ATG Book of the Week: Penguin and the Lane Brothers: The Untold Story of a Publishing Revolution

PenguinLaneBrosTitle: Penguin and the Lane Brothers: The Untold Story of a Publishing Revolution
Author: Stuart Kells
Hardback: ISBN: 9781863957571, $39.99
Imprint: Collingwood, Australia: Black Inc., 2015

An intimate partnership of three brothers – Allen, Richard and John Lane – lay at the heart of Penguin Books, the twentieth century’s greatest publishing house. In a spirit of daring and creative opposition, the brothers issued quality books on a massive scale and at minuscule prices – and achieved a revolution in publishing.

The Lane boys did their best thinking together in bathroom board meetings, where at least one director would always be ‘mother naked’. They innovated in countless ways – in the early years, a church crypt served as their office and warehouse. Penguin was an unconventional upstart, bringing literary giants such as Agatha Christie, George Bernard Shaw, Virginia Woolf and Graham Greene to vast new audiences, and it seemed unstoppable…

Relying on unprecedented access to Lane family sources, including Richard’s diaries, Penguin and the Lane Brothers sheds new light on the relationship of Allen, Richard and John, so crucial as a driver of Penguin’s spirit and success. By turns hilarious and tragic, moving and insightful, this is a groundbreaking counter-history of an unlikely publishing triumph.



‘Essential reading for all those fascinated by ‘books about books’ and about the foundation stories of great businesses.’—Books+Publishing


‘Kells’ story is informative and entertaining, and will appeal to anyone with the slightest interest in the world of books. In more than 30 years at Penguin Australia, I never got this close to the truth about Penguin.’—the Age


‘an engaging, sharply written, and important revisionist history of a great literary institution.’—Australian Book Review


‘If you like books about books, Kells offers a fascinating insight into literature and fraternal power plays.’—Sunday Age


‘a fascinating, well-researched insight into publishing and booksellers’—Herald Sun

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