QUICK READS 2022 AUTHORS REVEALED

The Reading Agency has announced the eight best-selling authors writing Quick Reads for 2022, the life-changing programme tackling the UK’s adult literacy crisis by helping less confident readers get reading: MW Craven, Paula Hawkins, Ayisha Malik, Santa Montefiore, Kate Mosse, Graham Norton, Lemn Sissay and Alex Wheatle.

Publishing on 14 April 2022 in a showcase of the very best contemporary writing, the new raft of Quick Reads titles includes: a chilling story of revenge by New York Times bestseller Paula Hawkins (Blind Spot, Penguin Random House, Transworld, Doubleday); an intriguing tale of romance and danger from treasured comedian and presenter Graham Norton (The Swimmer, Hodder, Coronet); a gruesome new case for MW Craven’s popular crime-cracking duo Poe and Bradshaw (The Cutting Season, Hachette, Constable); a specially abridged version of Lemn Sissay’s prize-winning memoir (My Name Is Why abridged, (Canongate); a catch up with Ayisha Malik’s ‘Muslim Bridget Jones’ Sofia Khan (Sofia Khan: The Baby Blues, Headline, Review); a fable of family dynamics and deception courtesy of the much-loved Santa Montefiore (The Kiss, Simon & Schuster); an historical drama set against the backdrop of Tenerife’s volcanic landscape by the award-winning Kate Mosse (The Black Mountain, Macmillan, Mantle); and a high stakes return to the streets of Alex Wheatle’s North Crongton estate (Witness, Serpent’s Tail).

This year also marks the 15th anniversary ‘buy one gift one’ campaign, with 35,507 copies of these transformative books being delivered into the hands of those who struggle with reading or have limited access to books this autumn. Working with library authorities, prisons, adult learning organisations and community-based charities the books are being distributed through a range of gifting projects and targeted outreach work. This includes work with food banks, ESOL (English as a Second Language) classes, local refugee groups, Basic Skills learners, people in prison and those being supported by homeless shelters or supported living. Thanks to generous support from this year’s six publishers, for every book bought from publication in May through to 31 July 2021, another copy was donated to The Reading Agency.

Following the success of ‘buy one, gift one’ and as part of The Reading Agency’s strategy to reach even more emerging readers through a gifting component of Quick Reads activity, the eight titles announced today will also form part of the World Book Night 2022 Booklist. The full list of World Book Night 2022 titles will be revealed later this year. World Book Night is an annual national celebration of reading which takes place on 23 April.

Quick Reads plays a vital role in addressing the UK’s adult literacy crisis, engaging the one in three adults who do not regularly read for pleasure and the one in six adults who find reading difficult. Since launching in 2006, Quick Reads titles have been loaned out over 6 million times and over 5 million copies have been distributed with the generous support of publishers and donors.

The titles are available for just £1 at bookshops and are free to borrow from libraries. They are used across the country in colleges, prisons, trade unions, hospitals, and adult learning organisations.

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency, said:
“Working closely with our wonderful publisher partners, the success of this year’s innovative 10th anniversary ‘buy one, gift one’ campaign has enabled The Reading Agency to distribute thousands of free books into the hands of those that need them most, who struggle with reading, or have limited access to books.

We are incredibly excited to reveal the extraordinary list of authors working with Quick Reads to publish a bitesize book next year – and thank them for their support to this life-changing programme. We are thrilled that these titles will form part of our World Book Night 2022 booklist, allowing us to explore new ways of engaging a wider audience so that more and more readers will be able to discover the pleasure and benefits that come from reading.”

MW Craven said:
“In my sixteen-year career in the probation service I witnessed the devastating impact of illiteracy and low-level literacy on an almost daily basis. From the first-time offender being unable to read the community order he was being asked to sign, to the coping mechanisms and the myriad excuses used to avoid reading out loud on the offending-behaviour courses we ran. Many of these men and women had basic reading skills, but little to no confidence, and that is why the Quick Reads programme is such a wonderful thing. Reading is such a vital part of communication and I couldn’t say yes to being involved fast enough.”

Ayisha Malik said:
“Growing up, reading was such a huge part of my understanding of the world and myself. That experience should be available to everyone and Quick Reads is a brilliant way of trying to make that happen. I’m honoured to be a part of something so crucial, and to have had such fun with the story along the way.”

Santa Montefiore said:
“The main reason that I write is to entertain. It gives me enormous pleasure to know that people enjoy my stories. It’s what drives me and propels me from book to book. However, I’m aware that there are many people out there who might find my novels too long or perhaps too densely written for their tastes. That’s why I agreed to write a story for Quick Reads. It gives those readers who wouldn’t normally pick up one of my novels the opportunity to give me a go. With this in mind, I wanted to write something special for them. I know how much my readers love stories based in Italy, so I set mine in Tuscany, and I made sure that I added all the things they enjoy, like romance and mystery, into the mix. It was a story, based on a true story I had heard, that I had been sitting on for a while and wasn’t sure what to do with. So, in a way, Quick Reads benefited both me as well as their readers, because I was able to use this gem of an idea which was too small for a larger book. I thank Quick Reads for inviting me to write for them, and my readers, longstanding and new, who enable me to do what I love doing best. I really hope they are entertained and perhaps, if they are, I might have the opportunity to write for them again.”

Kate Mosse said:
“I wrote my first Quick Read in 2009 and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my writing life. Meeting new readers, many of whom were just starting to fall in love with stories on the page, transformed how I thought about storytelling, about language and about the barriers some people face to engaging with fiction. It made me question how I wrote, and why I wrote, and I’ve been grateful for everything I learnt because of it. The programme is exceptional – always innovative, always exciting, always finding ways to support literacy but also to give emerging readers access to the widest possible range of books. It genuinely changes lives and it’s an honour to be part of the 2022 list.”

Graham Norton said:
“Being involved with Quick Reads was a huge pleasure as well as a real challenge. I loved the discipline involved in shaping a story that was accessible at the same time as being exciting, emotional and hopefully rewarding. Books and stories are an extraordinary escape for so many and I am thrilled to work with Quick Reads in helping to unlock the world of words for new readers.”

Lemn Sissay said:
“This is why I wrote My Name Is Why. Family is a collection of stories between one group of people over a life time. For some it is an anthology of disputed tales over a lifetime. Families can uphold what they believe to be a fact which is in fact pure fiction. What matters most of all is harmony: the truth has little to do with it. The same could be said for storytelling. I wrote My Name Is Why because no member of my family knew who I was or what I had been through. I have found an extended family in the readers of my book and I am thankful to every one of them.”

Alex Wheatle said:
“I may have been nominated and short-listed for many awards, but I believe my greatest success in this old writing game is when a school librarian informs me that one of their students, who has never picked up a book before, cannot put an Alex Wheatle book down.”

Alex Wheatle said:
“I may have been nominated and short-listed for many awards, but I believe my greatest success in this old writing game is when a school librarian informs me that one of their students, who has never picked up a book before, cannot put an Alex Wheatle book down.

They have found a story they can finally relate to,’ I am often told.

Reading for pleasure is a crucial gateway to all learning. If I can engage a reader with my characters, my narratives and the themes that are important to me, then I believe I’m passing on my humanity.”

About Quick Reads 2022 Titles

MW Craven, The Cutting Season (Hachette, Constable)

M. W. Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle, running away to join the army at the tender age of sixteen. He spent the next ten years travelling the world having fun, leaving in 1995 to complete a degree in social work with specialisms in criminology and substance misuse. Thirty-one years after leaving Cumbria, he returned to take up a probation officer position in Whitehaven, eventually working his way up to chief officer grade. Sixteen years later he took the plunge, accepted redundancy and became a full-time author. He now has entirely different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals… M. W. Craven is married and lives in Carlisle with his wife, Joanne. When he isn’t out with his springer spaniel, or talking nonsense in the pub, he can usually be found at punk gigs and writing festivals up and down the country. www.mwcraven.com

Poe’s just hanging out on a Saturday afternoon…

Hanging from a hook in a meat packing plant isn’t how Washington Poe wants to spend his weekend. He’s been punched and kicked, and when the Pale Man arrives it seems things will soon go from bad to worse. The Pale Man is a contract killer, and he and his razor are feared all over London.

But Poe knows two things the Pale Man doesn’t. And now things are about to get interesting…

Paula Hawkins, Blind Spot (Penguin Random House, Transworld, Doubleday)

Paula Hawkins worked as a journalist for fifteen years before writing her first book. Paula was born and brought up in Zimbabwe. She moved to London in 1989 and has lived there ever since. Her first thriller, The Girl on the Train, has sold 23 million copies worldwide. Published in over forty languages, it has been a Number 1 bestseller around the world and was a box office hit film starring Emily Blunt.

Paula’s second thriller, Into the Water, and her latest book, A Slow Fire Burning, were also instant Number 1 bestsellers.

How can you say things like this? How can you be so blind?’

Since they were kids, Edie, Jake and Ryan have been the closest of friends. It’s been the three of them against the world. Edie thought the bonds between them were unbreakable. So when Jake is brutally murdered and Ryan accused of the crime, her world is shattered.

Edie is alone for the first time in years, living in the remote house that she and Jake shared. She is grief-stricken and afraid – with good reason. Because someone is watching. Someone has been waiting for this moment. Now that Edie is alone, the past she tried so hard to leave behind is about to catch up with her…

Ayisha Malik, Sofia Khan: The Baby Blues (Headline, Review)

Ayisha Malik was born and raised in South London and is a lover of books (obviously), and writer of contemporary fiction. A former publicist at Penguin Random House, turned managing editor at Cornerstones Literary Consultancy, turned full-time writer. Her debut novel, Sofia Khan is not Obliged, and its sequel, The Other Half of Happiness, (Zaffre), were dubbed as the ‘Muslim Bridget Jones.’ Her latest novel, This Green and Pleasant Land, (Zaffre) is out now. She has also contributed to the anthology, A Change is Gonna Come, (Stripes Publishing), and upcoming collection, A Match Made in Heaven, (Hope Road Publishing). Malik is also known for ghost-writing Great British Bake Off winner, Nadiya Hussain’s, adult books.

Sofia Khan is going about everything the wrong way. At least, that’s what her mother, Mehnaz, thinks. Sofia is twice-divorced, homeless and – worst of all – refusing to give up on a fostered baby girl. Sofia’s just not behaving like a normal woman should.

Sofia doesn’t see it like that. She’s planning to adopt Millie, and she’s sure it’ll be worth it. (Even if it means she and Millie have to stay at Mehnaz’s place for a while.) And as Sofia finally begins to live the life she’s chosen, she finds both romance and happiness start to blossom.

But then someone comes back from the past – and not even Sofia’s own past. Suddenly, she’s faced with a choice. To do what’s best for those she loves, Sofia might have to break her own heart. And she might find herself needing the last person she expected…

Santa Montefiore, The Kiss (Simon & Schuster)

Santa Montefiore’s books have been translated into more than twenty-five languages and have sold more than six million copies in England and Europe. She is the bestselling author of The Temptation of Gracie and the Deverill series, among many others. She is married to writer Simon Sebag Montefiore. They live with their two children, Lily and Sasha, in London.

Sometimes your biggest mistake can also be a blessing… Madison has always known she had a different father to her siblings. But it wasn’t until she turned eighteen that she learned his name. And now she wants to meet the man who shares her fair hair and blue eyes: Robert.

Robert is a very lucky man. A big house, beautiful wife, three handsome sons. Eighteen years ago, he made a mistake. A brief fling that resulted in a daughter nobody knows about.

Robert must finally tell his family the truth. Will they ever be able to forgive him and accept Madison as one of their own?

Kate Mosse, The Black Mountain (Macmillan, Pan Books)

Kate Mosse is an award-winning novelist, playwright and non-fiction writer, the author of six novels and short story collections, including the multimillion-selling Languedoc Trilogy – Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel – and number one bestselling Gothic fiction The Winter Ghosts and The Taxidermist’s Daughter. Her books have been translated into thirty-seven languages and published in more than forty countries. The Founder Director of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, she is also the Deputy Chair of the National Theatre in London. Kate divides her time between Chichester in West Sussex and Carcassonne in south-west France.

It is May, 1706. Ana, a young Spanish woman, lives in a small town on the north-west coast of Tenerife with her mother and twin younger brothers. The town is in the shadow of a mighty volcano, which legend says has the devil living inside it. However, there has been no eruption for thousands of years and no one believes it is a threat.

One day, Ana notices that the air feels strange and heavy, that the birds have stopped singing. Tending the family vineyard, a sudden strange tremor in the earth frightens her. Very soon it will be a race against time for Ana to help persuade the town that they are in danger and should flee before the volcano erupts and destroys their world. Will they listen? And Ana herself faces another danger…

‘A powerful storyteller with an abundant imagination’ Daily Telegraph

Graham Norton, The Swimmer (Hodder, Coronet)

Graham Norton is one of the UK’s most treasured comedians and presenters. Born in Clondalkin, a suburb of Dublin, Norton’s first big TV appearance was as Father Noel Furlong on Channel 4’s Father Ted in the early 1990s. He then secured a prime time slot on Channel 4 with his chat shows So Graham Norton and V Graham Norton. Known for his quick wit Graham began hosting a variety of talent shows on BBC One from Strictly Dance Fever and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? to The Eurovision Song Contest and BAFTAs. Graham was soon approached by the BBC to front his own self-titled chat show The Graham Norton Show in 2007. Graham Norton has won 9 BAFTAs for Best Entertainment Performance, and Best Entertainment Programme. He presents The Graham Norton Show on BBC1, a show on BBC Radio 2 every Saturday, and is a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. Norton won the Special Recognition Award at the National Television Awards in 2017. Graham’s third novel will be published in hardback, eBook, and audiobook in October.

Helen is a retired teacher living on the Irish coast. She enjoys the peace and quiet – despite the burden of Margaret, her unpleasant sister. Margaret arrived three years ago for a short holiday, but somehow managed to stay and worm her way into Helen’s life.

One day, Helen sees a man struggling in the sea and decides to investigate. She doesn’t quite know what it is, but something about it feels very strange…

Lemn Sissay, My Name Is Why (abridged) (Canongate)

Lemn Sissay MBE is a BAFTA nominated International prize winning writer. He was awarded an MBE for services to literature by The Queen of England, The Pen Pinter Prize and a Points of Light Award from The Prime Minister. Google “Lemn Sissay” and all the hits will be about him. There’s only one person in the world called Lemn Sissay.

An abridgement of his bestselling memoir of the same name.

How does a government steal a child and then imprison him?

How does it keep it a secret?

This story is how.

This story is true.

My Name Is Why is a true story about growing up in care and fighting to succeed despite the cruelty and failures of the care system.

Alex Wheatle, Witness (Serpent’s Tail)

Born in 1963 to Jamaican parents, Wheatle spent much of his childhood in a Shirley Oaks children’s home. He wrote lyrics about everyday Brixton life. By 1980 Wheatle was living in a social services hostel in Brixton, South London. He participated in the 1981 Brixton riots and aftermath. While serving time in prison he took to reading. His first novel, Brixton Rock, was published to critical acclaim by BlackAmber Books in 1999. Following the publication of his second novel, he turned his attention to writing YA fiction and has won a number of awards, including the 2016 Guardian Children’s Fiction Award.

Cornell is having a bad time. Kicked out of school for a fight he didn’t start, he finds himself in a Pupil Referral Unit. Here he makes friends with one of the Sinclair family. You just don’t mess with the Sinclairs, and when Ryan Sinclair orders him to come with him to teach a rival some respect, Cornell witnesses something that will change his life.

Torn between protecting his family and himself, Cornell has one hell of a decision to make.

Witness is Alex Wheatle at his best: a thrilling story about street violence, friendship and making the right choices.

2021 Booker Prize shortlist announced

Anuk Arudpragasam, Damon Galgut, Patricia Lockwood, Nadifa Mohamed, Richard Powers and Maggie Shipstead have been announced as the six authors shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize for Fiction.

The list was chosen from 158 novels published in the UK or Ireland between 1 October 2020 and 30 September 2021. The Booker Prize for Fiction is the leading prize for literary fiction written in English and is open to works by writers of any nationality, written in English and published in the UK or Ireland.

Readers of the six shortlisted books will explore life, memory and trauma in the devastating wake of Sri Lanka’s 30-year civil war; visit Pretoria during South Africa’s transition out of apartheid to watch the undoing of a white South African family; unpick the absurdities of our relentless exposure to social media when faced with the reality of human loss; witness a real-life battle against conspiracy, prejudice and a wrongful conviction for murder as a Somali seaman is hanged in Cardiff in the 1950s; experience the intense and moving love a father has for his troubled son as he pursues an experimental neurological therapy and searches for life on other planets; and travel through decades to learn of the enthralling, interwoven stories of two women: a mid-20th century aviator and a 21st century Hollywood star.

The shortlist

The six books were chosen by the 2021 judging panel: historian Maya Jasanoff (chair); writer and editor Horatia Harrod; actor Natascha McElhone; twice Booker-shortlisted novelist and professor Chigozie Obioma; and writer and former Archbishop Rowan Williams.

Maya Jasanoff, chair of the 2021 judges, says:

‘With so many ambitious and intelligent books before us, the judges engaged in rich discussions not only about the qualities of any given title, but often about the purpose of fiction itself. We are pleased to present a shortlist that delivers as wide a range of original
stories as it does voices and styles.

‘Perhaps appropriately for our times, these novels share an interest in how individuals are both animated and constrained by forces larger than themselves. Some are acutely introspective, taking us into the mind of a Tamil man tracing the scars of Sri Lanka’s civil war, and an American woman unplugging from the internet to cope with a family crisis. Some enter communities in the throes of historical transformation: the Cardiff docklands in the early years of British decolonisation, and the veld around Pretoria in the last years of apartheid. And some have global sweep, following a mid-century aviator in her attempt to circumnavigate the planet, and a present-day astrobiologist raising a son haunted by climate change. While each book is immersive in itself, together they are an expansive demonstration of what fiction is doing today.’

Gaby Wood, Director of the Booker Prize Foundation, adds:

‘This year, over the course of nine largely solitary months, five strangers of disparate backgrounds showed each other what they saw in stories–what dazzled them or challenged them, what touched them or left them unmoved. In the process they showed something of themselves, and came to trust each other as a result.

‘They also proved that the best literature is elastic: both because so many different things can be seen in it, and because–as one of the judges said–the best of fiction can make you feel as though your mind, or heart, are a little bit larger for having read it.

‘In congratulating the shortlistees, it’s worth remembering how true this remains of the 2021 longlist, all of which will continue to be celebrated at thebookerprizes.com, the new home of the prizes and the half-century-old Booker Library.’

The 2021 winner announcement and shortlist events

The 2021 winner will be announced on Wednesday 3 November in an award ceremony held in partnership with the BBC at Broadcasting House’s Radio Theatre. It will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row, BBC iPlayer, and BBC News Channel. The winner of the 2021 Booker Prize receives £50,000 and can expect international recognition.

In the meantime, BBC Radio 4’s Front Row is running its successful Booker Prize Book Groups for a third year with each of the six shortlisted books and authors. There will also be two hybrid in-person and digital public events featuring interviews with and readings from the authors: at Coventry University, as part of the UK City of Culture 2021 celebrations, on Friday 29 October, 7.30pm, chaired by Lemn Sissay (booking details to follow); and at Southbank Centre on Sunday 31 October, 7.30pm chaired by Kit de Waal (in-person tickets available here and digital here).

The winner will be interviewed live online in their first public event on Tuesday 9 November in partnership with Guardian Live. They will also take part in a digital event for Hay Festival’s Winter Weekend, which runs from 24-28 November at hayfestival.com.

Get involved

Reading groups have until 20 July to apply to shadow the Booker Prize 2021 shortlist. Groups will be allocated one title to read and review. Apply now.

Take a look at the longlist that was announced in July 2021.

Have you read any of the shortlisted books? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter and Instagram using #FinestFiction and #2021BookerPrize, or click on a title above to leave a review.

For more information, visit the Booker Prize website.

Susanna Clarke Wins Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021

On 8 September 2021, Susanna Clarke won the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction with her second novel Piranesi.

At an awards ceremony hosted by novelist and Women’s Prize Founder Director, Kate Mossem the 2021 Chair of Judges, Bernardine Evaristo presented Susanna Clarke with the £30,000 prize, endowed by an anonymous donor, and the ‘Bessie’, a limited edition bronze figurine by Grizel Niven. The Women’s Prize for Fiction – one of the greatest annual, international celebrations of women’s creativity, now in its 26th year – honours outstanding, ambitious, original fiction written in English by women from anywhere in the world.

Chair of judges and novelist Bernardine Evaristo, says:

“We wanted to find a book that we’d press into readers’ hands, which would have a lasting impact. With her first novel in seventeen years, Susanna Clarke has given us a truly original, unexpected flight of fancy which melds genres and challenges preconceptions about what books should be. She has created a world beyond our wildest imagination that also tells us something profound about what it is to be human.”

Set up in 1996 to celebrate and promote fiction by women to the widest range of readers possible, the Women’s Prize for Fiction is awarded for the best full-length novel of the year written by a woman and published in the UK between April and March the following year. Any woman writing in English – whatever her nationality, country of residence, age or subject matter – is eligible.

The judges for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction are: Elizabeth Day, podcaster, author and journalist; Vick Hope, TV and radio presenter, journalist and writer; Nesrine Malik, print columnist and writer; and Sarah-Jane Mee, news presenter and broadcaster. Bernardine Evaristo is this year’s chair.

Reading group reviews

Piranesi reading group.jpg

Reading Women is a reading group set up by two avid fans of the Women’s Prize for Fiction during lockdown who wanted to read all the former prize winners. The group has a wide range of members, including TV producers, an NHS admin worker, a management consultant and more. Over the summer, they read Piranesi as part of a shadowing project with us.

Maddy: “Haunting and descriptive creation of an alternative world, which I could have kept on exploring! Left me thinking about its lofty halls for weeks afterwards, and how it drip-fed its mysteries to the reader.”

Mark: “Charming and beautifully told, a portrait of a parallel world where the key themes are kidnap, memory lost and regained, wide eyed wonder and radical self reliance. A story that considers the best and worst of human nature and in which curiosity vanquishes.”

Rowan: “I found this book utterly enchanting, and from the moment I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. I was torn between on the one hand desperately trying to unpick its central mystery, and on the other wishing to remain peacefully immersed in Clarke’s beautifully crafted world for as long as possible. Visually and conceptually it is a book that has stayed with me and that I hope to revisit time and time again.”

Stela: “Loved the concept of being trapped in another dimension of realty. A delightful read which asks more questions than it answers.”

Dave: “Piranesi is a mystery wrapped in an enigma hidden in a puzzle, but one with humanity at its core. Deeply philosophical and utterly gripping, Susanna Clarke explores the limits of human experience in all its beauty, sorrow and madness.”

Get involved

See the 2021 Prize longlist and shortlist. Discussion guides are available for reading groups for the shortlisted titles.

Share your thoughts with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #WomensPrize.

Keep up with all the latest news on the Women’s Prize website.

Want to make sure you never miss the latest reading group news? Sign up for our free monthly newsletter.

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