25 books for 25 years in Europe

25 books for 25 years in Europe

The 25th anniversary of the establishment of our European office is an important milestone in PUP’s mission to be a truly global publisher. These 25 books reflect the global appeal of the Press, and in the spirit of celebration, we offer a peek behind-the-scenes at our work on these unforgettable titles. Given our annual output, we can only highlight a small portion of our list, but we hope you enjoy this salute to some of the memorable moments in our publishing history over the last quarter century. The entries for each title come from across our global teams, demonstrating the personal efforts and collaborative spirit that contribute to successful publication.

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1. AI Needs You by Verity Harding  

The world exudes a cacophony of dark messages, but sometimes we hear a voice of clarity, insight, and light—like Verity’s—and when that happens, we should all listen. From the very first conversation I had with Verity, I felt connected to and inspired by her vision, and wanted to help her express her message in the strongest and most authentic way. This book’s power comes in part from Verity’s argument that we can all shape how AI evolves and influences our lives; but it also comes from her persuasive evidence, drawn from the recent histories of the Space Race, IVF, and the internet. She shows that transformative technologies are not neutral or developed in isolation from society. They are deeply political, and the ways in which they permeate our lives are guided by human values, preferences, and decisions. This should give us hope—because it means that each of us has a role to play in changing the future of AI, according to what we, the people, want. So, what do we want? This book empowered me to think about my own answer to this question—and how it might compare to the answers of tech industry leaders, politicians, or commercial interests. This is the message I hope others take away from this book: AI needs you—to have an opinion and to express it. Deeply informed, humane, streetwise, hopeful, Verity convinced me that there is a place waiting for all of us at the table, and I hope that her book makes others feel the same. We can change the future of AI, so that it serves the public good. Read this book and pull up a chair.

—Ingrid Gnerlich, Publisher for the Sciences, Europe

2. Animal Spirits by George A. Akerlof and Robert J. Shiller

The image on the jacket was created by Ed Koren, the New York Times cartoonist, and I clearly remember the excitement when we received the draft. The book was shortlisted for the Financial Times Awards and the ceremony was held in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. I remember attending with George Akerlof; sadly, we didn’t win, but the book did win an award from GetAbstract which was presented at Frankfurt BookFair. As part of this award, Andrew Brewer, International Sales Director, recalls the largest Toblerone he’d ever seen being delivered to the PUP stand, and our UPG colleagues struggling under the weight of this mighty confection.

—Caroline Priday, Co-Head of PUP Europe 

3. Britain’s Birds by Rob Hume, Robert Still, Andy Swash, Hugh Harrop, and David Tipling

We published the first edition of this fabulous book in 2016 in time to launch it at the annual Bird Fair at Rutland Water. We pulled out all the stops with author talks, signings, a launch party, and even dressed staff and authors in shirts that sported the full cover. The five authors and illustrators were much in demand and almost 1000 copies were sold from the show site over the next three days. It was an exhilarating weekend. The book is now in its second edition, has won enduring praise from professionals and amateurs, and is one of PUP’s best-ever selling titles, beloved by birders everywhere.

—Julia Hall, Head of Marketing, Europe and Andrew Brewer, International Sales Director

4. Capitalism without Capital by Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake

The timing of this book couldn’t have been more perfect, coinciding with the shift in the public consciousness around big tech. Haskel and Westlake were offering clear-eyed analysis of the structure of the intangible economy, something we were only just beginning to come to grips with—that data could be more valuable than objects. Both authors had policy-making experience in addition to their academic backgrounds, and so we were able to pitch them as real experts in this fast-moving space. With Bill Gates’ recommendation on his booklist, the book just took off. It was so exciting to be working with authors who were helping to navigate this murky territory, and to see the book climb the bestseller charts! We licensed 14 languages for the book in the end—and it set the trend for the sorts of economics books international publishers were keen to see going forward!

—Hannah Paul, Associate Editor for Economics and Political Sciences

5. Chaucer: A European Life by Marion Turner

Not since Derek Pearsall’s biography, published nearly thirty years earlier, had anyone attempted such a comprehensive study of ‘the father of English literature’ as Marion Turner’s 2019 chronicle of the life, work and social and political context of Geoffrey Chaucer. It was a book for its time, and indeed a book for the ages: the Chaucer who emerges is true a European figure, someone who travelled across cultures and participated in the events of his time. We are proud to have been involved in the project from its conception. The finished book was described by A. N. Wilson as ‘an absolute triumph’ and it was shortlisted for the Wolfson Prize.

—Ben Tate, Senior Editor, Humanities

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6. Economics for the Common Good by Jean Tirole

This book was such a great example of collaboration between the Press, the author, and the original French publisher, and a shining example of how to work with an author to ‘globalise’ a book and make it truly international. About a third of our edition was new material written for the English edition, and we in the rights team were able to sell this original PUP IP to other translating publishers, who were all keen to include this new global material in their editions!

—Rebecca Bengoechea, Senior International Rights Manager

7. Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe by Roger Penrose

This book originated with a series of three public lectures that Roger Penrose gave at Princeton University—and these were the very first public lectures that I attended at Princeton after being hired as the physics editor. My colleague, Vickie, the mathematics editor, was working with Roger on the book that would build upon the presentations made on those late October evenings. Roger illustrated his lectures in real time using an overhead projector, and the many transparencies of his multi-coloured, hand-drawn sketches are still vividly imprinted on my mind’s eye. I left the first lecture feeling as though my brain had just encountered far more than it could absorb. I was intrigued. Much later, I had the opportunity to chat at length with Roger at the Mathematical Institute at the University of Oxford. We had since published his Princeton public lectures as a book, Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe. While I remained somewhat intimidated, the person I encountered on that occasion was a kind and gentle conversationalist who made me feel completely welcome. I left our chat feeling very, very lucky. And, perhaps what I have felt in my brief encounters with Roger Penrose fairly summarizes what he offers to all readers of his books: the swirling, heady, and marvellous feeling of being intrigued, intimidated, inspired, welcomed, and in the end, extraordinarily lucky.

—Ingrid Gnerlich, Publisher for the Sciences, Europe 

I was lucky enough to work as the publicist for this book and have many fond memories: of Roger’s enormous willingness to do anything that was asked of him to promote the book, of trying to remotely help him manage the tech side of setting up Skype meetings with various journalists, of his gentle courtesy, and perhaps most precious of all, the memory of waiting for our train at a slightly coffee-stained table in Oxford Parkway station, with Roger endeavouring to explain conformal cyclic cosmology to my befuddled brain.

—Julia Hall, Head of Marketing, Europe

8. On Seamus Heaney by Roy Foster

This delightful book on Irish poet Seamus Heaney was commissioned for our Writers on Writers series. It’s an engaging, lucid and accessible synthesis of Roy Foster’s easy familiarity with his subject and effortless mastery of the larger historical and cultural context of twentieth century Irish literature. Published in early autumn of 2020, just before a second UK lockdown, it was nevertheless one of our most successful books in the following months. Clíona Ní Ríordáin, in the Irish Times, observed that ‘Foster’s characteristic brio brings Heaney to life again’. It was Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4 read by the inimitable Adrian Dunbar!

—Ben Tate, Senior Editor, Humanities

9. The Great Escape by Angus Deaton

This book will always hold fond memories for me as it defined my first ever Frankfurt Book Fair working with the Press. The announcement of Angus Deaton’s Nobel Prize was made on the Monday of Frankfurt Book Fair week, just as the rights team were about to leave for the airport. Very quickly, the emails and calls started flooding in from publishers around the world. This was a rare lucky moment where not only had we published the author’s only book, but it was also on the very topic for which he won the Nobel. It was also only a few years old, but only a handful of languages had been sold up to that point. Our Frankfurt week was a whirlwind of juggling meetings, offers, and auctions, and by the end of the week we had concluded with a record license advance for the German rights, as well as lots of other offers. We have now licensed the book in 21 languages.

—Rebecca Bengoechea, Senior International Rights Manager 

10. How to Clone a Mammoth by Beth Shapiro

This is such a special book. Beth brought to the writing the kind of voice an editor dreams of: rigorous, yet engaging; skeptical and witty, yet open minded and hopeful. This was the first popular book to introduce readers to the wild and crazy world of de-extinction and Beth was the ideal author for the task. Indeed, the positive and extensive reception it received in the UK is one of the things I remember mostly fondly about its publication.

—Alison Kalett, Editorial Director, Science 

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11. Free Agents by Kevin J. Mitchell

I like to give Kevin a hard time about the fact there are usually very few people in his books! But I hold his books up as emblematic of the fact that great popular science writing doesn’t have to follow a formula—engaging and clear writing, clarity of thought, and a robust argument are the hallmarks of Kevin’s books and a model for the genre. Kevin is a joy to work with and his books give readers much to think about concerning role of biology in our behaviour, what makes us unique as individuals, and the role of evolution and the long history of life in understanding the present.

—Alison Kalett, Editorial Director, Science

12. Irrational Exuberance by Robert J. Shiller

The first edition of this book was published before I joined PUP, but I was involved in the publicity for the second and third editions. After successfully predicting the dot-com crash in the first edition, the big question everyone asked was what they should be looking out for next. Bob Shiller was always a delight to work with, and promoting his books resulted in many high-profile events—breakfast at 11 Downing St, with the then Chancellor seeking advice on the 2008 financial crash, being a particular highlight. Bob was a rare author for whom I had to regularly turn down requests as there was simply so much demand.

—Caroline Priday, Co-Head of PUP Europe

13. On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt

Harry Frankfurt was a lovely author to work with—thoughtful, humble, serious, and endlessly appreciative of my attempts to help him navigate the surprise deluge of interest in his book, which despite its amusing title, was a rather serious essay deeply concerned with respect for the truth. Truth was a matter he had dedicated considerable effort to untangling, and even as we pressed on through the endless media interest, he remained mindful of being true to the essence of his inquiry. He was also a good sport, willing to step outside his comfort zone to chat with a wide range of popular media. The campaign for On Bullshit was a whirlwind at Princeton University Press; I was a brand-new publicist when I escorted him between speaking venues, from The Daily Show to 60 Minutes, and our marketing and sales team watched in awe as we returned for reprint after reprint. But what I remember most about him is his gentle spirit, how deeply he cared about fundamental truths in the world around us, and how we communicate with each other.

—Debra Liese, Curator of Ideas and Content Partnerships

14. On the Future by Martin Rees

This book emerged from my invitation to Martin to write a short, essayistic book on the future of humanity—a cosmic perspective on humankind’s destiny, written for an unsettled time, when the temptations to think short-term and pessimistically are powerful. Martin is one of the world’s most thoughtful and eloquent scientists, and his book “on the future” is wonderfully reflective and prescient. He argues for long-term, trans-generational, value-driven, global thinking, planning, and collaboration to harness the current and imminent technological advances in AI, biotech, nanotech, and space sciences for the benefit of humankind. For readers who want to get to grips with what the future holds for humanity and our planet—especially the young, who will live to the end of the century and have the power to focus on the long-term projects that can help secure humanity’s prospects—you would do well to begin here!

—Ingrid Gnerlich, Publisher for the Sciences, Europe

Martin is a tour de force and one of the most dynamic authors I have ever worked with as a publicist!

—Kate Farquhar-Thomson, Head of Publicity, Europe

15. Spinoza’s Religion by Clare Carlisle

In this beautiful book, Clare Carlisle places religion at the very centre of her interpretation of an early modern philosopher whose influence is as extensive now as ever. Spinoza, she argues, was neither the atheist some might now claim nor a pantheist who saw religion everywhere. For Spinoza, rather, philosophy itself, at least as he practiced it, was a kind of spiritual exercise that expressed his devotion to a truthful, virtuous way of life. It is a hugely original book, and one which renders thorny philosophical concepts accessible to anyone with the interest. Carlisle, who has since written about Kierkegaard and George Eliot, has always maintained a talent for explicating philosophy to the general public, and she discussed the book compellingly on BBC Radio 3 Free Thinking.

—Ben Tate, Senior Editor, Humanities 

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16. The Company of Strangers by Paul Seabright

The Company of Strangers was first published in 2004 and was an early success story for our European publishing team. I joined PUP Europe in 2007 as an editorial assistant, and right outside my office was a poster of the striking cover design, in which a tremulous-looking ape gazes out of the cover against a backdrop of an urban silhouette. The book’s editor shared with me that the team had been struggling with a cover concept to reflect the ambitious scope of the book when he happened to encounter the photograph of the ape peeping out from a wastepaper bin and knew right away it would be a key part of the cover. The Company of Strangers articulates the ways in which humans are distinct from other apes in our capacity for collaboration outside of family groups. The modern global economy is only possible because of this remarkable capacity for living and working in the company of strangers, and yet this trust is so fragile. The book was written in the wake of 9/11, and is now twenty years old, but the question of the human capacity for trust and collaboration feels more relevant than ever.

— Kim Williams, Co-Head of PUP Europe and Digital & Audio Publisher

17. The Mind of a Bee by Lars Chittka

I remember reaching out to Lars after he wrote a review of Tom Seeley’s Honeybee Democracy in Science. I was so excited that he replied to my email and was, indeed, interested in writing a book about his own pioneering research on bee cognition. Thus began a long and fruitful partnership, culminating in the publication of his wonderful book. Drawing on his decades of research, and that of others, Lars opens readers minds (pun intended!) to the amazing cognitive abilities of bees, from numeracy and navigation, to perhaps even consciousness. This book forces us all to rethink what we thought we knew about the abilities of the tiny-brained animals we share our planet with.

—Alison Kalett, Editorial Director, Science

Lars is as much of a force of nature as his subject. I vividly remember our first meeting, at the London Book Fair; we arranged to meet outside the venue, and I had memorised his appearance from a typically sober author pic. Fortunately, Lars texted me an update ahead of our meeting. Let us just say these days he wears considerably more hair, or, as he put it “I look a little different now!” As does the world of bee study, thanks to one of our most successful international titles of recent years. The Mind of a Bee is loved and revered literally everywhere.

—Andrew Brewer, International Sales Director

18. The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm, translated and edited by Jack Zipes 

What better a book to demonstrate the enduring power of storytelling than PUP’s 2014 translation of the first folk and fairy tales of the brothers Grimm? Translated by Jack Zipes and beautifully illustrated by Andrea Dezsö, this volume presents 156 stories in their original spare and wickedly dark tone. This book remains compelling in its tenth year of publication and reminds us of the permanence of stories and books despite the monumental changes in the world since their first publication in 1812. The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm is also the most successful audiobook of a PUP title to date, with over a thousand ratings on Audible. The audio edition is so successful precisely because it permits these stories to be experienced in their original oral format and is wonderful to think of our book as part of the continuing narrative of the tales. The book’s success informed and inspired the launch of our own audio imprint, Princeton Audio, in 2018, and has therefore inspired over 150 audio narratives to date.

—Kim Williams, Co-Head of PUP Europe and Digital & Audio Publisher

19. The World According to Physics by Jim Al-Khalili

This is the first book on which I collaborated with Jim, and it came about in large part because Jim was open-minded in response to my intrepid invitation to him to write a small book on a big subject: physics. Not just one aspect of physics—all of it. The idea was for the book to reveal how physics, as a discipline, gave humans our modern understanding of the world and, indeed, the world as we currently know and experience it. The idea took hold, and Jim proceeded to write an “ode” to physics that is a brilliant and beautiful representation of a shared, global, centuries-long quest for fundamental knowledge. You simply won’t find a better guide to the true nature of physical reality than Jim, and he has a rare talent for explaining the complex with exceptional clarity. However, what really gives me joy about this book—and his others, as well—is that Jim writes in a way that connects. Put another way, some scientists write to explain and do so very well. But it seems to me that Jim goes further, writing about physics to connect the profound with those who have a hunger for it. When you read Jim’s books, you will not only find the scientific insights you crave, you will also feel that they have been shared with you by a true companion in your quest.

—Ingrid Gnerlich, Publisher for the Sciences, Europe

20. This Time Is Different by Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff

This Time Is Different is a highlight of our publishing history, with almost 100,000 copies sold globally in its first year of publication. Hot on the heels of the 2007–08 financial crisis, TTID guided us through eight centuries of financial crises with data from 66 countries across the world. I recall a phone call late in my day as an editorial associate asking if I could urgently print and bind several copies of the book to submit to the Financial Times Book of the Year Award, as we didn’t have print copies available yet (we made the longlist; perhaps the judges didn’t appreciate my skills with the comb-binder). The next year, I began leading PUP’s translation rights programme, and experienced the many afterlives of the book in its various translations. It is now available in over twenty languages and was particularly successful for us in European translation—with French, Greek, Polish, Serbian, Ukrainian, Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese editions all published over time.

—Kim Williams, Co-Head of PUP Europe and Digital & Audio Publisher

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21. Truth and Truthfulness by Bernard Williams

It was a huge honour for Princeton to publish what was, posthumous publications notwithstanding, the last book by Bernard Williams, one the important philosophers of the later twentieth century. Williams’ unique point of departure, the observation that modern culture is characterised by a tension between a demand for truthfulness and a doubt that there is any truth to be found, revealed the paradox which frustrates most of us, and which the book so convincingly and elegantly addressed. Drawing on his broad learning, Williams argued for truth as an intellectual objective and indeed a cultural value. The book made an enormous impact in philosophy and beyond, and it was a flagship publication for what was then, in 2002, Princeton’s still young UK office.

—Ben Tate, Senior Editor, Humanities

22. Twelve Caesars by Mary Beard

I have the privilege of belonging to the same wonderful University of Cambridge college—Newnham College—as the esteemed Mary Beard. In my early publishing career, I would occasionally run into Mary at book launches and college events and would find a moment to ask if she’d ever considered writing a book for PUP, to which she would respond that she was sure she had something signed with us for the distant future. I thought it was a polite way to avoid the question, but later, to my utter delight, I discovered that Mary would indeed write Twelve Caesars in 2021. I knew immediately that we would produce an audiobook edition for Princeton Audio, and that we would ask Mary if she would be willing to narrate the book. Our plans for recording were complicated by Mary’s phenomenal schedule of speaking, teaching, and television commitments, and we had to squeeze recording into early June 2021, just as COVID restrictions were beginning to wind down in the UK. Despite all the competing pressures on her time, Mary delivered a classically brilliant reading of the book, and has had many happy listeners who enjoyed what one reviewer called her “learned yet snarky delivery”.

—Kim Williams, Co-Head of PUP Europe and Audio & Digital Publisher

23. Virtuous Bankers by Anne Murphy

I recall presenting the book to my colleagues at the European sales conference just weeks after Liz Truss and Kwassi Kwarteng’s disastrous ‘mini budget’, and feeling confident that this book would do well as interest in the Bank of England and the reverberations of its policies increased exponentially. Published during a period of inflation unprecedented in the 21st century, this book arrived at such an opportune moment, with Murphy’s historical lens illuminating our understanding of the Bank’s longstanding power and influence. Anne was a pleasure to work with at every step, and really leant into the publicity campaign that was so expertly co-ordinated by Charlotte Coyne, European Associate Publicist.

—Hannah Paul, Associate Editor for Economics and Political Sciences

24. Why Can the Dead Do Such Great Things? by Robert Bartlett

I was very excited to work with Robert Bartlett, having seen him on television striding across the countryside, presenting series on The Normans and The Plantagenets. We had, previously, had some success with his previous book The Hanged Man, which had been the subject of a television documentary.

—Caroline Priday, Co-Head of PUP Europe

Why Can the Dead Do Such Great Things? was nothing less than a new history of the cult of the saint, from late antiquity to the end of the Middle Ages at the precipice of the Reformation. The book was a virtuoso performance by one of the greatest medievalists of his generation. Historian Tom Holland called it his favourite book of 2014.

—Ben Tate, Senior Editor, Humanities

25. Would You Kill the Fat Man? by David Edmonds

Philosophy podcaster extraordinaire David Edmonds (Philosophy Bites) brought his gift for making philosophical problems accessible and entertaining to the infamous trolley problem in moral philosophy. Imagine a trolley hurtling towards group of five people on the tracks. You are standing near a switch which when pulled would send the trolley down a different track with only one person on it. Would you pull it saving the five at the expense of the one? Pulling a switch too easy? How about if you are standing on a bridge above the track next to someone large enough such that if you pushed them off the bridge, they would fall and stop the trolley in its tracks. Would you do it now? This simple seemingly outlandish scenario and thought experiment, since it was first proposed by the Oxford moral philosopher Philipa Foot, has generated a seemingly endless literature in philosophy known as “trolleyology.” As Dave Edmonds make clear in his masterful exploration of this problem, this is far from just typical idle philosophical speculation, but has important implications for how we think about ethics and judgements about life and death decisions.

—Rob Tempio, Honorary Member of Oxford office, 2018–19