Paul Lynch’s Prophet Song wins the Booker Prize 2023

Prophet Song by Paul Lynch has been named the winner of the Booker Prize 2023. He received £50,000 and was presented with his trophy by Shehan Karunatilaka, last year’s winner, at a ceremony held at Old Billingsgate, London.

The winning book was selected from 163 titles published between 1 October 2022 and 30 September 2023, and submitted to the prize by publishers. The Booker Prize is open to unified and sustained works of fiction by writers of any nationality, written in English and published in the UK or Ireland.

Prophet Song, which is Lynch’s fifth novel, is an exhilarating, propulsive and confrontational portrait of a country – and a family – on the brink of catastrophe. Ireland is in the grip of a government that is taking a turn towards tyranny and Eilish Stack, the novel’s protagonist, soon finds herself trying to make sense of the nightmare of a collapsing society – assailed by unpredictable forces beyond her control and desperate to do whatever it takes to keep her family together.

Lynch is the fifth Irish author to win the Booker Prize, after Iris Murdoch, John Banville, Roddy Doyle and Anne Enright. On his novel he said, ‘Prophet Song is partly an attempt at radical empathy. I wanted to deepen the reader’s immersion to such a degree that by the end of the book, they would not just know, but feel this problem for themselves’.

This year’s judging panel was composed of chair Esi Edugyan, actor, writer and director Adjoa Andoh; poet, lecturer, editor and critic Mary Jean Chan; Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and Shakespeare specialist James Shapiro; and actor and writer Robert Webb.

Esi Edugyan, Chair of the 2023 judges, said:

From that first knock at the door, Prophet Song forces us out of our complacency as we follow the terrifying plight of a woman seeking to protect her family in an Ireland descending into totalitarianism. We felt unsettled from the start, submerged in – and haunted by – the sustained claustrophobia of Lynch’s powerfully constructed world. He flinches from nothing, depicting the reality of state violence and displacement and offering no easy consolations. Here the sentence is stretched to its limits – Lynch pulls off feats of language that are stunning to witness. He has the heart of a poet, using repetition and recurring motifs to create a visceral reading experience. This is a triumph of emotional storytelling, bracing and brave. With great vividness, Prophet Song captures the social and political anxieties of our current moment. Readers will find it soul-shattering and true, and will not soon forget its warnings.

Gaby Wood, Chief Executive of the Booker Prize Foundation, added:

This year’s judges are so wide-ranging in their tastes, and so delightedly different in their styles of reading, that they developed a rule of thumb in order to find books they all loved. If they asked themselves ‘what is this book doing?’, they could analyse its technique, or the ways in which it advanced the art of fiction. If they asked themselves ‘what is this book doing to me?’, they could express their subjective responses, and identify novels that had an emotional impact. For this panel, the best books were those that answered and rewarded both of these questions. And the judges established at the start of the final meeting that any of the six books on the shortlist would be a worthy winner. Prophet Song is composed of masterful sentences, and packs a profound emotional punch.’

Get involved

This year the Booker Prizes ran the Booker Prize Book Club as a new online community for readers to discuss and find out more about the six books in contention for the world’s most influential prize for a single work of fiction, the Booker Prize Book Club. Find out more.

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

If you work in a library or workplace and would like to promote the prize, you can download a free digital pack from our shop.

For more information, visit the Booker Prize website.

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The Booker Prizes’ Book of the Month

Each month the Booker Prizes’ Book of the Month shines a spotlight on a different work of fiction from among the 600+ titles in the Booker Library, through reading guides, extracts, opinion pieces, competitions and discussions on our social channels. We will be updating this page on our website every month. Find out more here.

The Reading Agency launches call for submissions for Quick Reads 2025

The Reading Agency is pleased to announce that it is seeking publisher submissions for consideration for its life-changing 2025 Quick Reads programme.

Quick Reads are short, high-quality books that engage adult readers who lack reading confidence or have fallen out of the reading habit. They play a key role in getting the nation to read, especially those who find reading challenging. The challenge we face today is that one in three adults do not regularly read for pleasure and one in six adults find reading difficult. The titles are written by popular authors using accessible language and plots. And it works; over 5.3 million Quick Reads titles have been distributed since the program began in 2006.

This year, in addition to working with our existing publishing partners, The Reading Agency is also actively seeking submissions from SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) and independent publishers. This new development has been made possible with funding support from The Foyle Foundation. It will enable smaller independent publishers to take part in the programme for the first time by helping to remove some of the barriers that often prevent them from participating.

The final selection for Quick Reads 2025 will be made by a panel of experts including public and prison librarians, further education and workplace representatives, retailers and literacy experts. They will be looking for a range of genres, an inclusive and diverse mix of new and established voices but most importantly, great stories and content. All selected titles will be published and sold for £1 a copy, helping to make sure the books get into the hands of those that need them most in line with The Reading Agency’s mission to get everyone reading. Quick Reads are perfect for boosting reading skills, confidence and engagement. They can act as an entry point to different authors’ work in diverse genres, and have led to thousands of adults reading, completing, and enjoying a book for the first time.

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency says: “We want to showcase new stories from diverse voices and broaden the reach and appeal of Quick Reads. This is an exciting opportunity for all publishers, whatever their size, to widen their audience and support our mission of engaging new readers across the UK. We are also immensely grateful to our core funders, Hachette, and Penguin Random House for continuing to support this vital programme and to the Foyle Foundation for helping us to diversify our publisher partners in 2025.”

The deadline for submissions is 19 January 2024. Interested publishers can find more details and apply via The Reading Agency’s website, where they can find guidance on writing for emerging readers and information about Quick Reads and its audiences.

Publishers of all sizes who are passionate about literacy and widening participation in reading are encouraged to submit proposals for consideration. We ask larger publishers to cover some associated costs such as author advance, printing and production as part of their literacy strategy and CSR mission.

For more information or to discuss a submission, please contact Emma House at [email protected].

Summer Reading Challenge: Reach and Engagement 2023

We reached 699,208 children through the Summer Reading Challenge in 2023!

The 2023 Summer Reading Challenge: ‘Ready, Set, Read!’, delivered in partnership with libraries and the Youth Sport Trust, once again brought the fun and benefits of reading to families across the UK. We saw fantastic increases in children’s participation and engagement in the Challenge, with more children visiting their local library to take part, as well as more children taking part online.

Participating library branches (3,159) across 92% of library authorities in the UK saw a surge in the number of children’s book loans over the summer, supported by a cross-authority approach to delivery in 34 public libraries. This new partnership model ensured many more children and families living with disadvantage were able to take part, and helped contribute to an increase the number of children’s book loans over the summer.

More children took part in the Challenge than in the previous year

685,821 Children took part in Ready, Set, Read!, including:

  • 635,115 library starters (+4% on 2022)
  • 50,706 online starters (+7% on 2022)

13,387 additional packs were gifted by libraries to foodbanks, schools, HAF providers and others

More children joined their library and read more books during the holiday

  • 133,697 New library members (+42% on our pre-pandemic total in 2019)
  • 329,166 Children received a certificate of completion from their library or completed online (+6% on 2022)
  • 14,084,931 Total books, including eBooks and audio titles, read and issued through libraries (+10% on 2022)

1,106 parents and caregivers told us about the difference the Challenge made to their children who took part…

  • 80% read more over the summer holidays
  • 75% enjoy reading more
  • 72% feel more confident reading
  • 70% improved their reading skills
  • 58% visited the library more as a family
  • 52% felt more relaxed
  • 34% felt more connected to others
  • 43% felt better

Digital Reach

  • 3,706,561 page views and 657,232 visits to the Summer Reading Challenge website
  • 549,936 Total reach of posts on the Summer Reading Challenge Facebook page
  • 10,336 Total engagements with our Facebook posts

“I found the Summer Reading Challenge made me read more books and spend more nights reading books with my Dad. It made me feel relaxed.”

Boy, aged 8-9 years old

“My daughter is not a confident reader and is behind with her reading according to her age. It was great to be able to select books from the library that she felt confident with and to see her pleasure in finally achieving because of her reading.”

Parent/caregiver of girl, aged 6-7 years old

“A great initiative to motivate children to keep reading over the summer and promote library services(…) the activities we run alongside the challenge are the ideal opportunity for them to meet new friends and build their social skills.”

North Tyneside Libraries

Download the document.

The Reading Agency and the Youth Sport Trust invite children on a winter reading adventure

The Reading Agency has today announced that they are teaming up with the Youth Sport Trust again for this year’s Winter Mini Challenge, a free reading adventure. The Challenge encourages children to keep up their reading over the winter holidays and offers rewards and prizes for continuing to read.

Following the success of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge, the Winter Mini Challenge will continue to follow the Ready, Set, Read! theme throughout the winter. By taking part online via the Challenge website, children will be able to join this year’s six characters as they head out to have fun on a winter walk.

The characters, illustrated by Loretta Schauer, will get children fired up about games, sport and play, with the Ready, Set, Read! theme of the Challenge aiming to keep children’s minds and bodies active over the winter holiday. Children can log their reads and share reviews on the digital platform and earn rewards for their reading, with many public libraries across the UK offering events and activities which tie into the theme.

During the school holidays, some children experience a ‘dip’ in their reading skills. The Winter Mini Challenge is on a mission to change this by providing a way for children to keep reading for enjoyment outside the classroom. Accompanying resources which can be downloaded through the digital platform will help families and teachers to provide free and fun activities over the holiday.

The Winter Mini Challenge will launch on 1 December and run until 19 February.

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency said: “We saw a fantastic response to this year’s sport and games themed Summer Reading Challenge, showing that reading goes hand-in-hand with play in helping children to explore their creativity. We’re delighted to be continuing our partnership with the Youth Sport Trust for this year’s Winter Mini Challenge and hope we’ll fire up the imaginations of children across the country.”

Ali Oliver MBE, Chief Executive of the Youth Sport Trust: “Following the success of the Summer Reading Challenge, we are delighted to be partnering with the Reading Agency once again on this year’s Winter Mini Challenge! The cold weather and early evenings over the winter can make getting active outdoors challenging, but we hope children and young will be inspired by the games, sport and play themed books selected as part of the Ready, Set, Read Challenge to keep active over the winter holiday.

We know active children are happier, healthier and can even achieve more in the classroom. The Winter Mini Challenge is a brilliant way to inspire children over the winter to keep both minds and bodies active.”

Visit www.wintermini.org.uk for more information.
Follow the latest developments on social media:
@ReadingAgency
#WinterMiniChallenge

For all media enquiries contact [email protected] or call +44(0)7458 303703.

Halik Kochanski wins the 2023 Wolfson History Prize

Halik Kochanski was named the winner of the Wolfson History Prize 2023, the UK’s most prestigious history writing prize, at a ceremony at Claridge’s in London, for her sweeping history of resistance in wartime Europe: Resistance: The Underground War in Europe 1939-1945.

Championing a shortlist of six titles, Kochanski wins this year’s prize and receives a total of £50,000. Each of the five shortlisted authors receives £5,000 making the Wolfson History Prize the most valuable writing prize in the UK.

A judging panel made up of Mary Beard, Sudhir Hazareesingh, Richard Evans, Carole Hillenbrand, Diarmaid MacCulloch, and chair David Cannadine made the decision, firstly narrowing down the best history writing in the UK from the past year to a shortlist of six books, before selecting the overall winner.

On the winning title the judges said:

Unveiling lesser-known acts of defiance, this is a remarkable history of pan-European resistance to the Nazis. Through diverse sources and captivating storytelling, it presents a compelling exploration of this critical era.

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation said:

For over half a century, the Wolfson History Prize has celebrated history writing that is rooted in excellent research and which captivates readers. Resistance joins a rollcall of winners that achieve both – and with considerable elegance. Halik Kochanski presents an overarching analysis of European resistance during the Second World War, without ever losing a sharp focus on the human narratives that lie at its heart.

About the Book

Bringing untold accounts of wartime resistance to light, Resistance is the first English-language history of resistance to study the whole of Europe, uncovering powerful human stories that have been overlooked across the continent.

The book delves into the reasons that people chose to resist the Third Reich and the methods they used, from partisan warfare in the occupied Soviet Union to dangerous acts of insurrection in the Netherlands.

In Resistance Halik Kochanski reveals remarkable achievements of ordinary people and the formidable challenges that they faced amid oppression.

David Cannadine, Chair of the Wolfson History Prize judges said:

Resistance is impressive in its breadth, blending macro and micro history into a single narrative. This book does more than recount the past; it breathes life into forgotten voices and untold tales of bravery, illuminating the spirit of ordinary people who challenged oppression.

Through meticulous research and powerful writing, Halik Kochanski highlights the indomitable courage of those who resisted the Nazis. In our own times of conflict and instability, Resistance is a timely inner of the Wolfson History Prize, and we offer our warmest congratulations to Halik.

Get involved

If you work in a library or workplace and would like to promote the prize winner, you can download a free digital pack from our shop.

What do you think of this year’s winner and the other shortlisted titles? Which have you read and what will be added to your TBR pile? Add your comments below, or click any title above to leave a review.

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

To learn more about the Wolfson History Prize head over to their website or connect on Twitter via @WolfsonHistory

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The Reading Agency reveals inspiring line-up of authors for the life-changing Quick Reads programme

Kia Abdullah | Malorie Blackman | Matt Cain | Kit de Waal | Jo Nesbo | Karen Swan

The Reading Agency has announced the six best-selling authors championing Quick Reads for 2024. They are Kia Abdullah, Malorie Blackman, Matt Cain, Kit de Waal, Jo Nesbo and Karen Swan.

Publishing on 11 April 2024 and reflecting the very best contemporary writing, the new collection of Quick Reads incudes a mix of original and specially abridged titles including a suspenseful, court room page turner by thriller fiction star Kia Abdullah (Those People Next Door, HQ, HarperCollins); a hard-hitting emotional tale of teenage fatherhood from multi-award-winning Malorie Blackman (Boys Don’t Cry, Penguin, Penguin Random House UK Children’s); a joyful and surprising tale about love, friendship and football from broadcaster and LGBTQ+ advocate Matt Cain (Game On, Headline, Hachette); Kit de Waal’s vibrant and unforgettable memoir of how books saved her life (Without Warning and Only Sometimes, Headline, Hachette); a dangerously dark thriller from global, fan favourite Jo Nesbo (The Jealousy Man, Vintage, Penguin Random House); and an epic, spellbinding historical romance set against the backdrop of untamed beauty of St Kilda in 1930s high society from Sunday Times bestseller Karen Swan (The Last Summer, Pan Macmillan).

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 the programme launched in 2006, over 5.3 million Quick Reads have been distributed with over 6.14 million registered library loans.

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.

The six titles announced today will also be gifted as part of World Book Night 2024, The Reading Agency’s annual drive to create a nation of readers. With the support of this year’s publishers, copies of the books will be given away to organisations including care homes, youth centres, homelessness centre, prisons, hospitals and other organisations through public library partners.

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency, said: ‘We are incredibly excited as we unveil the remarkable line-up of authors collaborating with Quick Reads to publish a bitesize book for 2024 – and we thank them and all the publishers for their support to this life-changing programme. We would also like to extend heartfelt gratitude to Jojo Moyes for the generous donation in 2020-2022 which helped to shape the future of the initiative. This year we are proudly supported by Penguin Random House and Hachette who have contributed funding to the programme. We will be celebrating Quick Reads as part of World Book Night 2024 in our continued mission to bring high quality, fun and accessible books to a wider audience to discover the transformative power of reading.’

Tottenham Literature Festival 2023 – Big Read

We’re delighted to be partnering once again with the Bernie Grant Arts Centre on the Tottenham Big Read, as part of the Tottenham Literature Festival 2023. The Bernie Grant Arts Centre, in partnership with The Reading Agency will be giving away 400 books, free to the local community in Tottenham.

This year’s festival opens on 13 November and sees leading Black writers, journalists and TV personalities host a range of talks, events and workshops under the theme of the Black experience through the lens of the human body. Events will look at how the physical world and how reactions to it affect the body, and whether a holistic approach to life can help us thrive physically, mentally and spiritually and live as whole selves. The festival includes film screenings, a book stall, food and a schools day with an extensive free programme as well as tickets from £5 including a day pass.

As part of the festival, The Reading Agency are supporting the Bernie Grants Arts Centre in giving away free copies of Amazing Bodies, by award-winning trans non-binary emergency doctor, CBBC’s Operation Ouch! presenter, and activist, Dr Ronx. Children can pick up a copy of the book which will be available at the Bernie Grants Arts Centre during the festival week and in participating libraries.

There will also be an activity pack available to support children’s reading of the book, full of fun reading and writing activities to test children’s understanding of the book, as well as exciting science experiments to show the content of the book in real life. The pack will be available to download digitally in advance of the festival.

Click here to buy tickets and find out more about the festival and the big read.

Nandini Das wins the British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding 2023

Courting India: England, Mughal India and the Origins of Empire by Nandini Das has been named as the winner of the 11th British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding. The announcement was made by Chair of the 2023 Book Prize judging panel, Professor Charles Tripp FBA, at a celebration at the British Academy.

Nandini Das will receive £25,000 for winning the prize. Each of the shortlisted writers will receive £1,000.

Courting India was chosen from a shortlist of six books that included: Red Memory: Living, Remembering and Forgetting China’s Cultural Revolution by Tania Branigan; The Violence of Colonial Photography by Daniel Foliard; Black Ghost of Empire: The Long Death of Slavery and the Failure of Emancipation by Kris Manjapra; Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World by Irene Vallejo; and Ritual: How Seemingly Senseless Acts Make Life Worth Living by Dimitris Xygalatas. You can find out more about the shortlist here.

Commenting on behalf of the judging panel Professor Charles Tripp said:

Nandini Das has written the true origin story of Britain and India. By using contemporary sources by Indian and by British political figures, officials and merchants she has given the story an unparalleled immediacy that brings to life these early encounters and the misunderstandings that sometimes threatened to wreck the whole endeavour. At the same time, she grants us a privileged vantage point from which we can appreciate how a measure of mutual understanding did begin to emerge, even though it was vulnerable to the ups and downs of Mughal politics and to the restless ambitions of the British.

Through her beautiful writing and exceptional research, the judging panel was drawn to the contrast between an impoverished, insecure Britain and the flourishing, confident Mughal Empire and the often-amusing, sometimes querulous exchanges between their various representatives. Moreover, we were reminded through this story of the first ambassadorial mission of the value of international diplomacy, but also of the cultural minefields that surround it in ways that still have resonance today.

Professor Charles Tripp was joined on the 2023 Book Prize panel of judges by Professor Madawi Al-Rasheed FBA, Professor Rebecca Earle FBA, Fatima Manji, and Professor Gary Younge Hon FBA.

About the Book

In this remarkable debut, Nandini Das – Professor of Early Modern Literature and Culture in the English faculty at the University of Oxford – presents an important new perspective on the origins of empire through the story of the arrival of the first English ambassador in India, Sir Thomas Roe, in the early 17th century.

The book recasts the story of Britain and India moving us beyond a Eurocentric telling, with an even-handed, entertaining tale of the encounter of two cultures and the ambitions, misunderstandings and prejudices that came to the fore. In this genuinely ground-breaking work, Indian-raised Das challenges our understanding of this pivotal pre-colonial period. Drawing on a rich variety of sources – literature, the memoirs of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, the journals and correspondence of Sir Thomas Roe, plus the archives of the East India Company – Das invites the reader to get to grips with the making of history, and its narration from both perspectives.

On the book, Professor Julia Black, President of the British Academy said:

The power of good writing and a well-told story in getting people to understand each other should not be underestimated. This book does just that, drawing on the best of the academic and the literary traditions to shed light on how we are today.

Get involved

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

For more information, visit the British Academy Website

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