12 highlights from Penguin Random House in 2018

From creating a female author only bookshop, to working on one of the year's biggest family films and welcoming Michelle Obama to a school in London, we've had a busy year. Take a look at our highlights.

A customer at the Like A Woman bookshop, March 2018

20 years of Penguin Essentials

Penguin Essentials Banner

In collaboration with the Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, we created a showcase of 100 iconic covers from the Penguin Essentials collection for lovers of book cover design to enjoy.

The Penguin Essentials series was launched in 1998 as a collection of modern classics with thought-provoking, striking and unconventional cover design. The launch was led by Art Director, John Hamilton, who purposefully commissioned a diverse and eclectic selection of creatives from around the world – from graffiti artists to tattooists to illustrators to fashion designers – to rethink and reinvigorate the covers of modern classics.

Peter Rabbit takes to the silver screen

Peter Rabbit film poster, 2018

March 2018 saw the UK's most loved rabbit leap from page to the big screen. Directed by Will Gluck and created in a collaboration between Penguin Ventures and Sony Pictures Entertainment, Peter was voiced by James Corden, starring alongside Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson, Daisy Ridley and Elizabeth Debicki. Peter Rabbit has so far been one of 2018's biggest family films, grossing over £268M at the global box office. Following on from this success, it was announced in October that Peter, his sisters Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail and cousin Benjamin would 'embark on a new high energy adventure meeting some new characters along the way', with Peter Rabbit 2 scheduled to release on March 27 2020.

A still from Peter Rabbit 2


Penguin Random House UK and Sony Pictures Entertainment collaborate on Peter Rabbit™ 2

Penguin Random House Presents #PenguinVoices

Tom and Giovanna Fletcher

A host of authors and 1,200 Penguin Random House UK colleagues were in attendance to enjoy Penguin Random House Presents 2018 at the London Palladium in March, celebrating this year's theme of voices. 

Highlights included Michael Sheen and Philip Pullman in conversation, Jamie Oliver speaking on how his newest book Jamie Cooks Italy was strongly influenced by his Italian cooking heroes, and Caitlin Moran telling us How to be Famous. Jay Bernard gave a performance from their debut poetry collection Surge which left the crowd spellbound and Tom and Giovanna Fletcher spoke about collaborative writing –particularly with your partner. 



Michael Sheen, Philip Pullman and Caitlin Moran join a star-studded lineup at #PenguinVoices

Like A Woman, International Women's Day


The Like A Woman bookshop opened in March on London's Rivington Street to mark this year's International Women's Day and the 100 year anniversary since women were given the right to vote in the UK. The shop showcased some of the most powerful, diverse and creative writers from around the world with a selection of inspiring and iconic titles by female writers only.

Tom Watson, MP, visits Penguin’s ‘Like A Woman’ bookshop in Hackney


Tom Watson, MP, visits Penguin’s ‘Like A Woman’ bookshop in Hackney

Arrival – Celebrating Windrush day

In June, Penguin Live collaborated with the Mayor of London’s Office to host a series of events for Arrival: celebrating Windrush and the communities who followed, in London’s Living Room at City Hall.

70 years ago the first members of the Windrush generation arrived to make their home in Britain. We're continuing to celebrate their stories, and the incredible African-Carribean writing that has gone on to shape our culture. Arrival intended to act as a springboard for crucial conversations; including how we encourage discussion and preserve their stories for the future.

Penguin Live programmed sessions focusing on the voices of Windrush through storytelling, workshops and spoken word performances from authors such as Colin GrantBernardine Evaristo and Nikesh Shukla, illustrator and author Nadia Shireen, and poet Linton Kwesi Johnson.

Celebrating Windrush


Penguin Live to deliver a series of events celebrating Windrush, in partnership with the Mayor of London

A year of successes for Penguin Random House Audio

Award winning audio books

Audiobooks have continued to boom in 2018 and the Penguin Random House audio team expanded in the summer to keep up with the momentum. 

The team was also recognised with a host of awards, winning five prizes at the New York Festival Radio Awards and most recently, a National Book Award for Carlo Rovelli's The Order of Time read by Benedict Cumberbatch. The Penguin Podcast continues to take a fortnightly deep-dive into the creative process of some of our top authors, and is now a skill for Amazon Alexa devices

Random House Audio


Penguin Random House Audio wins five at the New York Festival Radio Awards

The launch of #Merky Books

In July, Stormzy announced #Merky Books, a brand new imprint in partnership with William Heinemann, dedicated to publishing the best new fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

Speaking about the announcement, Stormzy said: "We’ve created #Merky Books for many reasons, the first simply for it to be a reference point for talented young writers to say “I can be an author” and for that to be a feasible and realistic achievement and not something in the distance. We hope this imprint will instil belief and ambition in young writers, making publishing seem less prohibitive and making the dream of being a published author a reality.  We want #Merky Books to be a source of confidence and I look forward to publishing writers from all different walks of life, especially those who may have never had the opportunity to get into the industry so early."

#Merky Books launched in November with an event at the Barbican to celebrate the publication of Rise Up: The Merky Story So Far. Rapper, poet and journalist Akala presented, speaking to authors Malorie Blackman, Jude Yawson, poet Benjamin Zephania and Stormzy himself. Also in attendance were Chelsea Kwakye and Ore Ogunbiyi, the two Cambridge graduates who have written Taking Up Space, the first acquisition under #Merky Books. 

Puffin World of Stories and Creative Responsibility

Puffin World of Stories

It was a big year for our Creative Responsibility programme, as we launched a new programme to inspire 13,000 primary school pupils to read for pleasure. Puffin World of Stories, in partnership with the National Literacy Trust,  will equip 50 primary schools with the books, materials, training and resources they need to champion reading for pleasure across the whole school and reinvigorate their school libraries or reading spaces to become vibrant hubs for creativity for pupils.

Puffin World of Stories ambassador Jacqueline Wilson said “Reading for pleasure is the most important gift you can give children. In our schools we teach children to read, but we also need to bring to life the joy of books.”

Penguin Random House announces two-year partnership with National Literacy Trust to tackle urgent social mobility issues


Penguin Random House announces two-year partnership with National Literacy Trust to tackle urgent social mobility issues

30 years of Matilda

In October, Quentin Blake imagined Roald Dahl’s Matilda at 30 as an Astrophysicist, World Traveller and Chief Executive of the British Library in special edition copies of the favourite story. Quentin was asked to illustrate what career Matilda would have at 30, and - since she had so many skills - he came up with multiple ideas (his others included: Women's World all-in Wrestling Champion, daring Hairdresser, Poet Laureate and Special Effects Expert in films). 

Penguin Talks launch with Michelle Obama and Yuval Noah Harari

Michelle Obama at Penguin Talks
Michelle Obama at Penguin Talks


Penguin Talks is a new programme of free creative talks hosted by Penguin for young people across the UK, which give the audience the opportunity to both hear from and directly question a world-renowned thinker, writer or influential figure from our family of authors.

Our aim is to help equip young people for the future by introducing a new generation of readers to new ideas and perspectives, and broadening their understanding of issues which speakers feel to be particularly prevalent for this generation.

The first speakers for Penguin Talks were Professor Yuval Noah Harari in conversation with Russell Brand on the future of work in September; and Michelle Obama joined by three young alumni at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson school, for a conversation on the importance of education in December. You can watch both talks on the Penguin YouTube channel

Michelle Obama at a Penguin Talk


Michelle Obama speaks at London school about the power of education and self-belief

Announcing the sequel to The Handmaid's Tale

In November, Margaret Atwood announced The Testaments, a sequel to her hugely impactful novel The Handmaid's Tale

Talking about the book, Margaret Atwood said, ‘Dear Readers: Everything you've ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we've been living in.’

The Testaments will be published worldwide on 10 September 2019.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood book cover


Margaret Atwood's sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale: The Testaments

Celebrating 40 years of The Snowman

The Snowman at Fenwicks Newcastle
The Snowman and Royal Mint

This year marks the 40th anniversary of The Snowman. To celebrate, Penguin Ventures partnered with Barbour, Fenwick's, The Royal Mint, Backyard Cinema and more to celebrate the much-loved book by Raymond Briggs.

Barbour created a bespoke The Snowman Christmas collection range, complete with an exclusive promotion video around the Christmas feeling that 'maybe just maybe’, magic can happen.' In Newcastle, the highly-anticipated 2018 Fenwick Newcastle Christmas window display was revealed to be centered around The Snowman, and in a nod to the beautiful hand-drawn illustrations of the original book, the silver proof Royal Mint edition of The Snowman coin was the first UK coin to feature a design realised entirely in colour. Celebrations continued in Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland as Backyard Cinema opened The Snowman Experienceand an art installation incorporating people's memories in My Snowman was exhibited at Brighton Museum. 

Thomas Merrington of Penguin Ventures and Dominic Davies of Backyard Cinema at The Snowman Experience


How we made it: The Snowman Experience at Winter Wonderland

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