Creating a book in 10 days: ‘This Is Not A Drill’ with Extinction Rebellion and Penguin Press

Extinction Rebellion are inspiring a whole generation to take action on climate breakdown. Find out how Penguin Press created the Extinction Rebellion handbook in just 10 days.

This Is Not A Drill book jacket

'It's time. This is our last chance to do anything about the global climate and ecological emergency.'

Extinction Rebellion’s book This Is Not A Drill is an anthology of thirty original essays from more than thirty contributors, including former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, environmental lawyer Farhana Yamin, psychotherapist Susie Orbach, MP Caroline Lucas, and activists who have been at the centre of the Extinction Rebellion movement so far.

The book is filled with information for emerging rebels who seek the truth about the current climate and ecological emergency, while giving guidance on how they can take action to combat it. The book’s first half, Tell the Truth, arms readers with the facts on climate breakdown, and shares eyewitness accounts of the ecological crises unfolding around the world. The second half, Act Now, shares practical instructions on how to rebel – from organising a roadblock, to facing arrest, to cooking for 1,000 protesters.

So how did a team at Penguin Random House pull together a handbook to inspire a movement of emerging rebels in just 10 days?

Illustration from This Is Not A Drill
Woodcuts by 'This Ain't Rock'n'Roll'
Illustrations from This Is Not A Drill


Thomas Penn, the Editor of This Is Not A Drill at Penguin Pressshared the urgency behind publishing this book: 'I initially contacted Extinction Rebellion after their Declaration of Rebellion on 31 October 2018, and we were planning on September 2019 publication. But their April protests in central London changed everything, bringing about a sea change in public awareness of the climate and ecological crisis. We realised we had to respond fast: this is an emergency, and we had to react accordingly. So we set ourselves the challenge of producing the book in ten days.'

Mobilising his team, Thomas pushed forward with the deadline. 'It was a blur… Producing this book was a sheer exercise in passion and commitment on the part of all colleagues involved: Ellen Davies and Richard Duguid in editorial, Jim Stoddart in art, and Ilaria Rovera and Michael Perera in production were heroic. Jon Parker and Tom Ward in sales, and lastly Matt Hutchinson and Micca Wright in publicity and marketing who took up the baton brilliantly. And it was of course an incredible effort on Extinction Rebellion’s part.' Working against the urgency of the subject matter, the team have shown that publishing can be part of today's fast-moving media, but with an object that sits on your shelves, rather than your timeline.

Image from book 'In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act' - George Orwell

With so many different people working on this handbook, Tom says it was a particular challenge to nail the finer details that make the book what it is. 'Books are often published quickly for many different reasons. But there were many moving parts and many different challenges here, from bringing together brilliant contributions by 34 different writers, to producing a beautifully through-designed book (in collaboration with XR’s incredible designers 'This Ain't Rock'n'Roll', who worked round the clock), to sourcing recycled paper in short order.'

Illustrations from 'This Is Not A Drill'
Woodcuts by 'This Ain't Rock'n'Roll'
Illustrations from 'This Is Not A Drill'

'Now or never, we need to be radical. We need to rise up. And we need to rebel. This book contains everything you need to know about how to do it.'

Sam Knights from Extinction Rebellion spoke about the importance of spreading information and knowledge to empower the next rebels: 'We wrote this book in order to help people. We want people to pick up this book, read about what is happening, and join the rebellion. We want to share what we have learnt over the last year and start a conversation that should have started decades ago. 

'We have to now start talking about our vision for the future. That vision is focused on democracy, equality, and justice. This book outlines that vision, articulated differently by a diverse group of contributors. These authors include indigenous activists in Chad, farmers in the Himalayas, and a former Archbishop of Canterbury. It has been an honour to edit this book. I hope it will be read for years and years to come.'

Follow the movement on social media: #ThisIsNotADrill

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