How To Get into Reading

In a world filled with distractions, finding the time and motivation to read can feel like a daunting task. However, the benefits of reading are proven – from reducing stress and improving your mental health to expanding your knowledge and imagination.

If you’re someone who has always wanted to get into reading but didn’t know where to start, you’re in the right place! Read our tips to unlock the joy of reading.

Photo of a hand pulling a book from a book shelf.

Understanding the Benefits of Reading

  • Studies have shown that those who read for pleasure have higher levels of self-esteem and a greater ability to cope with difficult situations. Reading for pleasure was also associated with better sleeping patterns. 1
  • Adults who read for just 30 minutes a week are 20% more likely to report greater life satisfaction.2
  • In 2021, we found that shorter format books provided emerging readers with a more accessible route into reading, whilst some lapsed and avid readers indicated that they found it easier to find time to pick up a Quick Read whilst juggling other responsibilities.
  • By reading just one Quick Read, 3 in 4 people report enjoying reading more and said they’d like to read more often, whilst 1 in 3 feel more confident about reading and felt they were a better reader as a result. 3
  • Read more about the benefits of reading here.

Creating a Reading Routine

  • Start small by setting achievable reading goals, such as reading for 10 minutes a day or finishing one short book per month.
  • Track your progress with a book tracking app such as The StoryGraph
  • Find a time and place that works best for you to read consistently, whether it’s during your morning commute or before bed.
  • Incorporate reading into your daily routine by replacing screen time with a good book.
  • Audiobooks can be an ideal route into reading, particularly if you find it difficult to focus on words on a page, or are looking for something to listen to while doing other things. Podcast fans, audiobooks are for you!
  • Set some time aside this World Book Day for our annual #ReadingHour. You can read a print book, e-book, or listen to an audiobook. It doesn’t matter what, how, or where you read, as long as you enjoy it.
    Find out more here

Choosing the Right Books

  • Getting book recommendations from social media, YouTube, book tracking apps or from your friends can help you find books you love and get you excited about your next reads.
  • Experiment with different genres and authors to discover what resonates with you.
  • Quick Reads are a great place to start. Because they’re short, you can try lots of different genres and authors to find what fits you best. From thrillers, to contemporary romance, to literary fiction, we have a wide range of Quick Reads to suit everybody.
    Browse our Quick Reads here.
  • You can also find your next read from our selection of booklists – from books about sport to LGBTQ+ stories.
    Explore our booklists here.
  • Libraries are a great place to get reading recommendations. Browse the shelves or ask your librarian for their ideas. Find your local library here.

Share your reading with others

  • Joining book clubs or online reading communities is a great way to connect with other readers, share recommendations and stay motivated.
  • We know that reading groups and book clubs are a great way to make friends, feel connected and empowered to try books you’d never have come across otherwise. 94% of people asked read more widely and felt more connected to others thanks to their reading group.
    Read more about the benefits of reading groups here
Photo of a person reading an e-reader on a bench outside.

Beginning your reading journey is not just about reading a book – it’s about discovering new worlds, perspectives, and possibilities. Since 2006, over 5.3 million Quick Reads have been distributed, with over 6.14 million loaned from public libraries.

So why not join other readers and unlock the joy of reading today.

  1. [Billington, J, (2015) Reading between the Lines: the Benefits of Reading for Pleasure Quick Reads, University of Liverpool]  ↩︎
  2. Billington, J, (2015) Reading between the Lines: the Benefits of Reading for Pleasure Quick Reads, University of Liverpool p. 7]  ↩︎
  3. The Reading Agency (2022) Quick Reads Evaluation Report 2021-22  ↩︎

The Women’s Prizes announce the Inaugural Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction Shortlist

The six shortlisted Women's Prize for Non-Fiction titles stacked on a white table.

The Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction – the inaugural international celebration of women’s non-fiction writing – today unveils the shortlist for its 2024 Prize. The six books cover a broad range of subjects: from life writing, religion, art and history, to AI, social media and online politics. What unites them is an originality of voice and an ability to turn complex ideas and personal trauma into inventive, compelling and immersive prose.

The shortlist

The 2024 shortlist takes readers to new places and introduces new perspectives, offering an alternative lens through which we can examine our past, present and impending future. Revelatory stories that uncover the voices of the dispossessed, sit alongside personal testaments of oppression that reveal resilience and courage. There are also works of groundbreaking investigative journalism that challenge the systems that govern us, alongside visionary accounts that pay tribute to the liberating potential of literature and art.

The shortlist represents writers from America (Tiya Miles), Canada (Naomi Klein) and Jamaica (Safiya Sinclair), with half the list from the UK (Laura Cumming, Noreen Masud and Madhumita Murgia).

The judges

Chair of judges Professor Suzannah Lipscomb says:

Our magnificent shortlist is made up of six powerful, impressive books that are characterised by the brilliance and beauty of their writing and which each offer a unique, original perspective. The readers of these books will never see the world – be it through art, history, landscape, politics, religion or technology – the same again.

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 narrowed down this shortlist to six books from a longlist of 16. 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 shortlist, you can download a free digital pack from our shop.

What do you think of the 2024 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 #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.

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.

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

Teachers Reading Challenge 2022: living and breathing reading in South Ayshire

Photo of three children reading a book. The middle child is wearing school uniform.

In January 2023, The Reading Agency spoke to Ashley G., a primary teacher working with P6/7 pupils in South Ayrshire about her experience of taking part in the Teachers’ Reading Challenge. Ashley G. took part in both 2021 and 2022, reading well over the number of books she had set herself to read and gaining two silver badges in both years of the Challenge. We spoke to Ashley about how she translated her own love of reading into pedagogical practice, expanded her knowledge of children’s and young people’s texts and embedded reading for pleasure across her whole school as a result of taking part in the Challenge.

Although always having been an avid reader, Ashley explained that translating this into her own work with children only truly became a priority following her discovery of the Teachers’ Reading Challenge.

‘This has been a game changer for me as a teacher. This led me to research Reading for Pleasure, book training sessions on it and complete the Open University badged course. All of this sparked something in me and I’ve spent the last year working on initiatives in school to promote a Reading for Pleasure culture and reading a ridiculous number of children’s books!’

Since first taking part in 2021, Ashley has embedded a variety of initiatives in her school aimed at engaging children in reading for pleasure. These include taking the children to the mobile library every month (when it is scheduled to visit the village) and liaising with South Ayrshire Library Services to provide every child with a mobile library ticket and access to ebooks and audiobooks through the Libby app (online library service).

‘The children can access Libby at school and at home and it is now a well-used and well-loved resource. Access to Libby has also helped to tackle barriers to reading for some of our pupils who were experiencing difficulty reading books at their interest level and were being put off reading by this. Furthermore, for pupils where they don’t have access to a lot of books at home (as long as they have access to a technological device at home eg. phone, tablet, laptop) this free app provides an opportunity for them to read or listen to a wide selection of modern children’s books at home without cost implications for parents which is so important. Money should never be a barrier to children’s reading, and I feel this is even more important currently given the cost-of-living crisis we are all experiencing.’

Another initiative is running a Reading for Pleasure session for the whole school every Friday afternoon, where students can read in a quiet room or participate in shared reading and book talk with their peers. The school has also hosted family ‘Booknic’ events inviting parents, carers and other family members into the school to read together, building an awareness amongst children and young people of reading as something that everyone can take part in and enjoy, both at home, at school and elsewhere.

‘Engaging the children in school has been going well as it’s a small school and because they get the enthusiasm from staff they are all responding well, even children who are reluctant readers.  Engaging families can be more difficult as we appreciate time demands on parents can make it difficult for them to find time to read with their children.  We invited them in for a Booknic back in October which was well attended and received positive feedback from parents and we ran one again the week of World Book Day.  In our infant class we have just started sending home a RfP [Reading for Pleasure] bookbag for the weekend with a little hot chocolate and mini marshmallow pack and requesting a little photo uploaded to Seesaw with potentially a little review of the book/books or their child’s thoughts on it and we will monitor engagement of this. (…)  Next step I’d like to explore inviting parents to come when the mobile library is at the school to choose a book with their child.’

By expanding her knowledge and reading more of the recently published and trending literature that pupils were interested in themselves, Ashley was better able to engage in book talk and was more confident in recommending texts to pupils. As part of a broader approach to diversifying both hers and others’ knowledge of children’s and young people’s texts, Ashley has also started an Open University Teachers’ Reading Group in South Ayrshire, got the school involved in a Diversifying Reading project with Oxford University Press and joined a Racial Literacy Working Group.

‘I adored reading as a child and when I had my own children I wanted them to have that same love of reading but as they grew older and we moved on to reading chapter books I would choose books I had enjoyed reading at their age and came to realise they just weren’t enjoying them as much as I had. So I knew I had to do some research to ensure they maintained their love of reading. That was why when I saw the Teachers’ Summer Reading Challenge I signed up straight away. I also joined Twitter and started following accounts suggested for children’s literature (which I would highly recommend), visited libraries and charity shops and sourced different types of books from different authors and with a variety of characters.(…) I now feel really confident recommending books to pupils throughout the school and they often read the same ones I have and we chat about them. Class novel choices have also been improved due to my knowledge of current authors and the children have really engaged in the books they’ve chosen from my selection.’

When asked about the best new title she had discovered as part of the Challenge and why it resonated, Ashley selected two texts with main characters that reflected different life experiences, pointing to the importance of representation within children and young people’s literature.

‘Amari and the Night Brothers’ because it’s an exciting, fantasy adventure book where the main character is a black girl. So often in this genre the girl is a side character, but instead here was a great female main character which was so refreshing. Also, although it’s a small village school I work in we have a very diverse pupil group and I loved the fact this book included a wide variety of characters with good representation of other ethnicities. This book and its sequel ‘Amari and the Great Game’ have been so popular in my class and we’re now eagerly awaiting the third book which is due to be published in September this year.’

‘Another was Ella on the Outside by Cath Howe, as the main character had eczema. I would have loved to have read a book that featured a character with eczema when I was growing up as I suffered quite badly with eczema myself. Most of the years I was in primary school I was admitted to hospital for a week or so to get it back under control.  So I feel this book would have been comforting for my younger self to have read, and it would have been helpful for educating other children on eczema. I always felt really aware of how my skin looked to others at school and (like in the book) some children were nasty about it.’

Ashley also told us about how the Teachers’ Reading Challenge had informed her work with pupils with different reading levels, providing her with the confidence and the resources through which to engage more reluctant readers.

‘One pupil told me that I wouldn’t be able to find books they would enjoy, but I managed eventually. The first I found that he enjoyed was ‘The Humiliations of Welton Blake’ by Alex Wheatle and that then gave me an idea of the types of books he was likely to enjoy. I researched websites for recommendations ‘if you liked this book/author you might enjoy…’ and I took to Twitter asking for recommendations from others too. Eventually I came across Anthony McGowan’s ‘The Truth of Things’ (which includes three novellas). I ordered my own copy, read it and gave him my copy. The student has now read all three novellas, followed it up with the fourth instalment ‘Lark’ and has recommended them to another student in my class who has now also read all three novellas and is currently reading ‘Lark’. I have now sourced similar novels by a different author for them to try to ensure I maintain their current level of enthusiasm.’

‘Other more reluctant readers have really enjoyed the ‘Dog Man’ series and ‘The Bad Guys’ series we recently purchased for our school library. One pupil in particular has really engaged with graphic novels and has read every book we have in these series and researched to find out if there were any more she hasn’t read yet for us to purchase. She has also enjoyed the ‘Smile, Sisters and Guts’ set by Raina Telgemeier and is currently enjoying ‘When Stars are Scattered’ by Victoria Jamieson (on my recommendation). She now feels so passionate about reading she takes books out to the playground, constantly requests more daily reading time and has shared her book recommendations in whole school assemblies (at her request!).’

For other professionals working in the education and literacy sectors who might be feeling uninspired, Ashley recommended reading up on new and relevant texts through Twitter, signing up for The Open University’s newsletter (which often details relevant free training and webinars), joining one of the Open University’s Teachers’ Reading Groups (TRG), joining the Teachers’ Summer Reading Challenge and reading and logging as many books as possible. Ultimately though, Ashley explained that engaging children in reading hinged on being a reading role model herself – translating her love of reading into the classroom:

‘By expanding your knowledge of children and young people’s literature you’ll gain the confidence to do this (…) It’s really helped my pupils knowing how much I love reading. We’re a small school, with about 70 pupils, and I’ve taught the vast majority of the pupils at this point (…) There are two Mrs G’s at my school and they refer to me as Mrs G. the book teacher! They know I live and breathe reading and many of them are beginning to do so too.’

When asked about future plans, Ashley explained she would be taking part in the Teachers’ Reading Challenge in 2023 and was already exploring ideas for examples of pedagogical practice to submit to The Open University so as to gain her Gold badge.

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

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

The Reading Agency Presents: our virtual events for schools

The Reading Agency Presents is our flagship virtual events programme, born out of the need to keep people connected and engaged with reading during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since our first event in May 2021, we have welcomed over 19,000 viewers with hundreds more watching our recordings on YouTube page. Our virtual events have remained an invaluable opportunity for people to discover brilliant books and meet authors. It has also enabled us to bring writers and illustrators to audiences across the country (and the world!) using a single link, continuing out mission to amplify voices and grow new audiences. Best of all – they are all completely free!

This year we are focusing on running interactive and engaging virtual events for Key Stage 2 classes. Our brilliant events this year have included an invention and creation session with Shane Hegarty, a storymakers session with Liz Flanagan and an interactive writing workshop with Swapna Haddow.

Find out about our upcoming events page.

The British Academy Announce the 2023 Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding

The shortlist for The British Academy’s Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding has been announced.

Now in its 11th year, the international book prize, worth £25,000, rewards and celebrates ground-breaking research-based works of non-fiction that have made an outstanding contribution to the public understanding of world cultures and the ways in which they interconnect.

This year’s esteemed jury of academics and journalists has chosen a shortlist of six exceptional books from almost 200 submissions, introducing readers to a wide range of globally significant topics such as:

  • the invention of books and libraries in the ancient world
  • the early use of photography to document colonial conflict
  • the role of ritual in human civilisation
  • China’s Cultural Revolution
  • a retelling of the story of global emancipation
  • the origins of empire in India.

The Shortlist

Chair of this year’s jury Professor Charles Tripp, Fellow of the British Academy comments:

This eleventh year of the British Academy Book Prize has attracted record numbers of entries from across the humanities and social sciences. We were greatly impressed by the exceptional quality of writing in this year’s shortlist and the ability of the authors to unearth extraordinary new discoveries and to find new perspectives on old perceptions. With my fellow jury members, we hope that readers will be inspired to explore the shortlist and thereby to discover something new about the world.

Get involved

The 2023 shortlisted writers will be brought together for a special event on Monday 30 October at the British Academy, in partnership with London Review Bookshop, and chaired by the award-winning journalist Rosie Goldsmith. The event is free but booking is required. Get your tickets here

The winner of the £25,000 prize will be announced at an award ceremony on Tuesday 31 October. Each of the shortlisted writers will receive £1,000 and will be livestreamed.

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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