Cracking reads and podcast suggestions for no screen Monday and beyond

We are very enthusiastic about next Monday morning’s screen free time – for staff and students alike. Teachers will be setting their classes reading and writing assignments and listening options too. It was good to hear from the HPQ (Higher Projection Qualification) team to asking for suggestions of  podcasts which could help the students with their analytical writing. This took me on a happy exploration of some favourite engaging and informative Radio programmes and podcasts. I don’t think I really answered the intitial question but I think a 30 minute podcast which really inspires and enthuses our students on a walk in the fresh air is time well spent.

Below is a selection of interesting and informative podcasts and radio programmes which are perfect for listening to during lockdown or on local walks.


  • Costing the earth (28 minute episodes) Fresh ideas from the sharpest minds working toward a cleaner, greener planet. Ideal for Geography, ESS, Science  and Global Citizenship.
  • Economics – 50 things that made the modern economy (10 minute episodes) by Tim Harford (ranging from the Gutenberg Press to Chess algorithms, blockchain and the humble pencil)
  • More or Less (30 mins) Harford explains – and sometimes debunks – the numbers and statistics used in political debate, the news and everyday life.
  • Desert Island Discs
  • History Hit podcasts hosted by Dan Snow
  • In our Time (BBC Radio 4) one hour podcasts on History, Religion, Philosophy, Culture and Science. You can browse the subject categories in the archive of programmes.
  • The Life Scientific Professor Jim Al-Khalili talks to leading scientists about their life and work, finding out what inspires and motivates them and asking what their discoveries might do for us in the future
  • The Long View Jonathan Freedland presents the series in which stories from the past are compared with current events.
  • Music – Radio 3 music related podcasts index here
  • Open Book Programme looking at new fiction and non-fiction books, talking to authors and publishers and unearthing lost classics.
  • Michael Rosen’s Word of Mouth Fascinating and fun series exploring the world of words and the ways in which we use them
  • Rethink
  • Philosophize This
  • Philosophy Bites
  • The Moral Maze  (BBC Radio 4) Combative, provocative and engaging live debate examining the moral issues behind one of the week’s news stories. #moralmaze
  • Nature – Nature’s Voice (RSPB) Bringing you features, interviews and news of birds and wildlife, from back gardens to the Sumatran rainforest.
  • PsychCrunch (podcasts from the British Psychological Society)
  • RadioLab Investigating a strange world. Radiolab has been telling some of the most engrossing stories in science since 2002.
  • Rethink (BC Radio 4) How the world should change after the coronavirus pandemic. Leading thinkers from across the globe give us their route maps to a better tomorrow on subjects ranging from jobs to wealth and travel to leadership, nature to the Olympics.
  • Sport – Talk Sport podcast series on black footballers ‘Coming in from the Cold’   The history of black footballers in England with insights from current and former players and managers. Our contributors were influenced by those first trailblazers in the English game, and then became pioneers themselves, who broke down barriers whilst playing professionally for English clubs and for England
  • Science – The curious cases of Rutherford and Fry and The Infinite Monkey Cage
  • The Conversation weekly podcast  The world explained by experts

Here are some cracking reads too:

Thrillers and mysteries

  • The Dry by Jane Harper (and her other great thrillers set in Australia)
  • The Beach by Alex Garland
  • Snow falling on cedars by David Guterson
  • The devil and the dark water by Stuart Turton
  • Papillon by Henri Charriere
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  • The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks
  • After the Fire by Will Hill
  • The Godfather by Mario Puzo
  • Stolen by Lucy Christopher
  • Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick
  • Trash by Andy Mulligan
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  • The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
  • Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch (police procedural meets surreal magical happenings with plenty of interesting characters and humour).

Some great YA novels

Top quick read:

We were liars by E. H. Lockhart. This clever, beautifully written page turner is full of twists and so gripping you won’t want to put it down. Once finished you’ll want to get your friends to read it and discuss it with them.

  • The Hate you give by Angie Thomas
  • Holes by Louis Sachar
  • Run, Rebel by Manjeet Mann
  • Unstoppable (YA thriller by Dan Freedman)
  • The Territory trilogy (YA dystopian series by Sarah Govett)
  • Moonrise, One and Toffee quick to read, moving YA verse novels by Sarah Crossan
  • Gone series by Michael Grant (dystopian page-turning YA series)
  • Long way down by Jason Reynolds
  • Scythe trilogy by Neal Schusterman
  • The Uglies by Scott Westerfield
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  • I am number four by Pittacus Lore


  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  • Eduated by Tara Westover
  • Toast by Nigel Slater
  • Maya Angelou biographical books
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama

Historical fiction

  • Pompeii by Robert Harris
  • Munich by Robert Harris
  • The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (historical setting)
  • The devil and the dark water by Stuart Turton (historical setting, great mystery plot and characters – just a cracking read)

Graphic novels

  • The Walking Dead series
  • V for Vendetta by Alan Moore
  • Long way down by Jason Reynolds
  • Heartstopper series by Alice Oseman
  • Bloom by Kevin Panetta
  • Flake by Matthew Dooley
  • The March trilogy by  John Lewis and Nate Powell.

Feel good novels

  • The giver of stars by Jojo Moyes
  • The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
  • Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
  • Where’d you go Bernadette by Maria Semple
  • The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • Where the crawdads sing by Delia Owens

See our padlet for more suggestions

Science fiction and fanasy

  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • The Wayfarer series by Becky Chambers
  • Red Rising series by Pierce Brown
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury


Holiday reading and best books of the year

YA Fiction

Becoming Muhammad Ali by James Patterson and Kwame Alexander (a wonderful verse and prose novel with beautiful illustrations, bringing to life the character and childhood of Cassius Clay). The verse chapters are by Kwame Alexander and capture Cassius’ exuberant character, confidence, energy and love of rhyming. The prose chapters, written by James Patterson, are told from the viewpoint of Cassius’ boyhood friend Lucky, portrayed as studious and hardworking at school. The boys have adventures together and are fiercely loyal and supportive to each other. The setting of the novel also shows the reader what it was like to suffer discrimination as a black child growing up in Kentucky in the 1940s and 50s.  Here’s a live action trailer and an animated trailer with Muhammad Ali’s rhymes.

Unstoppable by Dan Freedman (An exciting read for those who like sport and thrillers.) 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 more and more alienated and the family starts to become torn apart. Here’s Dan Freedman talking about his book and reading from it.) I have been recommending this to our students and had this great feedback from a Y9 ‘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.


  • Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle
  • The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff
  • The Burning by Laura Bates
  • No fixed address by Susin Neilsen
  • Why we took the car by Wolfgang Herrndorf
  • Unstoppable by Dan Freedman (An exciting read for those who like sport and thrillers. Here’s Dan Freedman talking about his book and reading from it.)
  • Bearmouth by Liz Hyder
  • No ballet shoes in Syria by Catherine Bruton
  • Paper Avalanche by Lisa Williamson
  • Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay (Thriller set in the Philippines)
  • Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
  • Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe by  Benjamin Alire Saenz
  • After the fire by Wil Hill
  • The Territory (dystopian trilogy which continues to be popular with the 3rd and 4th form)
  • Scythe by Neal Shusterman (popular, gripping trilogy perfect for Hunger Games fans)


Two excellent verse novels:

  • Run, Rebel by Manjeet Mann.  We’re excited that all Y9 were given a copy to read over the Christmas holiday. We had a great virtual author talk on Thursday 14th January and students put their questions to Manjeet about her powerful novel, her writing process and how theatre and sport can empower women and girls.


  • Clap when you land by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Costa Book Award Shortlists are a rich source of reading suggestions. Look out for the Category Award Winners Announcement on 4th January 2021. Results HERE


After hundreds had their say, The Hay Festival was delighted to reveal that their Book of the Year 2020 is… Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty. Waterstones have named Maggie O’Farrell’s ‘Hamnet’ their Book of the Year  More information here


Graphic Novels

  • Recently published Sapiens: A graphic history  – The  Birth of  Humankind  by Yuval  Noah  Harari
  • The ragged trousered philanthropists by Sophie Rickard and Scarlett Rickard (originally writtten by Robert Tressell
  • Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
  • White Bird by R. J. Palacio
  • Flake by Matthew Dooley (a charming very funny story of friendship, ice-cream wars and cryptic crosswords!)
  • When stars are scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed
  • Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg (a vivid historical fiction taking us inside the dreamworld and childhood of the Brontes)


Naturalist: A graphic adaptation by C.M. Butzer  (of  naturalist E.O. Wilson’s memoirs)









  • Artemisia Gentileschi (Lives of the Artists) by Jonathan Jones
  • 200 words to help you talk about Art by Ben Street
  • On Chapel Sands by Laura Cummings


  • A Promised Land by Barack Obama
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama
  • Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture by Sudhir Hazareesingh
  • My own words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  • My name is why by Lemn Sissay
  • Born a crime by Trevor Noah

Books about reading

  • Things I learned on the 6.28 – A guide to daily reading by Stig Abell
  • Dear Reader by Cathy Rentzenbrink
  • The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes


See our padlet for many accessible and enjoyable reading suggestions for Classics including ‘Circe’ by Madeline Miller and Natalie Haynes’ recently published ‘Pandora’s Jar’

Don’t miss Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey. Read a fresh translation of  Homer’s masterwork by a female scholar and translator described as a ‘riveting translation ripples with excitement and new meaning.’

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Stephen Fry’s latest book ‘Troy: Our greatest story retold’ was published at the end of October and is new in the Library

Computer Science

  • Ghost in the Wires: My adventures as the world’s most wanted hacker by Kevin Mitnick
  • Hello World by Hannah Fry
  • I Ada: Rebel. Genius. Visionary. by Julia Gray
  • Invisible Women: Exposing data bias in a world designed for men by  Caroline  Criado  Perez
  • Ready Player One (and the recently published Ready Player Two) by Ernest Cline for fantasy quest fiction based on computer games themes)


  • No way home: A Cuban dancer’s story by Carlos Acosta
  • Introduction to Modern Dance Techniques by Joshua Legg
  • Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin


Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

 This is a lyrically written and emotionally devastating account of the Bard’s only son. Utterly immersive and convincing, Hamnet is a poignant period tale that not only shines a light on an oft-neglected area of Shakespearean history but speaks to wider themes of grief and loss with impeccable poise and unflinching honesty.

The Drama department are encouraging Drama students to watch productions on our subscriptions to Drama Online, National Theatre Collection and Digital Theatre Plus. Have a look on the e-Library for access and login details. Here are some recommendations from Drama for each year group:

3rd and 4th Form

  • Peter Pan and Small Island (National Theatre)
  • Billy the Kid, Funny Girl and The Railway Children (Digital Theatre Plus)

5th and 6th Form

  • Frankenstein (National Theatre)
  • Lovesong (Frantic Assembly)
  • The Container
  • The Tempest (Donmar Warehouse)
  • The Crucible (Old Vic)
  • Beautiful Thing
  • Hedda Gabbler
  • Yerma


Here’s an excellent reading list from the Economics Department recommended for 6th Form holiday reading.L6th Economics reading list Christmas 2020

  • The Double X Economy by Linda Scott
  • The Divide by Jason Hickel
  • Talking to my daughter: A brief history of capitalism by Yanis Varoufakis  (and published this year ‘Another Now: Dispatches from an alternative present’)
  • Good economics for hard times by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo
  • Less is more: How degrowth will save the world by Jason Hickel
  • Poverty safari: Understanding the anger of Britain’s underclass by Darren McGarvey
  • The next fifty things that made the modern economy by Tim Harford

Environment, nature and climate change

  • A life on our planet : my witness statement and vision for the future by David Attenborough
  • Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald
  • Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty
  • Net Zero: How we stop causing climate change by Dieter Helm
  • Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake
    A fascinating survey of the wild and weird kingdom of fungi, which enable trees to talk to one another, humans to bake bread, and ants to become zombies. (Telegraph 28th November 2020)

Hamnet cover imageFiction

  • Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
  • Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (Booker Prize Winner 2020)
  • Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline. (the eagerly awaited sequel for fans of  ‘Ready Player One’)
  • Snow by John Banville (a perfect winter murder mystery)
  • The devil and the dark waterby Stuart Turton
  • False Value by Ben Aaronovitch (latest instalment of the brilliantly funny and quirky ‘Rivers of London’ series
  • Jane Harper thrillers set in Australia ‘The Dry’,  ‘Force of Nature’ and ‘The Lost Man’ 
  • Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce
  • Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
  • Where the crawdads sing by Delia Owens
  • The giver of stars by Jojo Moyes
  • The glass hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
  • The Offing by Benjamin Myers
  • The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
  • Zoo Station by David Downing (a series of spy thrillers set in WWII Berlin)
  • The Wall by David Lanchester
  • The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton
  • When the coffee gets cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Geography and expeditions

Head of Geography, Mr Rothwell recommends the first 3 books to Geographers:

  • Disaster by choice: how our actions turn natural hazards into catastrophes by Ilan Kelman (important reading for all year groups and courses)
  • Terraformed: Young Black Lives in the inner city by Joy White (a candid, highly recommended book exploring many of the themes studied at A level)
  • Origins: How the earth shaped human history by Lewis Dartness (accessible to a wider audience)
  • Bad Samaritans – the guilty secrets of rich nations and the threat to global prosperity by Ha-Joon Chang.
  • The moth and the mountain by Ed Caesar
  • Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
  • Factfulness by Hans Rosling


Have a look at the Library padlet for Geography themed fiction


  • A little history of the world by E. H. Gombrich
  • Black and British: A forgotten history by David Olusoga
  • Black and British: An short, essential history by David Olusoga (for young people)
  • The Good Germans: Resisting the Nazis, 1933 – 1945 by Catrine Clay
  • Dictators by Frank Dikotter (Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Kim Il-Sung, Ceausescu, Mengistu of Ethiopia and Duvalier of Haiti)
  • Humankind: A hopeful history by Rutger Bregman
  • The International Brigades: Fascism, Freedom and the Spanish Civil War by Giles Tremlett


  • A long petal of the sea by Isabel Allende
  • The great book of Spain by Bill O’Neill
  • The language lover’s puzzle book: Lexical perplexities and cracking conundrums from across the globe by Alex Bellos
  • Word Perfect: Etymological entertainment for everyday of the year  by Susie Dent
  • The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain
  • The Rednotebook by Antoine Laurain
  • The International Brigades: Fascism, Freedom and the Spanish Civil War by Giles Tremlett
  • The Good Germans: Resisting the Nazis, 1933 – 1945 by Catrine Clay


  • In Black and White: A young barrister’s story of race and class in a broken justice system by Alexandra Wilson
  • Fake Law by the Secret Barrister
  • The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and how it’s broken


  • How to make the world add up: Ten rules for thinking differently about numbers by Tim Harford.
  • Naked Statistics by Charles Wheelan
  • Maths on the back of an envelope: clever ways to (roughly) calculate anything by Rob Eastway







  • Dear Life: A doctor’s story of love, loss and consolation by Rachel Clarke
  • The language of kindness: A nurse’s story by Christie Watson
  • The Vaccine Race: How scientists used human cells to combat killer viruses by Meredith Wadman

Mental Health and Wellbeing

  • The Art of Rest: How to find respite in the modern age by Claudia Hammond.
  • Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain
  • It’s not ok to feel blue (and other lies) by Scarlett Curtis
  • Reasons to stay alive by Matt Haig


One two three four the Beatles in time by Craig Brown (Winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2020)

Philosophy & Religion

  • The Philosopher Queens: The lives and legacies of philosophy’s unsung women edited by Rebecca Buxton and Lisa Whiting.  Published this year.
  • How to live a good life; A guide to choosing your personal philosophy edited by Massimo Pigliucci. (essays by 15 leading philosophers on what it means to live according to a philosophy of life.)
  • The Socrates Express: In search of life lessons from dead Philosophers by Eric Weiner

Mr Kirby, Head of P&R recommends:

  • A History of the Bible by John Barton
  • Philosophy of Mind: The basics by Amy Kind


  • A Promised Land by Barack Obama
  • The Breakdown: Making sense of politics in a messed up world by Spiller Tatton
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama
  • Too much and never enough: How my family created the world’s most dangerous man by Mary L. Trump


  • The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • Human Beings: What science can teach us about life, love and relationships by Camilla Pang (Winner of the Royal Society Science Book Prize 2020)
  • Guns, germs and steel by Jared Diamond
  • Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake
    A fascinating survey of the wild and weird kingdom of fungi, which enable trees to talk to one another, humans to bake bread, and ants to become zombies. (Telegraph 28th November 2020)


  • What is life? Understand Biology in Five Steps by Paul Nurse (published this year – a short (210 small pages), beautifully written introduction to biology in five chapters – The Cell, The Gene, Evolution by Natural Selection, Life as Chemistry, Life as information and Changing the World.)
  • The body: a guide for occupants by Bill Bryson (shortlisted for the Royal Society Science Book Prize 2020)
  • I contain multitudes by Ed Yong




The Periodic Table by Primo Levi


  • The World according to Physics by Jim Al-Khalili
  • Storm in a teacup: The physics of everyday life by Helen Czerski

Carlo Rovelli’s short, accessible and beautifully written books on Physics

  • Reality is not what it seems
  • The order of Time by Carlo Rovelli
  • Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

and his recently published book – There are places in the world where rules are less important than kindness


  • Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Great Pretender by Susannah Cahalan
  • Thinking fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman
  • Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
  • Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain




Race and identity and history

  • Black and British – A forgotten history and recently published for young people Black and British –  A short essential history by David Olusoga
  • Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
  • Wish we knew what to say: Talking with children about race by Pragya Agarwal
  • 100 Great Black Britons by Patrick Vernon and Angelina Osborne
  • Small Island and the The Long Song by Andrea Levy

Have a look at the library padlet on ‘Fighting Racism’ for more reading suggestions and the padlet on ‘Black Voices’


  • Eat Sweat Play: How sport can change our lives by Anna Kessel
  • The Rodchenkov  Affair: How  I brought  down  Russia’s  secret doping Empire by (Winner of the William Hill  Sports Book of the Year 2020)

Teaching and Learning

  • When the adults change, everything changes: Seismic shifts in school behaviour by Paul Dix (recommended by Ms Brown (Sports)

More book lists of the year for inspiration:

Five Books has thematic lists of books including the best books of 2020 in many different categories including audiobooks, graphic novels, children’s books, YA and all non-fiction topics.

Here are the Guardian newspaper Best books of the Year lists

New York Times – books of the year 2020

Thirty Books to help us understand the world in 2020


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.

Modern re-tellings of the Greek and Roman myths

Great books – not just for Classicists

This week’s book recommendations focus on the many enthralling re-tellings of Ancient Greek and Roman myths. Have a look at the Library padlet for a wide selection of novels which read like thrillers set in the Ancient World. Natalie Haynes, Madeline Miller and Pat Barker have written powerful and moving versions of the Trojan War and Greek Myths from the point of view of the women whose voices are not normally heard and Emily Wilson created a groundbreaking translation of The Odyssey in 2017 challenging the traditional male focused translations which have gone before. Robert Harris brings the political intrigue of the Roman world to life in his gripping Cicero trilogy – Lustrum, Imperium and Dictator. These are excellent books to broaden students of Classics knowledge of the time, history and personalities but they are exciting and satisfying reads for the interested general reader.

And of course Donna Tartt’s brilliant ‘The Secret History’ is not to be missed.

Additional suggestions welcome!

Here’s an interesting article on LitHub – 10 brilliant retellings of Classical Myths by Female Writers


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.

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

Wellington College Big Summer Read 2020

We are eagerly anticipating our first ever whole school Reading Week from 15th – 19th June 2020.

We have chosen a fascinating and thought-provoking book as our Big Summer Read and are encouraging all students, staff and parents to read it and discuss it. The reading will start in the penultimate week of term when everyone will be expected to read daily and there will be a range of book related activities connected to the book. Reading will be completed over the summer holidays with follow up discussions, events and activities in September.

Factfulness: The stress-reducing habit of only carrying opinions for which you have strong supporting facts.

An apt and positive book for the current times, subtitled ‘Ten reasons we’re wrong about the world – and why things are better than you think’. Factfulness challenges all our assumptions about the world and includes fascinating and honest anecdotes about Rosling’s life as a doctor in rural Africa. Test yourself with the 13 question quiz at the front of the book – how much do you know about the world? The book is relevant to so many subjects – politics, geography, health and medicine, international development, economics, global citizenship and maths but is also very readable and engaging.

Hans Rosling co-founded gapminder to help people understand world health and development. Have a look at Rosling’s famous TED Talks, HERE He was a unique character with a passion for sword-swallowing in his spare time!

To order your copy:

If you’d like to help support independent bookshops you can order online from:   £9.09 for the paperback or £4.99 for an ebook (epub) version for immediate download

£8.99 paperback from Waterstones



Graphic novels for History

One of the joys of being a school librarian is chatting to staff and students about books and hearing their latest recommendations. I was particularly happy to find out that one of our Y11 girls had discovered the wonders of graphic novels to support her History GCSE course. She was eagerly broadening her knowledge of  the history topics in the course in a quick and accessible way. The book which started this process was Marcelino Truong’s biographical graphic novel set in Vietnam ‘Such a lovely little War: Saigon 1961 – 1963’ and the sequel ‘Saigon Calling: London 1963-75’. This beautiful, gripping graphic memoir tells the story of Marco, the son of a Vietnamese diplomat and a his French wife, during the early years of the Vietnam War. They are visually stunning books and emotionally involving as the reader learns of the details of family life as well as the impact and events of the war closing in.
We’ve built up a diverse collection of graphic novels and particularly focused on historical events and biographies.

Here are a few suggestions:

March (3 Books) by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. ‘With March, Congressman John Lewis takes us behind the scenes of some of the most pivotal moments of the Civil Rights Movement. In graphic novel form, his first-hand account makes thiese historic events both accessible and relevant to an entire new generation… LeVar Burton

Maus (Book l and ll) by Art Spiegelman. Pulitzer prize-winning graphic novel – the moving narrative of the Holocaust portraying Spiegelman’s father’s experiences of the Holocaust.

The Arab of the Future by Riad Sattouf ( 3 books)  This is a graphic memoir of a childhood in the Middle East, 1978 – 1984, Book 2 1984-1985 and Book 3 1985 – 1987). Riad Sattouf is a bestselling cartoonist who grew up in Syria and Libya. These books are funny, sad and brilliantly observed.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi ‘The intelligent and outspoken child of radical Marxists, and the great-grandaughter of Iran’s last emperor, Satrapi bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country. Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. This is a beautiful and intimate story full of tragedy and humour – raw, honest and incredibly illuminating.’

How to understand Israel in 60 days of less by Sarah Glidden

Malcolm X a graphic biography by Andrew Helfer and Randy DuBurke

Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation by David Polonsky Published in 2018 this is the first graphic adaptation of Anne Frank’s Diary.

Trinity : a graphic history of the first atomic bomb : graphic novel by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm

Nat Turner : graphic novel by Kyle Baker

Safe area Gorazde : the war in Eastern Bosnia, 1992-95 : graphic novel by Joe Sacco

Gettysburg – the graphic novel written and illustrated by C.M. Butler


Little White Duck – A Childhood in China by Na Liu and Andres Vera Martinez

Marzi – A memoir by Marzena Sowa. Told from a young gir’s viewpoint ‘Marzi’ is a coming-of-age story which portrays the tough life behind the Iron Curtain whilst exploring the daily life of an ordinary girl in turbulent times.

The Battle of the Bulge by Wayne Vansant. A graphic history of the Allied victory in teh Adrenne, 1944 – 1945.

Che: A graphic biography by Spain Rodriguez.

Line of Fire: Diary of an unknown soldier by Barroux. Introduced by Michael Morpurgo

Trotsky: A graphic biography by Rick Geary

Barefoot Gen Volume 1 A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima by Keiji Nakazawa

Barefoot Gen – The Day After Volume ll by Keiji Nakazawa

The Last day in Vietnam by Will Eisner.  This fictional memoir, drew on Eisner’s time in Korea and Vietnam involved with  military service.

Castro – A graphic novel by Reinhard Kleist

Don’t forget we also have a recently established collection of Historical Fiction in the History Department to provide another source of enjoyable and informative history themed reading.

We have other non-fiction graphic novels too:


  • Economix – How our Economy works (and doesn’t work) in words and pictures by Michael Goodwin, illustrated by Dan E. Burr


  • Basquiat – Script by Julian Voloj, illustrations by Soren Mosdal


  • Radioactive – Marie & Pierre Curie: A tale of love and fallout by Lauren Redniss.
  • Feynman by Ottaviani & Myrick