World Book Day Recommendations

Thursday 2nd March was World Book Day and we’ve been celebrating with quizzes, book recommendations and our DEAL event.

DEAL stands for Drop Everything and Listen and teachers and librarians joined in to read to their classes for 20 – 30 minutes at 11.30am. Although reading aloud to classes in primary schools is common, it happens much less at secondary level. This seems a shame so at the suggestion of Deputy Head Academic, Ben Evans, we set up DEAL which we initiated last year.

It’s an opportunity for teachers to choose an extract from a novel, a favourite poem or short story or a text relevant to their subject to share with their classes.

‘West with the night’ by Beryl Markham

I thoroughly enjoyed reading to a group of 10 3rd Formers. I gathered up the comfy seating in the library for an informal layout and launched into Beryl Markham’s account of her solo flight across the Atlantic to attempt to reach New York from England in 1936. To my relief they were rapt for what turned out to be 40 minutes of reading aloud and had numerous questions – How big was the plane? What did it look like? It prompted a really interesting conversation.




Our Head of Maths, Paul Cootes, remembered one of Isaac Asimov’s ‘I Robot’ short stories making a big impression on his when he was younger so he read that to his 3rd Form Maths class. They too were fully engrossed in listening to the story.

Here are some of the student and staff Favourite Books collected on our flipchart on World Book Day:

Looking at the titles fiction certainly wins the day!


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:


Most popular library books this term – Michaelmas 2022

Curious to know what other people have been reading?

Popular titles can provide inspiration for your reading. The lists below provide a wide-range of book suggestions from graphic novels and manga to science and Stephen Hawking.

Have a look at the most borrowed books this term:

Top fiction:

  1. Scythe: Book 1 by Neal Shusterman
  2. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
  3. Rivers of London: Book 1 by Ben Aaronovitch
  4. The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell
  5. Heartstopper: Volume 3 by Alice Oseman
  6. Heartstopper: Volume 4 by Alice Oseman
  7. Small things like these by Claire Keegan
  8. Oh William by Elizabeth Strout
  9. Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen
  10. The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell
  11. The bullet that missed by Richard Osman
  12. The Sandman: Book 1 by Neil Gaiman
  13. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  14. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  15. Nineeteen eighty four by George Orwell


Joint 1st

  • Alice Oseman
  • Neal Shusterman
  • Koyoharu Gotouge (Demon Slayer Manga series)

Joint 2nd

  • Ben Aaronovitch
  • Anthony Horowitz


  • Maggie O’Farrell

Joint 4th

  • Chris Bradford (Young Samurai series)
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Karen M. McManus
  • Chris Riddell
  • Elizabeth Strout

Joint 5th

  • Jessie Burton
  • Robert Harris
  • Morris Gleitzman
  • Claire Keegan
  • Robert Muchamore
  • Haruki Murakami
  • Richard Osman
  • Philip Pullman

Joint 6th

  • Margaret Atwood
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald

Most popular series:

  • Arc of a Scythe (Scythe, Thunderhead and Toll) by Neal Shusterman
  • Demon Slayer (Manga, by Koyoharu Gotouge)
  • Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
  • Heartstopper (Graphic novel series by Alice Oseman)
  • The Promised Neverland (Manga)
  • The Thursday Murder Club
  • Alex Rider by Anthony Horowitz
  • The Promise – The last airbender (Manga)

Most popular non-fiction:

Joint 1st:

  • Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
  • Born a crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
  • Twas the nightshift before Christmas by Adam Kay
  • Atomic Habits: An easy and proven way to build good habits by James Clear
  • Alexander the Great: A Very Short Introduction by Hugh Bowden
  • This is the canon: Decolonize your bookshelf in 50 books by Joan Anim-Addo

The following are the next most popular (equal number of issues).

  • Stalingrad by Antony Beevor
  • What you need to know about economics by George Buckley
  • Seven brief lessons on physics by Carlo Rovelli
  • To engineer is human: the role of failure in successful by Henry Petroski
  • Shoe dog: a memoir by the creator of Nike by Philip H. Knight
  • Thinking fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman
  • Naturalist: a graphic adaptation by Edward O. Wilson
  • A little history of economics by Niall Kishtainy
  • Nudge by Richard H Thaler
  • Hot air: the inside story of the battle against climate change by Peter Stott
  • Other minds: the octopus and the evolution of intelligent life by Peter Godfry-Smith
  • Brief answers to big questions by Stephen Hawking
  • How not to be wrong: the art of changing your mind by James O’Brien
  • Bowl. Sleep. Repeat. Inside the world of England’s  Greatest ever bowler. by Jimmy Anderson

Books of the Year 2022

It’s that time of year – Christmas approaching, nights drawing in, chilly weather – the perfect time to curl up with a good book.

We’re starting to collate ‘Best Books of the Year’ lists to provide some recommendations for Christmas presents or holiday reading but first here are our most borrowed books of the year:

Top Ten Fiction:

Scythe: Book 1 Neal Shusterman
Heartstopper: Volume 1 Alice Oseman
Heartstopper: Volume 3 Alice Oseman
Where the crawdads sing Delia Owens
The Husbands Secret Liane Moriarty
Heartstopper: Volume 4 Alice Oseman
Nineteen eighty-four George Orwell
Normal People Sally Rooney
A good girl’s guide to murder: Book 1 Holly Jackson
Lessons in Chemistry Bonnie Garmus

Here are our borrowing headlines:

  • Most borrowed book: Scythe by Neal Shusterman
  • Top author: Alice Oseman (Heartstopper graphic novel series has been hugely popular)
  • Top series: Scythe (The trilogy of Scythe, Thunderhead and The Toll)
  • Top non-fiction title: Alexander the Great: A very short introduction by Hugh Bowden

Most popular series:

  • Arc of a Scythe by Neal Shusterman
  • Demon Slayer (Manga) by Koyoharu Gotouge
  • Heartstopper by Alice Oseman
  • The Promised Neverland (Manga) by Kaiu Shirai
  • Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Most popular non-fiction

  • Alexander the Great: A very short introduction by Hugh Bowden

Joint 2nd:

  • The Origins of the Second World War by A.J.P. Taylor
  • Bad Samaritans: the guilty secrets of rich nations and the threat to global prosperity by Ha-Joon Chang

Joint 3rd:

  • What you need to know about economics by George Buckley
  • Economics for the IB by Ellie Tragakes
  • Sapiens: A brief history of humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
  • Thinking fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman
  • Atomic habits by James Clear
  • Nudge by Richard H. Thaler


  • Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez

Joint 5th:

  • Ways of Seeing by John Berger
  • When China rules the world by Martin Jacques
  • Law’s Empire by Ronald Dworkin
  • Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
  • Seven brief lessons on physics by Carlo Rovelli
  • The Gothic: A very short introduction by Nick Groom
  • To engineer is human: the role of failure in successful by Henry Petroski
  • Why humans have cultures by Michael Carrithers
  • Other minds by Peter Godfrey-Smith

Books of the Year lists – round-up

Maureen Corrigan’s favorite books of the year: 10 disparate reads for a hectic 2022 (NPR)

The Waterstones blog – Best Books of the Year.  Arranged in thematic categories browse fiction, biography, thrillers and more. You can browse authors’ favourite reads here

Waterstones have chosen Katy Hessel’s ‘Story of Art Without Men’ as their Book of the Year. This is available from the library now.


The staff of The New York Times Book Review choose the year’s standout fiction and nonfiction.

Guardian Best Books of 2022

Penguin Best Books of the Year

New York Public LibraryBest Books of the Year – Adults

Young Adult (YA)

Here is a good list of the best books of 2022 for young children and teens (reviewed by the Guardian).

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.