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


Best Books of the Year 2021

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

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

Foyles Books of the Year 2021






Costa Book Award Shortlists, 23rd November 2021

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

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

Penguin : The books we loved in 2021

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

Guardian Best Books of 2021 chosen by guest authors

The Times best books of 2021

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

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

FT Fiction of the Year 2021

Best books of 2021 by themed lists from Five Books

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

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








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





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

Thrillers/Detective/Murder Mystery/Spies:

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

Historical Fiction

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

Young Adult:

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

Picture Books:

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

Graphic Novels:

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

General fiction:

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

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


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

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

Wellington College Community Book Club – 2021 Titles

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

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

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

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

Sept:         A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

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

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







Top Ten most borrowed non-fiction of 2021

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

Top 15 most borrowed authors of 2021

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

Top 20 most popular fiction titles of 2021

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


Book of the Week – Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

17th September 2021 Book of the Week:

‘Dry’ by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

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

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

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

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

The goals for the week are described as:

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

Here are their Top Tips for Connecting with Nature

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

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

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

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


Mood-boosting books

Here is a list of feelgood books put together by young people: Mood-boosting Books – A 2018 list chosen by young people

You can read about this in a blog post from the Reading Agency – Moodboosting books for young people – blog post




Exeter University students have also put together a collection of books to recommend to new students called ‘The Freshlist’ – 12 Mood-boosting books to get you through the year. I also loved ‘The Humans’ by Matt Haig.

Shelf-help – Books on Prescription

As well as escapist fiction or gritty reality stories or weepy books which can make us feel surprisingly better at times, we have a collection of factual books to help with mental health issues. We stock the books on the Reading Agency ‘Reading Well’ list for Young People which is described as:

Reading Well Books on Prescription helps you to understand and manage your health and wellbeing using self-help reading. The books are chosen by health experts and people living with the conditions covered. People can be recommended a title by a health professional, or they can visit their local library and take a book out for free. 

The books are on a range of issues including ADHD, Anxiety, worry and panic, Autism and Asperger syndrome, body image and eating disorders, bullying, confidence and self-esteem, depression, mood swings, OCD, self-harm and stress.

Here is the Reading Well list for young children

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

Book suggestions on reading for wellbeing

  • The reading cure : how books restored my appetite by Laura Freeman
  • The novel cure: An A-Z of Literary Remedies by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin This is a fascinating book to dip into with suggested books for any number of maladies from long-windedness (the cure being Cormac McCarthy as The Road is ‘an exemplary model of short-windedness’) to stubbed toe, low self-esteem and being different.

Tutor Group and Book Club Reads

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

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



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


‘Run, Rebel’ by Manjeet Mann – Virtual Author Talk

We’re really excited to see ‘Run, Rebel’ has been nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Book Award Longlists announced on 18th February 2021.

Big congratulations to Manjeet Mann!



I am restless, my feet need to fly.

Amber is trapped – by her father’s rules, by his expectations, by her own fears.

Now she’s ready to fight – for her mother,  for her sister, for herself.

Freedom always comes at a price.

Over the Christmas holiday the whole of our 3rd form and a group of 4th Form Scholars were given a book to read. ‘Run, Rebel’ by Manjeet Mann was chosen and we followed up the reading with a virtual author talk by Manjeet on 14th January 2021. Manjeet spoke about her life, her writing inspiration and her future writing plans and this was followed by a Q&A from me (Head Librarian Lucy Atherton) and 4th former Amelie. After this we opened up the questions to all students and staff attending. There were many interesting questions and insightful comments about the book.

We hadn’t realised how autobiographical Manjeet’s first YA novel was and this gave the story even more impact. Manjeet’s best bit of advice to aspiring writers was just get something down on paper. Her technique is to start with a ‘vomit draft’ all the writing comes pouring out and much editing happens later. She didn’t read or write much as a child and teenager but had a passion for acting and plays and became an actress and playwright before turning to writing novels too. We are eagerly anticipating Manjeet’s second YA verse novel The Crossing out in June 2021.

As an additional follow-up Ms Sagers from the English Department ran a ‘How to write a book review’ session for the 4th form group. Here are some of their responses to the book:

‘Let’s start a revolution’

Run, rebel is a captivating verse novel that explores fear, family and freedom.

This young adult novel follows a teenage girl consumed by her father’s trauma as well as her own insecurities. Her only escape is running and her two best friends. Will she ever be able to break free from this maze of abuse and find freedom? But at what cost would freedom come?

Manjeet Mann’s thrilling, inciting and engaging novel promises to draw you in with its unique writing technique encouraging a fast paced read which links to the constant fear which Amber is forced to endure.

Although this is targeted at a young adult audience this novel can be enjoyed by a wide audience as it addresses contemporary issues which will emotionally touch every reader because of its harsh reality.

Not only does the verse structure provide a thrilling read but also the constant variation of fonts and layout allows us to delve into her unpredictable and disturbing life.

This emotionally charged novel ensures a riveting read.

Run, Rebel review

By Roni, Elia, Saskia and Emily

‘I realise I’ve only ever been half breathing’.  Manjeet Mann’s portrayal of an underprivileged, underappreciated young woman investigates the themes of empowerment over oppression, and resilience, is perfectly summed up by this quote. Amber Rai’s story explores the very notion of freedom, as she struggles to battle the traditions and ill-treatment, confining her to a ‘normal’ life. Mann’s utilisation of verse contributes to the raw human emotions shown throughout her various battles, and emotionally ties the reader to the character throughout the whole novel.

Amber Rai: teenage girl, track runner, abuse survivor, fighting for her mother, her sister and herself. This eye-opening masterpiece is an essential read for everyone aged 12 and higher, particularly if you have previously enjoyed reading books such as ‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas or ‘I Am Thunder’ by Muhammad Khan. Each word is equally as breath-taking as the next, drawing the reader in immediately from page one with Manjeet Mann’s inimitable style of writing. Mann portrays characters in such a vivid and compelling manner that while one is reading, they are able to become the character, intertwined in their thoughts and emotions. Throughout the story you will only get more and more immersed and absorbed in the enchanting words of Mann and even by the end of the first chapter, I assure you, you will be on the edge of your seat.

Throughout the novel I felt conflicted between characters and found myself empathising with many questionable actions that I didn’t think I would but I believe that is the unique quality of Manjeet’s writing. Her ability to portray so many emotions through structural verse allowed the reader to interpret their own individual synopsis from the story and more importantly decide the personal impact of each character. Having the readership of young adults, amongst other age groups, is so crucial. This book is massively insightful and relevant as we progress into our future and implements the importance of cultural awareness, even through one personal story. The storyline resonated so powerfully with me due to the escapism of exercise which I think is so decisive in Amber’s character and easily connectable globally.

“Run, Rebel”book review

Run, Rebel by Manjeet Mann includes many intriguing & common themes including domestic abuse, freedom, women’s rights, friendship, family, and sport.

This book is mainly directed towards young adults/ teenagers: people who can relate to the protagonist in terms of age or experience.

Amber, an Indian girl in the UK, feels trapped by her community’s rules. She and her mother escape domestic violence, while Amber also must navigate the troubles of love, friendship and teenage school life.

Mann’s writing is unique in its brilliant utilization of verse. Similarly, its varied structure and punctuation adds a layer of interest to the various motifs- in particular Mann’s description of running uses bold vocabulary and purposeful spacing to drive the protagonist Amber’s sense of salvation within sport.

The book uses the anatomy of revolution to introduce stages/chapters in the book, it also comes from an interesting perspective. Mann brings together traditional Indian culture with running and liberation. The characters situations are put in direct contrast with one another in this book – Amber’s life compared to the lives of her friends.

“How we fought, how we survived, how we rebelled.” (pg. 477) This short quotation shows a progression throughout the book in many ways from Amber’s view, it sums up the tone of the book – an active, strong approach towards difficult circumstances she faced.

I believe that this book is an interesting insight into the life of young people in Indian culture, as well as the everyday misogyny many women experience. I would recommend it to people who like poetry, verse novels and teen drama.

 Candida,  Amelie, Sunay and Liza 


Key themes – female empowerment

Target audience – our age, people who can’t relate so they can find out about other cultures

Style – In verse, different perspectives

Unique – varies in structure, speech in different fonts, illiterate parents

Summary – Amber likes to run, however her parents have her life arranged for her and she cannot follow her dreams. Gets fed up and decides to rebel. Because she stood up for herself she managed to change her future and her Mum’s to one that she chose.

I am rebel

I question it

Aspects of the book still happens and older generations are still traditional

Some people can’t speak for themselves (abusive relationships etc.)

Interesting, emotional to find out some people live in fear and pain.

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