Non-Fiction Narrative Book of the Year

Winner: Non-Fiction Narrative Book of the Year

Becoming by Michelle Obama


Michelle Obama


The publication of Michelle Obama’s Becoming wasn’t just the biggest publishing event of 2018: it seemed to be one of the major social moments of the year, too. The media and public frenzy on her arrival in the UK and at events steered by Penguin Random House was at a level more usually seen for film or music stars than for authors, and the sales numbers generated by Becoming were near-unprecedented in narrative non-fiction.

The book proved to be more personal and passionate than many had expected, full of honesty and emotional subtlety. It was a timely insight into big issues around race, gender and inequality, too. But while its popularity in the US was guaranteed, the success in the UK was surprising and remarkable.

Penguin General can take a lot of the credit for that, having dealt with numerous headaches around embargoes and security to give the book the best possible launch. It meticulously built a buzz way out from publication, and targeted infrequent readers and BAME communities in particular. Marketing didn’t let up after Obama went home, with sales snowballing right up to Christmas.



  • Everything I Know About Love
    Dolly Alderton
    (Fig Tree) Passion project for Penguin with brilliant marketing that drove 135,000 sales in all formats
  • The Secret Barrister
    The Secret Barrister
    (Picador) Insights into the legal pro- fession that overcame the obstacles of an anonymous author to post 165,000 sales across all editions
  • The Language of Kindness
    Christie Watson
    (Chatto & Windus) Nurse's memoir that struck a chord and flew into the bestseller lists after a Radio 4 “Book of the Week” slot
  • Fire and Fury
    Michael Wolff
    (Little, Brown) News agenda-setting story of the White House that began the publishing year with a bang and ended it with 165,000 sales
  • Becoming
    Michelle Obama
    (Viking) In just a month and a half at the end of 2018, Becoming sold more than half a million copies—or roughly 500 an hour
  • First Man In
    Ant Middleton
    (HarperNonFiction) Swashbuckling tales that somehow hit both military memoir and self-help markets. Also shortlisted for Audiobook of the Year