in January.

I couldn’t agree more with the comments on the Foyles website: As unputdownable as it is wickedly funny, Kuang’s pin-sharp thriller of the machinations of the publishing world is a novel to gobble up in one, breathless sitting.

Read more about the 3 chosen titles here: Foyles Books of the Year – Foyles

The non-fiction winner was  ‘Eve: How The Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution‘ by Cat Bohannon. Read a review here

Waterstones choice was Katherine Rundell’s fantasy ‘Impossible Creatures’ as their overall Book of the Year and it also won the Foyles Children’s Book of the Year. ‘Impossible Creatures’ has the hallmarks of a children’s classic – packed full of adventures, original world-building and sympathetic characters. The writing is exquisite and the cast of creatures endlessly entertaining and immersive. It feels like a combination of Lord of the Rings and His Dark Materials and is a magical read. Fans will be pleased to hear that Rundell is already working on a follow-up novel and a trilogy is planned.

Katherine Rundell wins Waterstones book of 2023 with ‘immediate classic’ | Books | The Guardian

Waterstones Debut Novel of the Year was awarded to Alice Winn’s ‘In Memoriam’

Waterstones Book of the Year 2023 | The Winner

Dan Freedman and ‘Unstoppable’

We’re excited to welcome Dan Freedman to give two author talks to our Y9 in February. In 2021, during lockdown, Dan ran two online Q&A sessions for three of our Y9 boys’ tutor groups. They were fascinating and giving the boys ‘Unstoppable’ to read as a group really kickstarted their reading for pleasure.

Unstoppable  is a thriller combining a sporting theme, with family tensions and secrets. It tells the story of 14 year old sport mad twins Kaine and Roxy. Roxy is a talented tennis player who is being pushed hard by her Dad. Her twin Kaine is hoping to make it in football but is starting to get into trouble and being lured into crime. The twins become increasingly alienated and the family starts to become torn apart. Here’s Dan Freedman talking about his book and reading from it.)

This year the whole year group have been given a copy to read in advance of Dan’s visit. We’re hoping to generate a real buzz around the book, fuelling plenty of book chat. It’s really positive to see many tutors are reading ‘Unstoppable’ too so they can join in the discussions.

A former Y9 gave this endorsement:

‘It was a thrilling read and I started it on Saturday morning and had finished by that evening. It is exactly the genre that I like! I’m going to tell my friends to read it.’

And let’s give the last word to Marcus Rashford:


Christmas Reading Times – What’s on your Christmas movie list?

Once again Mrs Smith, Librarian at Eckington School has dedicated many hours to creating her guide to Christmas viewing based on books. As she writes: ‘Behind many good films, there’s often a great book!’ XmasTV21

‘In this guide you can find details of films and television series that are based on books and available to watch over the festive period. Some of your fantastic school librarians have made suggestions for books they would like to see adapted, and you’ll find these, and some of the books that inspired the films in this guide, in your school and public libraries. Why not borrow one for the holidays?’

It’s available to read or download from the School Library Association website. Use this link and scroll down to Christmas TV list 2021.

As always a big thank you to Helen Smith for generously sharing this guide with us!

See lists of Best Books of the Year 2021 collated here. And browse our most borrowed books and authors.

Here are some recommended podcasts


October is Black History Month in the UK: Dig deeper, look closer, think bigger.







Thursday saw the start of October and with it the beginning of Black History Month. Google marked this with a Google Doodle celebrating the life of Ignatius Sancho Born on a slave ship, he was a former slave who advocated for abolition through letter-writing. He became a writer, composer, business owner and the first person of African descent to cast a vote in a British general election.

This week’s Library News Digest on Wakelet includes a wealth of articles, podcasts, documentaries and audiobooks by and about inspirational Black people:

Don’t miss the Black History Timeline display in Back Quad and the display of books in the library. Have a browse of the book recommendations on the Library padlets: Black Voices  and Fighting Racism

Summer reading suggestions Part 1 – Fiction

I am often asked for suggestions of novels which are particularly accessible and engaging for our new Y9 and  current Y10. Here is a quick list of some titles which have proved popular in the past with our students. Some are so well regarded that they are considered modern young adult or children’s classics such as ‘Holes’ by Louis Sachar and ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy by Philip Pullman (the first book is ‘Northern Lights’)

  • Holes – Louis Sachar
  • Noughts and Crosses series and Pig-Heart Boy by Malorie Blackman
  • My Swordhand is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick (chilling Gothic vampire tale)
  • The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton (the original teenage rebel story, a young adult classic which is still readable and relevant today)
  • Pompeii and Archangel by Robert Harris
  • The Chocolate War – Robert Cormier (not for the faint-hearted!)
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (short dystopian novel written in 1953 set in a future American society where owning books is illegal and ‘firemen’ are sent to burn any books they discover)
  • Any of John Green’s novels
  • Smart by Kim Slater (for fans of The curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon)
  • Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
  • The Gone series by Michael Grant
  • The Robert Galbraith(aka J.K. Rowling) detective/murder mysteries
  • Itch books by Simon Mayo (for those interested in action packed adventure stories on a scientific theme.)

‘Boy X’ by Dan Smith and ‘Lifers’ by Martin Griffin are two recently published young adult novels which a number of current Y10 form boys raved about. They recommended ‘Lifers’ for fans of ‘The Maze Runner’ series.

See the reading lists page and reading recommendations for  further recommendations

Happy holiday reading!

Could you read 92 books in 3 months? The life of a Carnegie judge!

Carnegie event

On Tuesday 10th May we welcomed back Elizabeth McDonald to talk to our current Y9 shadowing group about the life of a Carnegie Book Award judge. The students always marvel at the huge number of books the judges read – 92 books represents just the nominated titles of the Carnegie prize, not to mention the 70+ picture books and the re-reading of those longlisted and then the 8 shortlisted books. A social life is put on hold as the librarian judges read all evening, on trains, buses, treadmills, over breakfast and more! Despite this mammoth undertaking Ms McDonald’s enthusiasm for the books and the shadowing scheme never flags.

Our students asked some very perceptive questions and what emerged from the discussion was that the shortlisted books are not being judged against each other but are being measured strictly against the prize criteria:

  • Plot
  • Characterisation
  • Style

One of the students asked if this reading changes the way they are read and Ms Donald agreed. She often reads specifically with one criterion in mind eg. first reading for plot, second time through focussing on characters and finally on style. It is not simply a case of liking a book and reading it for pleasure.

Popular with our group so far are ‘The Lie Tree’ by Frances Hardinge, ‘One’ by Sarah Crossan, ‘The lies we tell ourselves’ and ‘Fire Colour One’ by Jenny Valentine. ‘Fire Colour One’ is a quirky, original story. Here is Tara’s review of  it.

A courageous, remarkable novel about family relationships.

Iris doesn’t know her father, Ernest; he left Iris’ mother, Hannah, before Iris can even remember. But that’s alright; life for her certainly isn’t perfect but Iris has her best friend Thurston to see her through things, and anyway, she hasn’t heard from Ernest in over 10 years.

Iris’ mother, Hannah and her boyfriend, Lowell, are drowning in debt and are struggling to keep up the facade of being an extravagant and thriving family. Yet, despite their financial status, they continue to uphold this illusion. They have to; Hannah’s obsession with luxurious fashion must be maintained, and visiting casting directors won’t hire Lowell if they look like they are sinking into the depths of poverty.

So when Hannah hears that Ernest, Iris’ father, is dying, she jumps at the opportunity to see him. Why? Ernest is a millionaire and she is keen on snatching a large proportion of his wealth through her daughter, as soon as he is dead, so that Hannah can continue to live in the upper echelons of L.A society.

Iris reluctantly comes, after all Hannah can’t visit without her, and is surprised. The walls of Ernest’s humble house are covered in priceless masterpieces. They are all there; Picasso, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Renoir. But once Iris peers past these incredible paintings into her father’s eyes, she discovers an unbelievable truth.

I liked the characters in this novel because of their rich personalities; Iris is a pyromaniac, and devotes her free time either to setting fires, or spending it with her older creative yet homeless best friend Thurston.

Thurston appears to have a mysterious, innovative character and an intriguing past. However, he had no clear role in the novel except as the one person who Iris is emotionally attached to, as well as a shadow to Iris’ father (both are characters she nearly loses as they temporarily disappear). But unfortunately he plays no outstanding role bar him cameoing in several of her flashbacks; it is a shame because there is no obvious significance in his role generally.

Hannah is Iris’ self-indulgent mother, and is determined to accumulate as much of Ernest’s wealth as possible, in order to launch her out of debt and ricochet her and her like-minded boyfriend Lowell, back into the life oozing with luxury. Hannah is similar to greedy stepmothers in fairytales; portrayed hyperbolically and one dimensionally. She has a truly despicable character but has been depicted too brashly, and seems to have an unrealistic character.

The novel read easily and amiably, but too often did I find blatant cliches, which were, frankly, a disappointment. On the other hand, there were incredible lines of literature scattered around, and it felt wonderful reading them. So, in the sense of the actual writing, there was much divergence. The main theme is novel is relationships, so there is exploration of that in most of the chapters, as well as the theme of family. In Iris’ case, her real family offer no comfort, so the reader observes her try to piece her own version of a family, albeit unrelated through blood, together.

The plot unfurls through the eyes of Iris and there is a clear direction, although it is frequently punctuated with fragments of the past, which adds complexity (but I think that without these occasionally irrelevant dips into history, the novel would also be extremely short, because without the buffering of these accounts, relatively little happens). I thought the ending was cunning and satisfying, but various important pieces of information were brutally shoved upon the reader in the closing pages.

This novel has been nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal, and therefore is predominantly aimed at the younger spectrum of teenage readers. I agree with this, because the language and use of stylistic devices is recurrently simplistic. Having said that, it was an enjoyable, light, minimal attention required holiday read!


Service Team – Book List

The Service Team at Wellington College suggested a book list on the theme of social issues. This is a starting point – most of the following books are available from the Library; we will be adding books to this list. I personally would highly recommend Tuesdays with Morrie as a remarkable and uplifting book dealing with terminal illness and dying but also with many positive messages for all of us. Matt Haig’s autobiographical book ‘Reasons to stay alive’ deals with depression in a very honest way but has some helpful suggestions for dealing with the illness which still challenges him.

A selection of mainly autobiographical books giving some insight into a range of social issues.

  • Depression, Mental health issues
    • Black rainbow – Rachel Kelly
    • Reasons to stay alive – Matt Haig
    • The shock of the fall – Nathan Filer (fiction)
    • It’s kind of a funny story – Ned Vizzini
  • Dementia, Aging
    • Elizabeth is missing – Emma Healey (fiction)
  • Homelessness, Addiction
    • A street cat named Bob – James Bowen
  • Poverty, Child neglect
    • Ugly – Constance Briscoe
    • The Kid – Kevin Lewis
    • Hidden – Cathy Glass
  • Life lessons
    • Tuesdays with Morrie – Mitch Albom
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