So your children have burnt through all the Harry Potter or Roald Dahl books on your Kindle, and read in various degrees of understanding. What then? You want to both develop their reading habit but also read classics of some critical or cultural significance. I see tens of students each week and either ask them regularly what they’re reading or I read with them. It’s been great hearing their thoughts about how the books have impacted them. Here are some books I have found my students to actually be reading, not just recommended, over the past year:

The Boy at the Back of the Class, Onjali Q Rauf

Waterstone’s Children’s Book of the Year 2019 is about a Syrian refugee fitting into a London school, told from the perspective of three children who become his friend. A great book to help children understand the issue of immigration and identity.

Holes, Louis Sachar

A perennial classic with an edge, with lots of talking points. There’s also a 2003 film adaptation, which motivates children to read after watching, or for comparison afterwards.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, John Boyne

Another with a great film adaptation, this is another book that explores big issues - regarding respect, friendship and humanity. A very poignant ending worthy of dinner-table conversation.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Mark Haddon

With a recent stage adaptation, this book is a whodunnit from the perspective of a boy with a love of maths and who thinks differently from other children. It has become a classic.

Animal Farm, George Orwell

Another classic story and layers of meaning in the allegory.

Eton candidates, take special note.


Northern Lights, Phillip Pullman

With a recent BBC adaptation of His Dark Materials, this has been a great opportunity for children to get through the first book of the trilogy.

Point Blanc, Anthony Horowitz

With its adaptation currently on Amazon Prime, it’s a good motivator to get children into the original book, the second in the ‘Alex Rider’ series of novels.   Enjoyably readable and explores the theme of school and identity through the adventure.

Silverfin, Charlie Higson

The first in the series of five books covering Young Bond at Eton. One of my students told me it inspired him to apply to boarding school!

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan

A great introduction to the series of books and potentially sparking an interest in Greek myth and Classical Civilisation.


You Are Awesome, Matthew Syed

A manual and guide for children to be confident in themselves and to aim to be the best they can possibly be.

Mud, Sweat and Tears, Bear Grylls

The famous adventurer tells his life story so far from school at Eton, SAS, overcoming adversity of life threatening injury to climbing Everest and many other challenges and becoming Chief Scout.

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban, Christina Lamb and Malala Yousafzai

Another true story of overcoming adversity, for older children but an inspiring story of how one person can change the world.

Prisoners of Geography, Ten Maps that Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics, Tim Marshall

A long but relatively easy read, it’s a great way for anyone to understand why different nations have different priorities and how this relates to history, politics and foreign policy, let alone geography.

Fifty Things You Need to Know About British History, Hugh Williams</p

A useful read for British students to understand key moments in history and the making of a nation.

Adam Muckle

BA(Hons) (Dunelm), LLM (London), Barrister, FTA 


April 2021