01 January 2018
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As the year draws to a close we’re taking some time to look back over Penguin Random House UK’s 2017. Next up is April to June; three months spent celebrating outstanding titles, cover designs and our history.

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April: From paid work experience to the Pulitzer

On 18th of April, Penguin Random House UK announced that we would start paying our work experience participants the national living wage in order to make the publishing industry more accessible. As the first publishing house in the UK to offer fully paid work experience placements, all participants now receive a salary of £262.50 per week. We’ll be re-opening applications for work experience in January 2018 for placements in spring, so make sure to follow our Twitter and Facebook pages for announcements nearer to the time.

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Penguin Random House UK authors Hisham Matar and Matthew Desmond were both awarded Pulitzer Prizes in April, which are seen as the most prestigious journalism and arts awards in the United States. The awards were announced at a ceremony at Columbia University in New York, and see each winner receive $15,000.

The Return, Hisham Matar

Published by Penguin General, The Return won the Biography or Autobiography Prize. The book sees novelist Hisham Matar return to Libya following the fall of the Gaddafi regime, 22 years after leaving due to the kidnapping and arrest of his father. The Return went on to win the Rathbones Folio prize the following month.

Evicted: Povery and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond

Penguin Press author Matthew Desmond was awarded the General Nonfiction Prize for Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, which sees Desmond explore the mass evictions which followed the 2008 economic crash. The book has already seen critical success, winning the 2017 PEN America Nonfiction Award in February.

May: Celebrating our history

At the start of May The Penguin Podcast won a silver prize for 'Best Review' at the 2017 British Podcast Awards, which celebrate all UK-based podcasts, from big brands to bedroom creators.

Produced alongside Somethin' Else, the podcast has had over 800,000 listens since launching in 2015, and welcomed new hosts Konnie Huq, David Baddiel and Paul Smith last year. An intimate fortnightly conversation with authors and the objects that inspired their books, recent Penguin Podcast guests including Zadie Smith, Harriet Harman and Tom Fletcher.

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Early sketches of the Penguin logo that was later adapted by Jan Tschichold in 1949 to more closely resemble the logo used today.

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Sir Allen Lane's commemorative plaque at Exeter St David's

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Early sketches of the Penguin logo that was later adapted by Jan Tschichold in 1949 to more closely resemble the logo used today.

A memorial plaque commemorating Penguin Books founder Sir Allen Lane was unveiled at Exeter St David’s railway station in May, at the spot where he was inspired to create Penguin Books. In 1934, on his way to London after visiting his friend Agatha Christie, the young publisher stopped at the station bookstall at Exeter St Davids and saw that the books on sale were of poor quality and overpriced. What was needed, he realised, were good books at a price everyone could afford. Within a year he had founded Penguin Books, creating a paperback revolution that would sweep the world...

May also saw the opening of the be my cover exhibition at the FFLAG gallery in Turin, featuring a curated selection of the best amongst thousands of book covers designed, commissioned, and produced every year by Penguin Random House worldwide through its publishing houses. 

With a focus on our global design heritage, the exhibition featured several cover designs from Penguin Random House UK designers past and present, including Suzanne Dean, Jim Stoddart, Coralie Bickford-Smith and David Pearson. It was been arranged as an off-fair event in conjunction with the annual Salone del Libro of Turin, Italy’s oldest and most established book fair, by curators Roberto Maria Clemente with Fabrizio La Rocca. 

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It was also announced that President Bill Clinton and James Patterson are collaborating on a novel, to be released by Century in June 2018. Informed by details that only a President can know, The President is Missing will offer readers a unique amalgam of intrigue, suspense and behind-the-scenes global drama from the highest corridors of power. 

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President Bill Clinton (photo credit: Russell James) and James Patterson (photo credit: Sue Solie)

June: Picture books and prizes

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In June 2017, Penguin Random House UK and Ministry of Stories launched 17 new picture books, which were written by children aged between 8 and 12 and brought to life by volunteer illustrators. The children attended weekend workshops at the Ministry of Stories’ creative hub in Shoreditch to write stories ‘for their younger selves’. Each child was then matched with their own volunteer illustrator who, after sketching ideas together, brought their stories to life on the page. We have now published the young people’s stories as real picture books.

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oung writers at Shoreditch library. First row: Mahi age 8, Uresa age 10, Melinda age 9. Second row: Helin age 12, Danae age 9, Bodil age 8. Third row: Bartu age 10, Erencan age 10, Selin age 12.

June was a big month for awards. A Horse Walks Into a Bar, written by David Grossman, translated by Jessica Cohen and published by Jonathan Cape, was announced as the winner of the 2017 Man Booker International Prize at a ceremony at the V&A celebrating the finest global fiction in translation.

A Horse Walks into a Bar, David Grossman, Jessica Cohen (Translator)

The setting is a comedy club in a small Israeli town. An audience that has come expecting an evening of amusement instead sees a comedian falling apart on stage; an act of disintegration, a man crumbling, as a matter of choice, before their eyes. They could get up and leave, or boo and whistle and drive him from the stage, if they were not so drawn to glimpse his personal hell. Dovaleh G, a veteran stand-up comic – charming, erratic, repellent – exposes a wound he has been living with for years: a fateful and gruesome choice he had to make between the two people who were dearest to him.

In the same month, Naomi Alderman’s The Power, published by Viking, became the first science fiction novel to scoop the Baileys Prize for Women’s Fiction. The thriller, set in a dystopian future where women and girls can kill men with a single touch, was the favourite on the shortlist and clear winner of the £30,000 prize said the chair of judges, film and TV producer Tessa Ross: “This prize celebrates great writing and great ideas and The Power had that, but it also had urgency and resonance.”  The judges, she added, had been impressed by Alderman’s handling of the big issues that affect all humanity, from greed to power, and predicted the novel would be “a classic of the future.”

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On 21st June the three winning cover designs of the 2017 Student Design Award were announced. The award is an opportunity for students interested in pursuing a career in design to experience real cover design briefs first-hand, and each winner received a work placement within the Penguin Random House UK design studios as well as a £1,000 cash prize. We are now taking submissions for the Student Design Award 2018, and the closing date is Tuesday 6th March.

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