Remember Writers at Risk this World Book Night

On 23 April, English PEN will be joining thousands of others in giving away books as part of this year’s World Book Night celebrations. Our Writers at Risk Programme Manager Cat Lucas explains why.

Next week, English PEN will join thousands of other World Book Night givers to distribute books to those that need them most. We have once again pledged to send our books to writers at risk – one of the longest running and most tangible ways PEN shows our support to brave colleagues around the world.

The book I’ll be sending is Roald Dahl’s Vengeance is Mine Inc., a special collection of some of his most famous short stories. I’m honoured to be able to share the work of one of my all time favourite writers with colleagues around the world, and hope that Dahl’s humour – however dark – will provide them with an opportunity to escape their surroundings, even if only for a few hours.

This is also why I chose another of Dahl’s books, Matilda – a witty and heart-warming testament to the power of reading – as the book I would send to a prisoner as part of the ongoing campaign against restrictions on UK prisoners receiving books. English PEN is working closely with The Howard League for Penal Reform on the Books for Prisoners campaign against the restrictions introduced by the Ministry of Justice in November 2013 as part of a crackdown on prisoners’ ‘perks and privileges’.

In previous years, World Book Night titles have reached writers from Turkey to Vietnam, and we hope to reach even more writers in more countries this year. But I find it both shocking and sad that, were I to be sending these books to prisoners here in the UK instead, they would not get through as a result of the MoJ’s current policy.


Support the Books for Prisoners campaign

  • Show your support for the #BooksforPrisoners campaign by letting us know which book you’d send to a prisoner in the comments box below or via social media with #booksforprisoners
  • You can also show your support by signing and sharing this petition

Send books

If you are a World Book Night giver and are interested in sending a copy of your WBN title to one our cases of concern, please do get in touch. And even if you’re not signed up to be a WBN giver, there’s no reason you can’t get involved in this scheme – although you’ll have to source any books you’d like to send yourselves.


We are asking WBN givers who are interested in sending books to PEN’s cases of concern to email the following details to

  • Title of your WBN book;
  • Number of copies you would like to send.


  • Participants are expected to cover the postage costs of sending the books overseas;
  • Participants are requested not to publish or circulate the addresses of our cases of concern;
  • Participants are recommended to send a brief note with your book, explaining the purpose of World Book Night and your connection with English PEN;
  • Participants are asked to include a return address so that the recipient can respond if they are able to do so. If you would be more comfortable using the English PEN office address, please feel free to do so. (English PEN, Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London, EC1R 3GA)

About Cat Lucas

Cat Lucas is English PEN's Writers at Risk Programme Manager

View all posts by Cat Lucas →

56 Comments on “Remember Writers at Risk this World Book Night”

  1. I would love to send one of my World Book Night books to a prisoner. I will save one and send another two from a publisher I am working with as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *