Inaugural Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction Announces Longlist

The Women’s Prize Trust – the UK charity which creates equitable opportunities for women in the world of books and masterminds the annual Women’s Prize for Fiction – announces the Longlist for its sister prize, the inaugural Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction.

The new prize – which has long been an aim of the Women’s Prize Trust – was in part born out of research released in 2023 which demonstrated that female non-fiction writers are less visible in the UK national media and less likely to win (or be shortlisted for) book prizes than their male counterparts.

Featuring writers from all over the English-speaking world – America, Australia, Canada, India, Jamaica, the Philippines and the UK – across a wide range of genres and styles, from gripping memoirs and timely books that challenge the status quo, to groundbreaking investigative journalism and innovative new histories, these 16 titles show the range, quality and ambition of non-fiction writing by women over the last year.

The longlist

The 2024 longlist features nine authors who are publishing their first work for a general, non-academic readership. They sit alongside two international bestsellers (Naomi Klein and Anna Funder), a prize-winning author of fiction and non-fiction (Alice Albinia) and two published poets (Cat Bohannon and Safiya Sinclair).

The works are drawn from a wide range of disciplines, from neuroscience, biology, psychoanalysis, history and philosophy to economics, politics, AI, race, art and natural history, with several of the books combining multiple genres within one work. There are memoirs that will enlighten and move the reader – from life within a militant religious sect, to a pilgrimage across Britain’s flatlands; from a narrative that explores life in art and the power of a painting, to a deeply personal story that shows us the limitations of our care system.

The judges

Chair of judges Professor Suzannah Lipscomb says:

‘Reading for the Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction has been a revelation and a joy. I am very proud to introduce the sensational books that make up the inaugural Longlist. Our selection represents the breadth of women’s non-fiction writing: science, history, memoir, technology, literary biography, health, linguistics, investigative journalism, art history, activism, travel-writing and economics. And each author has created a masterpiece that is worthy of your attention. Buy them, borrow them – above all read them – and in so doing you’ll be elevating women’s voices and female perspectives in a whole range of disciplines and on a whole host of topics.’

Professor Lipscomb is joined on the judging panel by fair fashion campaigner Venetia La Manna; academic, author and consultant Professor Nicola Rollock; biographer and journalist Anne Sebba; and author and 2018 winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction Kamila Shamsie.

The judges will narrow down this longlist of 16 books to a shortlist of six, which will be announced on 27 March. The 2024 Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction will be awarded on Thursday 13 June 2024 at the Women’s Prize Trust’s summer party in central London. The winner will receive a cheque for £30,000 and a limited-edition artwork known as the ‘Charlotte’, both gifted by the Charlotte Aitken Trust.

More information can be found on the Women’s Prizes website here.

Get involved

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

What do you think of the 2024 longlisted 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 #WomensPrize.

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

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Reading Friends uncovers the power of inclusive reading at Portsmouth Libraries

Portsmouth Libraries have been hosting Reading Friends sessions in their branches since 2021. In the last year, they helped 1,492 people to connect with each other over 1,588 times in a variety of one to one and group Reading Friends sessions.

In 2023, Portsmouth Libraries were successful in their application to The Reading Agency to receive funding as part of an Ulverscroft Foundation funded project, allowing them to develop their current Reading Friends offer to people living with a vision impairment.

Services available for people who are blind and partially sighted

Portsmouth Libraries offer resources to people experiencing sight loss and deterioration including large print books, talking books and e-audio books, as well as a newsletter which is available in large print, email, audio and braille. They also offer a wide range of vision impairment services, including a telephone advice line, braille services (including a transcription service, Braille tuition, a Kurzweil text to Braille translator and a Braille printer), computer training alongside reading groups – including talks, demonstrations, signposting and discussion groups on books hosted on MP3s.

We spoke to Julie Duffy, Visual Impairment Officer and Claire Liddell, Service Development Manager, at Portsmouth Libraries to understand the difference attending one of these Reading Friends sessions can make. Their feedback has been summarised below.  

As part of her role, Julie Duffy offers braille translations to library members and visitors, manages the newsletter for people who are blind and partially sighted, supports with computer training and leads Reading Friends groups. The groups offer participants the chance to read and discuss books provided in CD or MP3 format.

Julie is also registered as blind, which she explains plays a large part in not only being able to empathise with people who are blind and partially sighted, but also in forming relationships built on trust with the people she works with. As part of Reading Friends, the group sessions offer a regular time and space for members to form connections with Julie and each other.

“People often say to me: ‘when I get depressed about my sight, I think about you. And then I think, you know, I can do it.’ And that’s very humbling.”

“I understand that loss of independence. For example, for people who drive, it’s a real issue. Then there’s reading books, that’s the other issue. I had one chap, who was seriously depressed, and I got him involved in the computer service. He had had poor sight all his life and he pretended that he hadn’t, which is a very common thing for people to do. When I taught him Braille and we read through a book, he said to me that’s the first time I’ve ever read a book in my life. He was 40 years old.”

Providing individualised social and emotional support

Julie explained that what people find most helpful can be social or emotional support, information on how to manage specific aspects of daily life, resources or signposting. The Reading Friends groups offer a space for staff and volunteers to get to know and learn about individual members, for members to form connections based on shared experiences and to feel supported with any barriers they might experience on a day-to-day basis.

“Sometimes people don’t know how to manage things, but when there’s other people there, they don’t feel so alone and they can chat about how other people manage things.”

Sight loss or degeneration can have a huge impact, and Portsmouth Libraries ensure that they are able to provide the appropriate level of support by embedding training in their service, supporting volunteers, providing emotional support and signposting to specialist services where relevant.

“We offer visual impairment training, so that staff are aware of how they’ve got to help people to get around.”

Both Julie Duffy and Clare Liddell pointed to the need for public libraries offering services to people who are blind and partially sighted to understand the needs of their audiences, the distress that some people may experience and how to support them.

“Any library authority needs to be ready for these kinds of communications when working with people with visual impairment.”

Consulting with people with lived experience

Portsmouth Libraries consult with audiences who experience sight loss and degeneration to understand more about the people they work with.

“We ask the groups what they want. We have Social Services, the sensory team and the hospital referring us to people. Then we ask the individuals for their opinion and what they find helpful. It’s about dialogue.”

Julie Duffy is also responsible for building several relationships with other local organisations and Portsmouth City Council, who come to Portsmouth Libraries and speak with the members of her groups to better be able to service their needs. Julie explained that once she had initiated conversations, local organisations were usually very responsive and would notify her and the groups of any planned works or changes that might impact their day-to-day living.

“It’s quite well known within the city council that if they’re doing new schemes and things such as road closures or whatever they come and talk to us about it.”

Developing and extending activities

During 2023 to 2024, Portsmouth Libraries are using the Ulverscroft Foundation funding to develop their offer. They plan to source further stock for people who are blind and partially sighted, including new spoken word and large print titles, create and promote uptake of a new Reading Friends group located in the north of Portsmouth and develop a programme of events for the groups, including author visits.

“Hopefully, we will be able to get people out of their homes because, since Covid, people have been scared to come out and it’s giving them a reason to do so.”

Read more about the impact of Reading Friends across the UK here
(image shows Julie with her service dog, Spencer)

Paul Kelly succeeds Matthew Littleford MBE as The Reading Agency’s Chair of the Board

The Reading Agency today announced that Paul Kelly has been appointed Chair of the Board of Trustees of The Reading Agency. He succeeds Matthew Littleford MBE, whose term as Chair ended after serving since 2018.   

Paul has been a member of The Reading Agency’s Board of Trustees since 2018 and has served as Vice-Chair since last year. He is the global CEO of DK, the world’s leading illustrated non-fiction publisher, which is part of Penguin Random House group. Paul has an incredible breadth of experience in UK and international publishing having previously served as President at DK US and Commercial and Strategy Director for Penguin Random House UK.  

“I have always been inspired by The Reading Agency’s innovative approach to promoting reading for pleasure and the incredible impact they have on so many lives. This brilliant organisation has gone fromstrength to strength under Matthew’s tenure, reaching over 2 million people last year, and encouraging 139,000 children and families to join the local library. I am humbled and honored to be taking over the vital role of Chair for The Reading Agency and working even more closely with CEO, Karen Napier, and her talented team. I look forward to using this position to help facilitate the charity’s immense potential to reach more people and leverage the power of reading to transform more lives than ever before.” 

Matthew Littleford, who stood down as Chair on the 1 February, was formerly Joint Managing Director of Betty, one of the UK’s leading TV production companies where he was responsible for running the business, editorial strategy, people and culture, business affairs and production management. He was also the Editorial Director for Digital at BBC Worldwide, leading, creating and delivering the editorial proposition across their portfolio of brands and platforms. 

During his tenure, Matthew provided invaluable leadership and guidance that helped The Reading Agency fulfill its mission to empower people of all ages to read. Some of the many key achievements under his chairmanship include expanding the reach of reading programmes like Reading Friends and Reading Well to vulnerable and underserved communities across the country, launching innovative digital reading initiatives to support early years reading like the Summer Reading Challenge online platform, and supporting the organisation to forge new relationships with charity, corporate and public sector partners to support literacy programs across the UK. 

“After six inspiring years, I would like to say thank you to The Reading Agency team, our brilliant library partners, and Arts Council England, for working with us to get more people across the UK reading. It has been a privilege to help Karen lead this innovative organisation during what have been challenging years for many and championing the proven power of reading. I wish Paul Kelly every success as the organisation’s new Chair and will continue to champion The Reading Agency’s work from the sidelines.” 

Matthew Littleford

“On behalf of The Reading Agency, I want to thank Matthew for his many years of exceptional service on our Board, Matthew’s passion for promoting reading and creativity has helped strengthen our organsation and enabled us to transform thousands of lives through the power of reading. We wish him the very best in his future endeavors. We are delighted to welcome Paul Kelly as our new Chair. His commitment to and expertise in reading for pleasure will be a real asset as we work towards getting more people across the country reading.” 

Karen Napier, Chief Executive of The Reading Agency.

“The Arts Council strongly believes in the importance of reading for pleasure and we’re proud to support The Reading Agency in its mission to empower people of all ages to read. Over the last six years, Matthew Littleford has led The Reading Agency to achieve a number of significant milestones, particularly around its reading programmes and Summer Reading Challenge, and we wish him well for his future. And we look forward to working with Paul Kelly and the whole team on the continuation of their vital work.” 

Sarah Crown, Director Literature, Arts Council England

The Reading Agency

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