Penguin.co.uk: readers letters

Every week we publish articles and interviews to connect you with our authors and help you discover your next great read. How are we doing? Let us know at editor@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk to appear below.




Caitlin Moran
Stuart Simpson / Penguin Books

Reflecting on the Pandemic Year

I have read the entire article - The Pandemic Year - on your website. Thank you!

I think it’s interesting to read the (largely) unvarnished reactions, and of course literature from the oldest times contains many attempts to do just that.  I also think it’s a conversation that needs to continue,  and to continue being captured. Possibly published in print format? One or more of those little “pocket” books you do so well – when we are starting to see more hope than fear.

Kindest regards


When I saw this I must admit that I thought 'oh, here we go again.' another version.  But started to read it and couldn't stop. I think the thing that holds you is it is different pockets

of the situation told by different people with different aspects. Some of them were very moving and a bit tearful. Well done, Excellent. I'm keeping a folder of newspaper and web information especially for my great grandchildren who will be asking 'what was Corona like?' I hope it helps their history school work. Keep safe.


Praise for Pickle

Jane Fallon's Reasons for Hope essay "We animals are adaptable. We bounce back" was beautifully written, a gentle story reminding me of how forgiving and trusting animals are, making me smile as Pickle finds her confidence and security and starts to demonstrate her beautiful character. It reminded me to not take the small simple  things for granted.


This is such an inspiring article by an author whose own life is comfortable but is generous and compassionate in her involvement with others a true blessing and so well expressed.  Thanks for publishing this.


Hi, this is a beautiful article, very uplifting and heart warming. I really enjoyed it, thank you. 

Kind regards, 


Uplifting prose

Dear Editor,

I am so happy to find the link to this essay ("It's Time to Grab the Slippery Eel of Hope" by Dara McnAnulty) in my mailbox.

It really gave me hope to find happiness and joy from the tiniest of things in life.

This essay is like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day! 

Thanks and regards,


Dear Editor,

As a wildlife artist, with conservation and love of wildlife at the core of what I create, I loved this article. Such a young author and yet so beautifully written with such a depth of insight into what is truly meaningful and where hope lies. I had goosebumps whilst reading it and am incredibly moved and inspired by this young author. My hope is that our children will go on to fight climate change, change mindsets and start to undo the damage that has been done in the last 100 years. Thank-you for publishing it!

Warm Regards,


The future of farming

Dear Ed,

I very much enjoyed James Rebank's article "Let's change how we think about food".

James Rebanks and I, though at opposite ends of the country, have had a very similar journey. 

I too left a farming childhood to attend University a little late, to study Electronic Engineering, traveling the world with my career. However my passion turned out to be livestock farming by Dartmoor. 

In complete agreement with James, my awareness of the lack of sustainability in our modern farming systems has ever been present my entire life..

Cheap energy, and cheap food have enabled all economic growth and wealth creation and comfort for the general population in this country since 1945.

But gosh, what have we lost!


Love the essay, loved his book: “ it is our moral responsibility and we do all have a field somewhere with our name on it “ Uplifting, concise and inspiring.


I think what James Rebanks said is very, very important for people to think about and thank you for making it available.


Brain appeal

Dear Editor,

I am writing to express my opinion about the article "What to do when your brain stops you from reading"

I believe it is an excellent article, very concise and to the point. The content is very clear in its notions without any jargon language.

Very useful tips offered , easy to follow. 

Last but not least, it is worthy noting that I found your idea to ask about our opinion directly very brilliant. 

Sincerely Yours,



Caitlin Moran
Stuart Simpson / Penguin Books

What an amazing article (An Oral History of Atonement). 'Atonement' is one of my all time films so I've been looking for the cover with the movie tie in for a while to finally read the book and reading your article I just understand that I need the original cover. I had no idea that photo was taken for this particular book, was so interesting to know all of this and changed my perspective quite a lot.

Best regards,


Some profile matches


Just wanted to say this is a genius idea and I loved the article!!! ('Swiping the page': the online dating profiles of book characters)

Warmest wishes,


Thanks for this hilarious and so accurate article \ud83d\ude02

You made my Friday morning!


LOVED THIS!  How about more!


A bright spot


I have gotten such enjoyment out of reading your Features articles and I wanted to express my appreciation. You have lead me to some great new books, and thanks to your Doorstopper Classics article, I am nearly finished reading War and Peace, which has been on my reading list for decades.

Your articles have been a bright spot in this year of lockdowns and staying at home. 

Thank you and I wish you all the best!


Punctuation Nightmares

Dear Editor,

My father once had a nightmare about punctuation; more specifically, about the misuse of possessive apostrophes. There have been times when we have been walking down the street and had to cross the road to avoid contact with misused punctuation; on one occasion, having to add 10 minutes onto our route to avoid a sign for 'SANDYS' DOG GROOMERS: LET US PAMPER YOU'RE POOCHE'S'. So, needless to say, punctuation occupies a large place in our hearts.

This is why I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading 'Semi-colons; or, learning to love literature's most misunderstood punctuation' by Stephen Carlick. Although, I now feel the pressure to accurately include the use of the aforementioned punctuation into this email, which I shall endeavour to do seamlessly. 

I found this article both informative and a giggle; I chuckled at least three times. I particularly enjoyed the extracts from the Bibliotheca Technologica, but the highlight for me was this, the cheekiest use of punctuation I have seen in a sentence:

“Do not use semicolons,” wrote Vonnegut; “All they do is show you’ve been to college.”

I'm sure this would have ruffled Vonnegut's literary feathers.

Anyway, thanks for all the brilliant content, and maybe buy Stephen a chocolate bar to say well done for a cracking piece.

Best wishes,



Caitlin Moran
Stuart Simpson / Penguin Books

No need to sparkle

What a splendid article, and so pertinent, as the world struggles to find the right balance in the midst of this awful pandemic

I really do hope and pray that we all, even in a small way, can learn from this excellent advice, which I shall now pass on to my Grandchildren.

Kind Regards


Treasure Tove

Thank you for the article on Tove Ditlevsen. I am reading the trilogy, received it yesterday. I am a 80 year old female and have been reading all my life. I am savoring every sentence.


Comfort in the Stoics

I loved this article about because I found the stoics during this year. A few years ago I went through a very traumatic period due to work- it passed but I carried it with me. Reading Marcus Aurelius and Seneca and Epictetus regularly has helped me to let go of the trauma, helped me get through the lockdown and my mothers death.

I try to read a little book called the daily stoic every day and a little extra most days.

It’s been a great comfort.



Dear Penguin,

I found the article on deal with suffering and grief by reading the Stoics extremely interesting and full of human experience and anxiety.  It certainly made me want to read the book.

Yours truly



A beautiful piece of writing by Octavia Bright. Ten years ago when my dad was declining rapidly, I remember feeling only pain and fear for what we were losing as a family. I suppressed all emotion; my children were seven and eleven years old, I thought I was protecting them.

I truly believe that living in the moment is a good way to live, it has saved me many times from the high anxiety of worrying about things that I have no control over.

It has taken me years to discover that peace lies in acceptance and thank you Octavia, for reminding me of the words of Marcus Aurelius that recognising your own fortitude is a comforting practice.



Dear Penguin team,

responding to your lovely post on hidden book gems in films, I have another one for your collection (as I'm sure many others do as well): Magneto in XMen 2 is reading The Once and Future King in his prison cell.

Hope that will expand your list.

All the best from Berlin,


From December...

Caitlin Moran
Stuart Simpson / Penguin Books



I loved your book recommendations in the article 'What You Should Read Based on Your Favourite Quality Street', but have to take exception with you on the poor maligned orange creams: my husband and I fight over them as we both love them! \ud83d\ude00

I don’t know what that says about our book choices - we love crime and thrillers and I also love psychological thrillers and classics. Maybe we don’t fit into a category! \ud83d\ude02

Happy Christmas


I was reading your article on which book to read based on which is your favourite Quality Street. Well I would just like to say that orange cremes are my favourite, always have been and always will be, so if anyone doesnt want them, send them all to me! And they can be enjoyed reading any book, especially horror, which is my favourite genre. :)


A year of reading

To whom it may concern,

In response to your tweet asking: What has reading meant to you this year?

Reading for me this year has provided me with escapism, information, friendship and love, just to name a few of the many emotions we all went through this year.

The social climate defiantly dictated my reads; from racial, political, social to rereading the classics and discovering new writers.

Without reading my mental health would not have survived.

Many thanks for your time.

King regards,


From November...

Caitlin Moran
Stuart Simpson / Penguin Books

Messages in a bottle

I absolutely loved the article about Caitlin Moran’s favourite books. The idea of writers like Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf being born in the wrong century, and their books being like messages in a bottle, was so poignant – classics are often dismissed as unrelatable or boring, but this really makes you think about the authors as real living people, rather than unreachable historical figures out of a textbook. I love her mind and the fascinating parallels she draws between 1984 and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (has anyone EVER compared these two before!?)

Hattie xxx

No chance of a Book Monk

I volunteer at an Oxfam bookshop in Hove and since lockdown we've set up a WhatsApp group so we can all stay in touch whilst we can't work. Obviously I shared your article with my colleagues. So far we have one Shelf Sharer, one Tsundoku Master and myself - a Lay Librarian. I expect more responses and absolutely no chance of a Book Monk whatsoever!

Thanks for some fun during these challenging times.


Penguin, you are too timid!

Penguin, my mate, you are too timid ['What the size of your book collection says about you']. You stopped too early. The Tsundoko Master has taken the first step towards the Monastery Library which starts at 5000 books and may be numbered I ( 5000 to 9999 ), II ( 10,000 to 24,999 ), III ( 25,000 + ). My private library in Paris is already at the III level.

Bon Courage!

Philip ( Philip Hone Auerbach )

Reading environment

Cardigans are to be encouraged

Regarding your article 'What your favourite reading environment says about you'. Walking readers are inspirational. I used to go to indie clubs in the 1980s, The Smiths would be blaring and people would wander around in the dark wearing cardigans pretending they were reading. I was a teenager and thought it was the best thing ever.

There’s also a great walking reader in Milkman by Anna Burns.

It should be encouraged.


A life-affirming book for all

No list of cheerful, hopeful books can be complete without Abbie Ross’s childhood memoir Hippy Dinners. Abbie describes her childhood following her cosmopolitan parents’ decision in 1972 to move the family from London to rural North Wales, swapping their Islington townhouse for a remote farmhouse on a hill. Full of fun, love, hippies, 70’s tv and grandparents who love Liberace, this is truly a life-affirming book for all.


Bianca Bagnarelli for Penguin

Change, but not fast enough

Your author Christie Watson is a brilliant spokesperson for nurses everywhere, and this article ['Nurses need a seat at the political table'] really chimes with me. As a fellow nurse, I believe our lack of political voice is a cause of low morale in our profession. We are not represented on many key platforms, and yet, we do a large proportion of the hard work in healthcare. We quietly build expertise ...but our opinion is not ever called for on a wider-scale. It’s a waste of talent and experience.

I do wonder if this lack of recognition correlates with the fact that we’re a majority female workforce, and that a significant proportion of nurses are from BAME backgrounds. Women and people of colour have always had to fight for a voice and recognition on public platforms. Things are beginning to change, but not fast enough.


A short thank you

Just a short note to say how much I appreciated the calm, positive and down to earth tenor of the ‘Lockdown measures: Penguin authors on looking after their mental health this winter’ article.

We’ve all been through the first Lockdown and are better prepared for the current one. It won’t be great but we have the mental tools to get through it and yes, I’ll be reading more! Good luck to everyone and Penguin keep up the good work.

Thank you


From October...

The magic of King

Thank you for your engaging article – In praise of the 'Reset Read'. My reset isn't a book, but an author – Stephen King. They don't all work magic, but when I find one that does I'm back on track again.


Glistening spiders' webs

Hello, Just wanted to say I loved 'Why all true booklovers know Autumn is the greatest season'!  I've been bemoaning the onset of colder weather and the evenings getting darker, but this article made me really excited. I'd forgotten the joy of reading a book in the warm when the weather's raging outside, and it's really made me want to revisit books like On Beauty and The Secret History, as well as reading something new like The Haunting of Hill House, which I've had on my list for ages and this might just be the perfect season to read it!



Autumn reading
Stuart Simpson / Penguin Books

The perfect season


It was such a joy to read the article 'Why all true booklovers know Autumn is the greatest season'!  Autumn is my favourite time - the ethereal misty mornings glistening with spiders’ webs and the soft Autumn evenings when the sun can suddenly turn the trees into spheres of burnished gold. It is the magical season that appeals to all the senses.

I love to read Gothic literature on an Autumn evening. Some favourites: Once Upon A River, Diane Setterfield; Bone China, Laura Purcell; The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry.  

Best wishes,


A summer reader writes

WELL I THINK AUTUMN AT THE MOMENT IS BLOODY COLD. Give me the silver sea and swimming for oblivion and that-warm-air summer forever! 


Ideal book length
Mica Murphy / Penguin

Hungry for stories

Thank you for the thought-provoking article: What's the perfect length for a book?

I have dyslexia. The term 'reluctant reader' was used to define my relationship with books in elementary school, but I was never 'reluctant'. Reading was simply a challenge. I have always been hungry for stories. Reading still exhausts me. I schedule a daily hour-long reading time each day. For me, the perfect book-length is 200 to 250 pages – with an average of 10 pages per chapter. I have read longer books but more than once I found, in these longer books, large chunks that could easily have been edited out. My reading time is too precious to read filler. 

Thank you for your time and attention,


Simultaneously writing and reading


I really enjoyed your article, 'The Unexpected Joy of Pairing Video Games with Novels'. I teach Creative Writing at Warwick, where I do a module on Video Game narratives (I will share your article with the class).

As a lifelong gamer and writer, I think very similarly about games and novels, and it was awesome to see this on a Penguin page.

I also think that ‘agency’ in games is experienced by a simultaneous writing and reading exercise (making decisions within the established code), making it quite a new experience for those who relate more often to fiction through books.

Thank you for writing so seriously about games and hope you’ve managed to recover from The Last of Us 2.

All the best,


Gaming and reading
Mica Murphy / Penguin

From September...

A few moments of reverie


A great article, as are all those which you send me. I can suggest another way to remind yourself of what you have read: include a note of where and when you purchased the book as well as when you read it. I find that this is an excellent memory jogger, and what is more, it allows you a few moments of reverie as it takes you straight back to a previous moment in time – perhaps a time when you were even another person.

Thank you and please keep up your excellent work.

Best wishes


Keep doing you

Dear Penguin,

I am loving your content at the moment. Adored the piece on heatwave fiction – it made me wonder how long you’d sat on it, waiting for that perfect moment for it to drop. God, it was a scorcher when I read it, and I tip my hat to your editorial decision.

Just thoroughly enjoyed ‘six signs you’re maddening, desperately in love with a book’ (or a very similar, probably profoundly better, title \ud83d\ude09). The last book that did that to me was Fire and Hemlock in early lockdown. And I still am seeking someone to talk to about it.

Anyway, keep doing you, Penguin. I’m loving your work.


Just the Ticket

Hi there, just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed your interview with Sophie Mackintosh. I really like the sound of Blue Ticket and the audio clip was so good that I've added it to my audible wishlist.

Best wishes


In a Rushdie

Dear Editor,

Thank you for the summer newsletters. My mailbox usually only contains grocery fliers and insurance offers. At 62, my reading goal this year was simply to get through one Salman Rushdie novel. As much as I revere this author I have never succeeded in finishing any of his highly regarded books. But Quichotte so far has captured my attention. 

Since I am already over the assigned age for your list I decided to see what I missed out on. I’ve read Martin Amis, but not his father. And Heller’s classic looks good. So, I may give Penguin my credit card information around Labor Day. After I read Salman’s novel. 

Kindly, Robert

Animal Farm

A very British scandal

Dear editors,

Well done! Orwell has accompanied me throughout my life, and Animal Farm is a timeless classic, as “all animals are equal but some are more equal than others” was beautifully demonstrated in the Dominic Cummings scandal.

Wasn‘t that noticed in the British press?



A delightful experience

Dear Editor,

I have a delightful little bookcase with ornate fretwork on which I keep books which form part of who I am. Nestled amongst these volumes is Richard AdamsThe Girl in a Swing published by Penguin in 1986. I’ve read it repeatedly; indeed, when deeply crushed by life’s events, I retreat to a quiet place and read it again. It has everything I want: beautiful writing (oh that first page!), a plot which never falters or loses pace, and a delightful experience I enjoy – a book which informs me, in this case, about antique English porcelain, and the Greek theatre. Also thrown into the mix is deep love and a ghost story.

Another favourite writer is Geraldine Brooks, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former war correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. People of the Book runs a very close second in my heart for similar reasons to Richard Adams’ offering. Both writers have other great books, but I single out these two for stardom.

Thanks for the article!



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