Royal Society Professor of Physiology at Oxford, Frances Ashcroft was one of five women to be made Laureates in the Unesco Science Awards for Women. Her work with insulin has transformed the lives of children suffering from diabetes. Collins published her successful Life at the Extremes, a study of what the human body can endure, from extremes of heat and height to depth and darkness. Penguin Press UK and Norton US published The Spark of Life – a book on electricity in the body which won the 2013 Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science. She plans a book on Hormones.
Erica Benner is a political philosopher and historian of ideas who has taught at Oxford, the LSE, and Yale. She has two earlier, acclaimed books on Niccolò Machiavelli, Machiavelli’s Ethics (Princeton, 2009) and Machiavelli’s Prince: A New Reading(OUP, 2013), and a book on the history of nationalist thinking, Really Existing Nationalisms(OUP, 1995 and Verso, 2018).
In 2017, Penguin Allen Lane published her Be Like the Fox: Machiavelli’s Lifelong Quest for Freedom. It was shortlisted for the 2018 Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography, chosen as a Guardian and Observer Book of the Year, and received glowing reviews in the US and in Italy, where its translation as Esser Volpe: Vita di Machiavelli was called ‘monumental – not to be missed.’ During lockdown, Erica started writing a new book about how she has been grappling with democracy’s contradictions since her time as a teenager in Japan. She is also working on a book set during the Peloponnesian War.
Rosamund Bartlett is a cultural historian with a particular interest in modernism, opera, and the intersection between politics, history and the arts. Her early books include Wagner and Russia (Cambridge, 1995) and the edited volume Shostakovich in Context (Oxford, 2000). As a translator she has published a Chekhov anthology, About Love and Other Stories (Oxford World’s Classics, 2004), Chekhov: A Life in Letters (Penguin Classics, 2004), the first unexpurgated edition in any language, and a new translation of Anna Karenina (Oxford World’s Classics, 2014), hailed by A. N. Wilson in the TLS as ‘much the best English rendering which has ever appeared’.
Her Chekhov: Scenes from a Life (Free Press, 2004), was chosen as the Moscow Times Biography of the Year, and Tolstoy: A Russian Life, published in 2010 by Profile, was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and chosen by the Independent as its Book of the Week for its ‘magisterial sweep and scale’.
David Barrie’s Sextantis a beautifully written account of the art of celestial navigation and the vital part it played in the exploration and mapping of the world. It was published by HarperPress and William Morrow in 2014 to excellent reviews. Translations have also been published by Rizzoli in Italy and Mare in Germany. It was shortlisted for the Mountbatten Literary Prize.
David’s latest book, Incredible Journeys: Exploring the Wonders of Animal Navigation was published in April 2019 by Hodder and Stoughton in the UK and The Experiment in the US. It went on to win Sunday Times Nature Book of the Year 2019. A devotee of the work of John Ruskin, David edited an abridged version of his magnum opus Modern Painters that was published in 1987 by André Deutsch.
After studying Psychology and Philosophy at Oxford University, David served in the Diplomatic Service for fifteen years. He was later Director of the National Art Collections Fund (now the Art Fund). David has also been active in the field of criminal justice reform as Chair of the campaigning organisation Make Justice Work. He was awarded a CBE in 2010.
David is an experienced navigator and has made many long passages under sail. He is a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation. He lives in London and Emsworth.
James Barr has worked in politics, at the Daily Telegraph, in the city and as a political officer at the British Embassy in Paris. He now runs his own research business and is a visiting fellow at King’s College London. In 2006 Bloomsbury published his history of the Arab revolt during the First World War, Setting the Desert on Fire. In 2011 he followed this with A Line in the Sand, Britain, France and the struggle that shaped the Middle East, which earned brilliant reviews. His latest book, Lords of the Desert, published in August 2018 tells the story of the rise of America and the fall of Britain in the Middle East (“a dramatic, absorbing account” – David Wearing, Prospect. “[a] riveting tale of Great Power competition, skulduggery and backstabbing” – Justin Marozzi, Sunday Times).
The Arena, a sweeping history on great power conflict in the region, was recently acquired by Headline in a “heated” six-way auction for publication in 2023.
Katya Balen is co-director of Mainspring Arts, a not-for-profit that supports neurodivergent and autistic people to access creative opportunities. She studied English at university, and completed an MA researching the impact of stories on autistic children’s behaviour. When she’s not writing books or funding applications, she’s busy trying to coax her ridiculous rescue dog to go for a walk. She lives in Reading with the aforementioned dog and her partner, an NHS psychiatrist.
Her debut children’s novel The Space We’re In was published by Bloomsbury in 2019 and was selected as the Sunday Times Children’s Book of the Week as well as being shortlisted for the Branford Boase award.
Katya’s second novel, October, October, was published in 2021 to widespread acclaim and was again selected as the Times Children’s Book of the Week. In 2022, October, October scored a double victory, winning both the Yoto Carnegie Medal and the Shadowers’ Choice Award. Jennifer. Horan, Chair of Judges, praised the book’s “captivating story feature exquisite descriptions of the natural world and relationships that develop and heal” and called it “expertly written, beautiful and lyrical”. Just one week later, October, October was shortlisted for the James Cropper Wainwright Prize in the first ever Children’s Writing on Nature and Conservation category.
Since October, October‘s release, Balen has published another middle-grade novel with Bloomsbury, The Light in Everything, which was longlisted for the 2023 UKLA Book Awards. She has also written a novella, published by Barrington Stoke in July, Birdsong.
John Aitchison is a wildlife filmmaker. He has worked on many programmes for the BBC, National Geographic and Discovery Channel including Planet Earth II, The Hunt, Frozen Planet, Life, Big Cat Diary, The Natural World, Springwatch and Yellowstone. He also did camera work on a programme he produced, The Amber Time Machine, which features David Attenborough’s quest to discover what amber can tell us about the past.
John is a double Bafta and Emmy winner for his work both as a nature documentary producer and cameraman. His first book, The Shark and the Albatross: Adventures of a Wildlife Filmmaker, was published in the UK in October 2015 by Profile and North America in May 2016 by Greystone Books. ‘These evocative stories are from the heart of the keenest observer, a skilled cameraman and a superb naturalist’ – Chris Packham.
Susan Beale’s first novel, The Good Guy, sold at auction to John Murray and was shortlisted for the 2016 Costa First Novel Award. Set in New England in the years leading up to the sexual revolution, the book explores the human capacity for deception, particularly self-deception.
Susan Beale was brought up on Cape Cod and lives in Somerset. She is a graduate of the Bath Spa Creative Writing MA programme.
Dr Mark Avery writes mostly on birds, their biology and their conservation. He worked for the RSPB for 25 years – first as a scientist but for nearly 13 years as Conservation Director. In 2011 he left the RSPB to go freelance. He writes a daily blog on UK nature conservation issues and regularly for British Wildlife, BBC Wildlife and Birdwatch magazines. He lives in rural Northamptonshire.
Jonny edited Karl Bushby’s diary, Giant Steps: The Remarkable Story of the Goliath Expedition from Punta Arenas to Russia (Sphere, 2007). He writes for the Daily Telegraph and a number of other publications, primarily about the countryside. He also does a rather fine line in recycled fur hats.