The New Statesman is embarking on “a new chapter” in its book coverage.
Tom Gatti, previously culture editor of the magazine, was appointed to head of books and features earlier this month, as part of a raft of changes in 2018. Former literary editor at the Sunday Telegraph Michael Prodger has become reviews editor while Anna Leszkiewicz has become deputy culture editor for the magazine, after previously writing on culture for its website.
In his new role, Gatti will oversee ‘long reads’ in the front half of the magazine as well as overseeing books and culture coverage in the back.
He told The Bookseller: “This year does mark a new chapter, as the books desk, along with the NS team in general, is growing.
“The upshot of this is that there is more commissioning and editing energy and in my role I am able to bridge the front and back half more effectively, which means more cross-pollination and more books-related features and encounters in the front half.”
The observations section, which was taken over by the magazine’s political editor George Eaton last year, has also become a “showcase for authors” such as David Brooks, Tom Stoppard and Rebecca Solnit, while the recently launched back page Q&A has hosted writers such as Mary Beard to David Sedaris.
Regular contributors include authors such as Ali Smith, Eimear McBride, and William Boyd. In recent years the New Statesman has featured original short fiction and poetry by Jeanette Winterson, Chigozie Obioma, Simon Armitage, as well as “a host of rising stars” such as Sally Rooney and Andrew McMillan.
Gatti described the focus on books as going back a decade to when Jason Cowley became editor. C owley was formerly literary editor for the magazine as well as Booker Prize judge and editor of Granta.
Gatti said: “Since I joined from the Times four years ago I’ve always been given generous space and resources to make the best possible section, and we decided to focus on longer, more in-depth reviews." With Cowley he signed up former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams as a lead book reviewer and added Erica Wagner as a contributing writer.
In 2013 the New Statesman co-founded the Goldsmiths Prize with the London university and launched accompanying lectures two years ago. In 2014 the magazine launched a media partnership with Cambridge Literary Festival while a rolling arrangement began in 2016 with the Man Booker Prize, which sees Gatti run the first live event with the winner.
Gatti described the publication as “in rude health”. He said: “Last year we had a record online audience, with an average of 2.3 million unique visitors each month, and circulation is growing at around 35,000.”
The magazine’s beefed up books coverage follows news earlier this month that two literary magazines are winning more readers. The Times Literary Supplement is now the UK’s fastest growing weekly magazine after sales climbed 20% year-on-year. The London Review of Books has also received a boost of around 5% to its already significant readership, according to a spokesperson. Meanwhile, last month, City AM launched a monthly book review section with Francesca Washtell as its books editor.
Last summer, concerns grew over reduced space for books in the media. Publications which had recently scaled back reviews or book-related articles included the Guardian’s website, Glamour magazine and the Press Association.