Penguin Random House Offer Autumn 2018

If you organise a prison reading group, have a look at this booklet (PDF).  It contains summaries and covers of 21 books published by Penguin Random House.

All of our groups are invited to choose two books from any Penguin Random House imprint as one of their monthly choices.  Simply email the titles to by Friday 9th November 2018.

Here’s a list of all the Penguin Random House imprints you can choose from:

Penguin Random House UK imprints 2016

Booklet September 2018

Penguin Random House offer for Spring 2018

If you organise a prison reading group, have a look at this booklet (PDF).  It contains summaries and covers of 22 books published by Penguin Random House.

All of our groups are invited to choose two books from any Penguin Random House imprint as one of their monthly choices.  Simply email the titles to by Friday 23rd March.

Here’s a list of all the Penguin Random House imprints you can choose from:

Penguin Random House UK imprints 2016

With thanks to Penguin Random House for their continued support.

PLA Chair vacancy

The Prisoner Learning Alliance is a dynamic partnership of organisations, including Prison Reading Groups, committed to the belief that all prisoners can engage  in high-quality and diverse learning opportunities to help them transform their lives.

The PLA is looking for a new Chair for its mission to  provide expertise and strategic vision to inform prison education, priorities and practices.

For further details see

Unsilencing the Library wins top University of Oxford award


The PRG-supported Unsilencing the Library project has received a University of Oxford Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Public Engagement with Research.


The project team, led by Dr Sophie Ratcliffe of Oxford’s Faculty of English Language and Literature, created a collaborative library exhibition at Compton Verney Art Gallery and Museum in Warwickshire.  Members of Prison Reading Groups contributed almost 100 book suggestions. Sixteen of the books and accompanying comments were added to the shelves of a special room in Compton Verney to give visitors insight into why reading matters to people in prison.  PRG choices share space with those of actor Emma Watson, authors Margo Jefferson and Alys Fowler, the bibliotherapy foundation Relit, and pupils from a local high school. They can all be explored at


The project was honoured in the Collaboration and Communication Project Award category, and the awards were announced by Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History on 28th June. PRG was delighted to welcome Sophie to our annual Reading in Prison event earlier this month.  A full report on the day can be read at

Reflections on Reading in Prison 2017

Earlier this month over 120 people came together at the University of Roehampton to celebrate reading in prison. The delegates included prison librarians and PRG volunteers, reading organisations, authors and publishers, and most important ex-prisoners with first-hand experience of what books can do behind bars.

The first panel of the day explored putting libraries at the heart of prison life and offered a snapshot view of some of the brilliant initiatives around: literary festivals; author visits; book groups for avid readers or those just getting stuck into reading: creative writing groups; debating societies; song-writing workshops, and clubs of all kinds from chess to scrabble.

Library access was a big issue and there were some good ideas about how to get prison managers and officers onside. Above all, speakers encouraged library staff to be ‘bloody, bold and resolute’ in promoting libraries as places where prisoners can discover the world – and themselves.

As every prisoner knows, family contact is crucial for prisoner wellbeing and that of children. The Reading and Families panel introduced a range of initiatives including FLiP, Family Literacy in Prison, a project which helps prisoners develop skills to make reading with their kids more fun for everyone.

One of the highlights of the day was the discussion of reading groups in action. PRG librarians and volunteers talked about what the groups provide: pleasurable conversation and debate; the chance to expand reading horizons, and the sense of connectedness with the wider world. In the words of one member:

‘When I read a book it gives me the chance to escape into another world. I love the reading group because it’s great to share that world with other people and learn about the journey they’ve been on whilst reading. It’s a relaxed and enjoyable setting where all opinions and views are welcome.’

Or as another member put it even more succinctly:

‘It’s the most grownup discussion I have in prison’.

The day ended with tea and the wonderful PRG cake, followed by a poetry workshop. Lots of people in and out of prison are wary of poetry: ‘I didn’t get it at school and I don’t get it now’. So we took the plunge to explore two poems and bring them to life together. One was from Seamus Heaney’s collection called Clearances, a sequence about his mother. No-one was quite sure about it at first but as we read and talked different views emerged: ‘It’s the memory of a rare moment of closeness with his mother’; ‘but potatoes like solder weeping off the iron – what’s that about?’; ‘is it a happy memory? why ‘cold comforts’?’ In the end we agreed that what the poem stirred more than anything were our own memories of childhood moments which the workshop let us share or keep private. See what you think:

from clearances

Save the Date!

PRG is holding its annual Reading in Prison Day at the University of Roehampton, London SW15 on Friday, June 9th. There will be three major themes this year: ‘Putting the library at the heart of the prison’; ‘Reading and families’, and ‘Why read?’

We expect over 100 delegates: prison governors, librarians and volunteers, authors, ex-prisoners and representatives of education and literacy organisations. The event is free to all and includes lunch and refreshments, not least the famous PRG cake.

For further details, get in touch via email or Twitter.

Penguin Random House offer for Spring 2017

Do you organise a prison reading group?  If so, we’d like to invite you to have a look at this booklet (PDF), which contains summaries of 24 books published by the Penguin Random House family.

All of our groups are invited to choose one or two books from any Penguin Random House imprint as one of their monthly choices.  Simply email the title to the usual PRG address (find it on the Contact page on this website) by Wednesday 12th April, and the books will be sent to you early this summer.

PRG suggestions booklet

This offer includes any book published by the extended Penguin Random House family, including all books by Arrow, Jonathan Cape, Penguin Classics, Transworld, Vintage, Windmill and a whole realm of others.  The books in the booklet are merely our suggestions.  You can view the full list of imprints here:

To work out if a book is published by the extended Penguin family, you can consult  book reviews or booksellers’ websites (such as Amazon and Waterstones).  These usually tell you the publisher, and you can find out if they’re part of Penguin Random House by following the link above.  However, if you have any doubts, please feel free to email us, and we’ll happily clear it up for you.

Thanks to Penguin Random House for their generosity!

HMP Thameside’s Autumn Literary Festival

Prison Reading Groups volunteer Maggie Gallagher reports on Thameside’s recent Literary Festival.
All photos appear courtesy of Neil Barclay.


Author Clare Mackintosh, librarian Neil Barclay and PRG volunteer Maggie Gallagher

Not one for sitting around letting the grass grow under his feet, Neil Barclay, librarian at HMP Thameside, had no sooner finished organizing his library’s contribution to Black History Month in October than he was hyperactively off again with a new programme of author visits to round off the last three months of the year.

Many authors queued up to visit Thameside and share their thoughts, reveal their secrets and enlighten their audiences of prisoners, staff and volunteers. Among them were: Clare Mackintosh, ex-copper and author of I See You, her follow-up to blockbuster I Let You Go (a film version of which is currently under discussion in Hollywood); the fantastically popular crime writer Peter James (Love You Dead, 18 million copies sold); psychological thriller writer C L Taylor talking about her latest dark and twist-laden novel The Missing; and internet self-published sensation Mark Edwards with his chart-topping Follow You Home chiller. Another big name was Ann Cleeves, whose novel Cold Earth was discussed with the group. Cleeve has written over 30 books, many of which have been made into television programmes, notably the Vera series for ITV and Shetland for BBC.

Not all books were crime or thriller though. Two authors coincidentally featured Japan as a location for at least half of their books. The first was Jackie Copleton, who told a gripping tale partly set in the aftermath of the atom-bombing of Nagasaki and the second, Sarah Moss, writer of Signs for Lost Children, had the protagonist’s husband visit Japan as it opened up to western influences in the late nineteenth century, fall in love with the country, and almost not return. Her discussion of the experience of the western male visitor to Japan in those times was simply fascinating.

Each session generated enthusiastic audiences, floods of questions, engaging responses and lengthy queues at the end to get copies of books signed. Clearly author visits at the prison get top billing with the prisoners, and Neil intends to continue them over the coming year, making the library as ever the bustling, lively, beating heart of HMP Thameside.


Wellcome Book Prize nominee Sarah Moss