Less than a month after its shortlist was revealed, the 2014 Orwell Prize for political writing has gone to Labour MP Alan Johnson for his memoir This Boy. The former home secretary’s account of his early childhood took the £3,000 prize, only days after winning the £10,000 Ondaatje Prize. In a head-to-head battle of ideologies, Johnson’s book beat Charles Moore’s Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography, as well as Gaiutra Bahadur’s Coolie Woman, Frank Dikötter’s The Tragedy of Liberation, James Fergusson’s The World’s Most Dangerous Place and David Goodhart’s The British Dream.
In news whose tolerability likely correlates directly to your own patience for its chief proponent, American restaurant chain Chipotle has begun printing specially commissioned short pieces of prose on its bags and cups at the suggestion of Jonathan Safran Foer, the divisive author of Everything is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Eating Animals. The texts are designed to be read in two minutes or so, and come from a range of big-name contributors, including Toni Morrison, George Saunders, Sarah Silverman, Malcolm Gladwell and Judd Apatow.
Continuing a big week for industry prizes, this year’s Kim Scott Walwyn Prize has been awarded to Anne Perry, editor with Hodder & Stoughton. The award is presented annually to women who have worked in publishing in the UK for up to seven years, celebrating both their achievements to date and their promise for the future. Perry joined Hodder & Stoughton as an assistant editor in 2012, and was promoted to editor less than a year later. She is also co-founder of The Kitschies – awards for fantasy and speculative fiction in the UK – with her husband, Jared Shurin. Perry wins £1,000 and a two-day course at the Publishing Training Centre.
Perry’s initial duties at Hodder & Stoughton focused on science fiction and fantasy, fostering links online with fans of the genres, commissioning new works of genre fiction and working on backlist and digital titles. Oliver Johnson, associate publisher with the company, describes her as ‘one of the most talented and innovative young editors in the business’.
Co-chairs of the prize advisory committee and judging panel Denise Johnstone-Burt and Catherine Clarke say Perry was ‘the stand-out candidate from a superb shortlist. The judges marvelled at the speed, imagination and determination with which she has championed genre fiction in this country. Anne not only publishes excellent science fiction and fantasy, she also writes it brilliantly. She actively seeks out new readers and has set up the Kitschies Awards, already widely recognised for the quality that it rewards in her chosen field. She is the acme of today’s multi-talented and multi-tasking publisher – a fearless pathfinder who has set a standard to which we should all aspire.’
Also nominated were Waterstones’ Melissa Cox, Penguin Random House’s Lynsey Dalladay, The Poetry Translation Centre’s Sarah Hasketh and Janklow & Nesbit’s Hellie Ogden. Perry is the second American émigré to win the prize in a row, with last year’s award going to Miriam Robinson for her work as Foyles head of marketing, on a shortlist that also featured BookMachine’s own Laura Austin.
The Bookseller Industry Awards took place last night in London, with a crowded field of winners led by Blackwell’s, named Book Retailer of the Year, and Little, Brown, who took home the evening’s biggest prize, Publisher of the Year. The latter was Little, Brown’s second win in the category since 2010, bestowed for a banner year that saw it publish hugely successful titles including Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and J.K. Rowling’s pseudonymous Robert Galbraith novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling. Blackwell’s, meanwhile, was cited for its work integrating digital and physical book sales from its development hub in Shoreditch, amongst other innovations.
Penguin Random House today launched My Independent Bookshop, a combination social network and e-commerce platform that hopes to benefit independent booksellers whilst providing a virtual counterpart to browsing their shelves. The site allows users to create their own ‘bookshops’, selecting 12 titles they would recommend to others and giving them space to tell other users why, hoping to capture the feeling of a personal recommendation that might be found in brick and mortar bookshops, outside of the standard Amazon algorithms. Those 12 titles can be rotated as often as desired, and the bookshop containing them can also be personalised to users’ own tastes.
Paperback romance maven Mills & Boon isn’t a literary brand you would normally associate with formal or technological innovation – unless your sole exposure to the books is listening to your gran unconsciously recite passages she’s read from them as she drifts in and out of sleep in her armchair, in which case they might come across as automatic writing sprung straight from Barbara Cartland’s id – but it seems to be looking to change that with the launch of a new multi-platform venture. The Chatsfield centres around a fictional London hotel, telling multiple stories through a central website and across social media, e-mail, YouTube, blogs and even text messages.
DAN RANGER. Breathe that name in: DAN. RANGER. Magnificent. Like a piece of Alan Partridge-penned Chris Ryan fanfic made wonderfully real. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
On the occasion of her 88th birthday, HarperCollins has announced that it will finally release an authorised digital edition of Harper (no relation) Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird on 8 July, 54 years after the book’s initial publication. A long-time holdout against the transition to digital, Lee acknowledged the changing times in a statement through her publisher (newsworthy in and of itself, so infrequently does she make public utterances), saying: ‘I’m still old-fashioned. I love dusty old books and libraries. I am amazed and humbled that ‘Mockingbird’ has survived this long. This is ‘Mockingbird’ for a new generation.’
The shortlists for this year’s Orwell Prize, awarded annually to political books and journalism, have been revealed. Nominated books are: Gaiutra Bahadur’s Coolie Woman (Hurst); Frank Dikötter’s The Tragedy of Liberation (Bloomsbury); James Fergusson’s The World’s Most Dangerous Place (Bantam, Random House); David Goodhart’s The British Dream (Atlantic); Alan Johnson’s This Boy (Bantam, Random House); and Charles Moore’s Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography (Penguin Allen Lane). Nominated journalists are Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, James Astill, Aditya Chakrabortty, Jonathan Freedland, AA Gill, Gideon Rachman and Mary Riddell.
Last month the first pictures emerged of Jason Segel in costume as the late, celebrated American author David Foster Wallace in the upcoming film End of the Road, based on David Lipsky’s 2010 book Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace, itself based around a five day road trip Lipsky took with Wallace in 1996 while interviewing him for Rolling Stone. To Wallace’s fans, at least, the photos did not bode well, and it seems Wallace’s family shares that sense of trepidation: they, along with the David Foster Wallace Literary Trust and Wallace’s publishers Little, Brown, have issued a statement outlining their objections to the film.