The Reading Agency has announced the six best-selling authors championing Quick Reads for 2024. They are Kia Abdullah, Malorie Blackman, Matt Cain, Kit de Waal, Jo Nesbo and Karen Swan.
Publishing on 11 April 2024 and reflecting the very best contemporary writing, the new collection of Quick Reads incudes a mix of original and specially abridged titles including a suspenseful, court room page turner by thriller fiction star Kia Abdullah (Those People Next Door, HQ, HarperCollins); a hard-hitting emotional tale of teenage fatherhood from multi-award-winning Malorie Blackman (Boys Don’t Cry, Penguin, Penguin Random House UK Children’s); a joyful and surprising tale about love, friendship and football from broadcaster and LGBTQ+ advocate Matt Cain (Game On, Headline, Hachette); Kit de Waal’s vibrant and unforgettable memoir of how books saved her life (Without Warning and Only Sometimes, Headline, Hachette); a dangerously dark thriller from global, fan favourite Jo Nesbo (The Jealousy Man, Vintage, Penguin Random House); and an epic, spellbinding historical romance set against the backdrop of untamed beauty of St Kilda in 1930s high society from Sunday Times bestseller Karen Swan (The Last Summer, Pan Macmillan).
Quick Reads plays a vital role in addressing the UK’s adult literacy crisis, engaging the one in three adults who do not regularly read for pleasure and the one in six adults who find reading difficult. Since the programme launched in 2006, over 5.3 million Quick Reads have been distributed with over 6.14 million registered library loans.
The titles are available for just £1 at bookshops and are free to borrow from libraries. They are used across the country in colleges, prisons, trade unions, hospitals, and adult learning organisations.
The six titles announced today will also be gifted as part of World Book Night 2024, The Reading Agency’s annual drive to create a nation of readers. With the support of this year’s publishers, copies of the books will be given away to organisations including care homes, youth centres, homelessness centre, prisons, hospitals and other organisations through public library partners.
Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency, said: ‘We are incredibly excited as we unveil the remarkable line-up of authors collaborating with Quick Reads to publish a bitesize book for 2024 – and we thank them and all the publishers for their support to this life-changing programme. We would also like to extend heartfelt gratitude to Jojo Moyes for the generous donation in 2020-2022 which helped to shape the future of the initiative. This year we are proudly supported by Penguin Random House and Hachette who have contributed funding to the programme We will be celebrating Quick Reads as part of World Book Night 2024 in our continued mission to bring high quality, fun and accessible books to a wider audience to discover the transformative power of reading.’
Kia Abdullah, Those People Next Door (abridged) (HQ, HarperCollins)
Kia Abdullah is a bestselling author and travel writer. Her novels include Take It Back, a Guardian and Telegraph thriller of the year; Truth Be Told, which was shortlisted for the Diverse Book Awards; and Next of Kin, which was longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award, and won the Adult Diverse Book Award in 2022. Her most recent novel, Those People Next Door, was Waterstones Thriller of the Month in August 2023. Kia has also been selected for The Times Crime Club. Kia has written for The New York Times, the Guardian, the Financial Times, The Times and the BBC, and is the founder of Asian Booklist, a non-profit that advocates for diversity in publishing and helps readers discover new books by British Asian authors.
Kia Abdullah said: ‘I grew up in Tower Hamlets, one of the UK’s worst boroughs for child poverty, and never owned a book as a child. What I did have was older siblings who took me to the library every Saturday. I would leave with an armful of books and that one habit changed the trajectory of my life. Reading brought me joy and escapism and set me on the path to becoming a bestselling author. Quick Reads brings that same joy to emergent readers, which is why I am so incredibly proud to be part of its 2024 programme.’
About Those People Next Door
Salma Khatun is extremely hopeful about Blenheim, the safe suburban development to which she, her husband and their son have just moved. Their family is in desperate need of a fresh start, and Blenheim feels like the place to make that happen. Not long after they move in, Salma spots her neighbour, Tom Hutton, ripping out the anti-racist banner her son put in their front garden. She chooses not to confront Tom because she wants to fit in. It’s a small thing, really. No need to make a fuss. So, Salma takes the banner inside and puts it in her window instead. But the next morning she wakes up to find her window smeared with paint. This time she does confront Tom, and the battle lines between the two families are drawn. As things begin to escalate and the stakes become higher, it’s clear that a reckoning is coming… And someone is going to get hurt.
Malorie Blackman, Boys Don’t Cry (abridged) (Penguin, Penguin Random House UK Children’s)
Malorie Blackman has written over seventy books for children and young adults, including the Noughts & Crosses series, Thief and a science-fiction thriller, Chasing the Stars. Many of her books have also been adapted for stage and television, including a BAFTA-award-winning BBC production of Pig-Heart Boy and a Pilot Theatre stage adaptation by Sabrina Mahfouz of Noughts & Crosses. There is also a major BBC production of Noughts & Crosses, with Roc Nation (Jay-Z’s entertainment company) curating the soundtrack as executive music producer. In 2005 Malorie was honoured with the Eleanor Farjeon Award in recognition of her distinguished contribution to the world of children’s books. In 2008 she received an OBE for her services to children’s literature, and between 2013 and 2015 she was the Children’s Laureate. Most recently Malorie wrote for the Doctor Who series on BBC One, and the fifth novel in her Noughts & Crosses series, Crossfire, was published by Penguin Random House Children’s in summer 2019.
Malorie Blackman said: ‘Books and stories literally changed my life for the better. They have been friends, companions, provided an escape, been a refuge, given me a pool of knowledge and have inspired me as well as taught me to aspire to what was beyond my immediate field of view. Books have provided hope, joy and have taught me the benefits of empathy. The Quick Reads initiative is an excellent way to open the door to reading for those who believe that reading is not for them, or indeed for anyone who enjoys a great read’
About Boys Don’t Cry
Seventeen-year-old Dante is waiting for his A-level results. He’s got it all planned out. If his results are good, he’ll go to university and study to be a journalist. But while he’s waiting, the doorbell rings and it’s his ex-girlfriend. She’s carrying a baby – his baby. Dante agrees to look after the baby for an hour or two. Then his ex doesn’t come back, and Dante’s plans have to change. With the help of his father and brother, Dante must learn how to be a single parent. A gripping and original story about love, relationships and growing up the hard way.
Matt Cain, Game On (Headline, Hachette)
Matt Cain is a writer, broadcaster, and a leading commentator on LGBTQ+ issues. He was Channel 4’s first Culture Editor, Editor-in-Chief of Attitude magazine, and is a regular presenter on Virgin Radio Pride. He’s also an ambassador for Manchester Pride and the Albert Kennedy Trust, plus a patron of LGBT+ History Month. Born in Bury and brought up in Bolton, Matt now lives in London with his husband, Harry, and their cat, Nelly.
Matt Cain said: ‘Reading has always been a source of joy in my life. It’s shaped me as a person, offered me an escape, and made me a more empathetic, compassionate member of society. So, I very much wanted to pass on my love of reading to my five nephews. But, while all of them used to love being read to as children, each of them has lost their love of reading as they’ve hit their teenage years or progressed into adulthood. As they’re all avid football fans, I very much hope that Game On will rekindle a love of reading in at least some of them – or, if not, any other men who’ve forgotten how much they used to love reading as boys.’
About Game On
Toddington FC defender Tom Horrocks is never happier than when he’s on the football pitch, but when it comes to love, he’s hiding a big secret. Worried about his young daughter and sick father – and with his team finally in the Premier League – he avoids all media.
Journalist Cosmo Roberts wants to change the world, so is angry when he’s sent to a quiet northern town to cover a sport he sees as anti-gay. Then something about Tom catches his eye. Cosmo hates football. Tom hates journalists. Perhaps this time they’ve both met their match.
Kit de Waal, Without Warning and Only Sometimes (abridged) (Headline, Hachette)
Kit de Waal is the author of the novels My Name Is Leon, which was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year, and The Trick to Time, which was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and a short story collection, Supporting Cast. She is also editor of the Common People anthology, and co-founder of the Big Book Weekend festival. My Name Is Leon was adapted as a film for BBC Two.
Kit de Waal said: ‘I was never interested in reading as a child, and it took me many years to come to books and reading as a form of entertainment. But I was lucky. I knew how to read and was given help with what to read so I had a head start on many people who, for whatever reason, find reading a challenge. It could be a lack of confidence, or it could be an interrupted education – whatever it is, the prospect of reading a book with hundreds of pages is daunting and off-putting. And yet reading opens up worlds, ideas, other people’s lives. It’s the best way of walking in someone else’s footsteps, of being there, of imagining another life for yourself – on the moon, in the past, in the future. That’s where Quick Reads comes in. Proper books, brilliant stories, written to make sure everyone gets a fair chance to read. Quick Reads are brilliant, and I’m honoured to be part of the programme.’
About Without Warning and Only Sometimes
Kit de Waal grew up in a household of opposites and extremes. Her haphazard mother rarely cooked, forbade Christmas and birthdays, worked as a cleaner, nurse and childminder sometimes all at once and believed the world would end in 1975. Meanwhile, her father stuffed barrels full of goodies for his relatives in the Caribbean, cooked elaborate meals on a whim and splurged money they didn’t have on cars, suits and shoes fit for a prince. Both of her parents were waiting for paradise. It never came.
Caught between three worlds, Irish, Caribbean and British in 1960s Birmingham, Kit and her brothers and sisters knew all the words to the best songs, caught sticklebacks in jam jars and braved hunger and hellfire until they could all escape.
Jo Nesbo, The Jealousy Man (previously published in 2021 short story collection) (Vintage, Penguin Random House)
Jo Nesbo is one of the world’s bestselling crime writers. When commissioned to write a memoir about life on the road with his band, Di Derre, he instead came up with the plot for his first Harry Hole crime novel, The Bat. His books The Leopard, Phantom, Police, The Son, The Thirst, Macbeth and Knife have all since topped the Sunday Times charts. He’s an international number one bestseller and his books are published in 50 languages, selling over 55 million copies around the world.
Jo Nesbo said: ‘It is my hope that my book The Jealousy Man in a small way can contribute to people finding enjoyment in reading.’
About The Jealousy Man
Summoned to the Greek island of Kalymnos to investigate the disappearance of business man Julian Schmid, Athens detective Nikos Balli – who specialises in jealousy as a motive – immediately identifies his prime suspect: the man’s twin brother, Franz.
Balli has a nose for sniffing out jealousy, and Franz reeks of it. Working alongside his old friend and colleague George Kostopoulos, Balli interrogates Franz, trying to diagnose whether or not the missing man – and possibly dead man – might have been the victim of a jealous rage. But Franz insists that his brother left the room they were sharing together and simply never came back.
But Balli knows the grip of envy, and this case, in Balli’s mind, comes down to the twin brothers battling over a woman. But before Balli can prove it, his own past catches up with him on the island – and he might not be able to survive it this time.
Karen Swan, The Last Summer (abridged) (Pan Macmillan)
Karen Swan is the Sunday Times top three bestselling author and her novels sell all over the world. She writes two books each year – one for the summer period and one for the Christmas season. Previous summer titles include The Spanish Promise, The Hidden Beach and The Secret Path and for winter, Christmas at Tiffany’s, The Christmas Secret and Together by Christmas. Her books are known for their evocative locations and Karen sees travel as vital research for each story. She loves to set deep, complicated love stories within twisting plots. Her historical series called The Wild Isle, is based upon the dramatic evacuation of the Scottish island St Kilda in the summer of 1930.
Karen Swan said: ‘For as long as I can remember, reading has been a form of escape for me. I had a happy childhood but also quite a lonely one and without consciously expressing it, I found companionship and refuge in the books I read. Quite often, I would take myself off to the library – about a mile away – and just sit on the floor and read there and then until closing time (or lunchtime!) Bookshops too, continue to exercise a pull over me and even now when I walk in, I have an overwhelming feeling of comfort and relief to be enclosed by bookshelves. The Quick Reads initiative is such a brilliant and important resource to help bring literature to those who arguably need it most and I am incredibly proud to be a part of it this year.’
About The Last Summer
Summer on St Kilda – a wild, remote Scottish island. Two strangers from drastically different worlds meet . . .
Wild-spirited Effie Gillies has lived all her life on the small island of St Kilda but when Lord Sholto, heir to the Earl of Dumfries, visits, the attraction between them is instant. For one glorious week she guides the handsome young visitor around the isle, falling in love for the first time – until a storm hits and her world falls apart.
Three months later, St Kilda falls silent as the islanders are evacuated for a better life on the mainland. With her friends and family scattered, Effie is surprised to be offered a position working on the Earl’s estate. Sholto is back in her life but their differences now seem insurmountable, even as the simmering tension between them grows. And when a shocking discovery is made back on St Kilda, all her dreams for this bright new life are threatened by the dark secrets Effie and her friends thought they had left behind.
The Reading Agency
The Reading Agency is a UK charity with a mission to empower people of all ages to read. Evidence shows that reading improves health and wellbeing, life chances and social connections. The Reading Agency champions access to the proven power of reading by providing activities for all ages. Working with public libraries, prisons, hospitals, and other community settings, we reach over two million people a year. But with a UK population of over 67 million that’s not nearly enough. We want to get more people fired up about reading because everything changes when you read.
www.readingagency.org.uk | @readingagency
Quick Reads, delivered by The Reading Agency, aims to bring the power and benefits of reading to everyone, including the one in three adults in the UK who do not regularly read for pleasure, and the one in six adults in the UK who find reading difficult. The scheme changes lives and plays a vital role in addressing the adult literacy crisis in the UK.
Each year, Quick Reads commissions high profile authors to write bitesize, engaging books that are specifically designed to be easy to read. Since 2006, 4.8 million books have been distributed through the initiative, 5 million library loans (PLR) have been registered and through outreach work hundreds of thousands of new readers each year have been introduced to the joys and benefits of reading. From 2020 – 2022, the initiative was supported by a philanthropic gift from bestselling author Jojo Moyes which has helped shape the future of Quick Reads. In 2024 the initiative is sponsored by Penguin Random House and Hachette with thanks to publisher corporate social responsibility funding.