PEN Ackerley Prize

This award is given to a literary autobiography of excellence, for which it is felt that J.R. Ackerley would have expressed enthusiasm.

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This prize was first awarded in 1982. Following the death of Joe Randolph Ackerley (1896 – 1967), author and long-time literary editor of The Listener magazine, his sister Nancy endowed a literary prize in his memory. Ackerley’s posthumous royalties continue to provide capital for this award.

A longlist of eligible books is nominated by the judges, who are the Trustees of the fund set up for this purpose. The award is given to a literary autobiography of excellence, written by an author of British nationality and published during the preceding year, for which it is felt that J.R. Ackerley would have expressed enthusiasm.

The 2015 winner of the PEN Ackerley Prize was Henry Marsh for Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery (Weidenfeld & Nicolson).  He accepted the award at the English PEN Summer party on 29 June 2015. Other authors shortlisted for the prize were: Patrick McGuinness for Other People’s Countries: A Journey into Memory (Jonathan Cape); Jonathan Meades for Encyclopaedia of Myself (4th Estate); and Bart Moore-Gilbert for The Setting Sun: A Memoir of Empire and Family Secrets (Verso).

Previous Winners

Year Author Title Publisher
2014 Sonali Deraniyagala Wave Virago
2013 Richard Holloway Leaving Alexandria: A Memoir of Faith and Doubt Canongate Books
2012 Duncan Fallowell How to Disappear Ditto Press
2011 Michael Frayn My Father’s Fortune Faber & Faber
2010 Gabriel Weston Direct Red Cape
2009 Julia Blackburn The Three of Us Vintage
2008 Miranda Seymour In My Father’s House Simon & Schuster
2007 Brian Thompson Keeping Mum Atlantic Books
2006 Alan Bennett Untold Stories Faber & Faber
2005 Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy Half An Arch Timewell Press
2004 Bryan Magee, Clouds of Glory – A Hoxton Childhood Jonathan Cape
2003 Jenny Diski Stranger on a Train Virago
2002 Michael Foss Out of India: a Raj Childhood Michael O’Mara Books
2001 Lorna Sage Bad Blood 4th Estate
2000 Mark Frankland Child of My Time Sinlair-Stevenson
1999 Margaret Forster Precious Lives Vintage
1998 Kathryn Fitzherbert True to Both My Selves Virago
1997 Tim Lott The Scent of Dried Roses Penguin Classics
1996 Eric Lomax The Railway Man Vintage
1995 Paul Vaughan Something in Linoleum Sinclair-Stevenson
1994 Blake Morrison And When Did You Last See Your Father? Granta Books
1993 Barry Humphries More, Please Viking
1992 John Osborne Almost a Gentleman Faber & Faber
1991 Paul Binding St Martin’s Ride Secker & Warburg
1990 Germaine Greer Daddy We Hardly Knew You Random House USA Inc.
1989 John Healy The Grass Arena Faber & Faber
1988 Anthony Burgess Little Wilson & Big God Penguin Books Ltd
1987 Diana Athill After a Funeral Hamish Hamilton
1986 Dan Jacobson Time and Time Again Flamingo
1985 Angelica Garnett Deceived with Kindness Harcourt
1984 Richard Cobb Still Life – Sketches from a Tunbridge Wells Childhood Chatto & Windus
1983 Kathleen Dayus
Ted Walker
Joint winners
Her People
High Path
Virago
Routledge & Kegan Paul
1982 Edward Blishen Shaky Relations David & Charles

Watch: Videos of PEN Ackerley Prize announcements