We hit the ground running in January with two wins at the Costa Book Awards. Keggie Carew took home the Costa Biography Award for Dadland: A Journey Into Uncharted Territory and Alice Oswald won the Costa Poetry Award for Falling Awake, which also went on to win the 2017 Griffin Prize.
Later that month, Vintage announced the launch of the Vintage Minis, a new range of short books that celebrate their extensive backlist. The twenty launch titles in the Vintage Minisseries bring essential reading from the world’s greatest writers on the experiences that make us human. Taking selections from fiction, non-fiction and essays, these stylish, entertaining little books explore the whole spectrum of life - from birth to death, and everything in between.
In February, iconic children's illustrator and author Raymond Briggs - famed for The Snowman, Fungus the Bogeyman and Ethel and Ernest - was awarded the prestigious BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award.
Discussing the impact of Raymond Briggs’ work, judge Shami Chakrabarti said: "Raymond is a true artistic genius who has touched the hearts of millions of children of all ages. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and his particular style of illustration is unmistakable as are his understated and poignant words of narrative and dialogue. His talent expresses his values and with his choice and treatment of subjects he brings our history and contemporary challenges to life."
February was also a huge month for acquisitions. Hamish Hamilton acquired the dazzlingly ambitious new project from the Man Booker-winning author of A Brief History of Seven Killings, which comprises a trio of literary fantasy novels informed by the vast reservoir of African myth and heritage. In three interlinking novels – Black Leopard, Red Wolf; Moon Witch, Night Devil; and The Boy and the Dark Star – Marlon James charts an exhilarating course through intrigue and betrayal, exploring the nature of power, identity and truth itself.
The now-published Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks and Phillip Pullman's La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One were both announced in February, to great excitement. A Times Book of the Year and a wonderful collection of short stories, Uncommon Type showed that Tom Hanks is as talented a writer as he is an actor. La Belle Sauvage has been named Waterstones Book of the Year, and there will be an exclusive edition of the novel, complete with gold foil and embossed finishes, a gold ribbon marker and endpapers of the London and Oxford skylines.
The notable acquisitions continued into March, when we were delighted to announce that Penguin Random House worldwide will be publishing former President Barack Obama's and former First Lady Michelle Obama's forthcoming books. In the UK they will be published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin General.
Century also announced the acquisition of Minecraft’s first move into fiction, with the first standalone novel Minecraft: The Island, penned by Max Brooks, the No.1 New York Times bestselling author of World War Z. As a creative take on the gender-neutral protagonist, Penguin Random House UK Audio published two complete versions of the novel when it was released this summer: one voiced by Jack Black (Shallow Hal, School of Rock) and the other voiced by Samira Wiley (Orange is the New Black, The Handmaid’s Tale).
Michael Joseph also announced their 20th cookbook with Jamie Oliver. That cookbook was 5 Ingredients: Quick & Easy Food which, since it was published this Autumn, has stormed the book charts and gone on to be one of the biggest selling books of the year, with over 650,000 copies sold to date.
It's all about making the journey to good food, super-simple. Every recipe uses just five key ingredients, ensuring you can get a plate of food together fast, whether it's finished and on the table super-quickly, or after minimal hands-on prep, you've let the oven do the hard work for you. We're talking quality over quantity, a little diligence on the cooking front, and in return massive flavour...
March saw Penguin Random House invite the first 12 exceptional writers onto our inaugural year-long mentoring programme, WriteNow, which aims to find, mentor and publish new writers from communities currently under-represented on the UK’s bookshelves. Since then, two of these mentees have been offered a publishing contract: Charlene Alcott and Geraldine Quigley will be published by Transworld and Fig Tree respectively.
We also celebrated World Book Day’s 20th anniversary with over 800 students in 8 schools local to each of our sites. The selected schools were all long-term partners of Penguin Random House UK through our volunteer reading programme, which sees 63 staff across 9 partner schools reading every week with children struggling with their confidence and ability in reading.
And finally, Penguin Random House Presents 2017, our annual celebration of our books, authors and teams, took place this year at London’s iconic Barbican Centre. For two days in March, over a thousand Penguin Random House staff heard from each of our nine publishing houses. From a Q&A session with British astronaut and author of Hello, Is this Planet Earth? Tim Peake, to hearing Arundhati Roy reading from her new novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness – each publishing house’s presentation showcased the energy and purpose behind hundreds of Penguin Random House titles to be released throughout 2017.
Summing up the event, Penguin Random House UK’s CEO, Tom Weldon said: “Our purpose has been lit up in bright lights: to connect the world with the stories, ideas and writing that matter.”
Can you remember the first book, image or song that sparked your imagination? Jo Thomson, Head of Design at Doubleday shares her life in inspiration.
The people who bring some of the biggest books of the year to life talk about what it’s like to work behind the scenes on getting them published and into the hands of readers.