London Review of Books Announces 40th Anniversary Celebrations

7 Aug 2019 -


  • Magazine unveils headline events including a live edition of the Talking Politics podcast in the week of the Brexit deadline, with Rory Stewart; and the UK debut of the LRB’s New York series ‘Against the Grain’ with Anne Carson, Nico Muhly and Paul Muldoon, at Southbank Centre.
  • London Review of Books: An Incomplete History, a selection of never-before-seen letters, typescripts and artefacts from archives and personal collections in the UK and the US, will be published on 3 October. A launch event with Mary-Kay Wilmers, Nicholas Spice, Andrew O’Hagan and special guests will take place at Conway Hall.
  • Two anniversary issues of the LRB will be published in October.
  • Birthday gifts to include a limited edition facsimile of the first ever issue, dated 25 October 1979, featuring writing by William Empson, Emma Rothschild, Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes – plus Wynne Godley asking ‘if Britain will have to withdraw from Europe’.
  • The autumn will also see the relaunch of for the first time in a decade, with a comprehensive overhaul of the LRB’s web presence.

The London Review of Books, Europe’s leading magazine of culture and ideas, has today, Wednesday 31 July, announced the highlights of its programme of 40th anniversary activities, including events at the London Review Bookshop and beyond; the first ever history of the LRB, a coffee table book to be published by Faber and Faber; two special issues of the magazine, available from Wednesday 16 and Wednesday 30 October; and, looking forwards as well as back, the relaunch of the LRB website.

The month-long celebrations will begin with a launch event for London Review of Books: An Incomplete History at Conway Hall on Monday 7 October.

The book, a selection of unusual and resonant literary artefacts, offers an intimate insight into the evolution of the LRB and its relationships with some of the most important writers and thinkers of recent times, including Isaiah Berlin, Angela Carter, Bruce Chatwin, Jenny Diski, Martha Gellhorn, Christopher Hitchens, Frank Kermode, Oliver Sacks and Edward Said, plus the occasional prime minister and/or Nobel Prize-winner. Full of facsimiles of the letters, notebooks, drawings, postcards, fieldnotes, typescripts and, eventually, issues, in which publishing triumphs and disasters have played out for four decades, it also contains more than 100 captions and commentaries by the LRB’s editors, writers and friends, and introductory essays by Mary-Kay Wilmers (one of the paper’s founders and its editor since 1992) and editor-at-large Andrew O’Hagan.

The public launch will see Wilmers, O’Hagan and special guests from the paper’s past and present interviewed by LRB publisher Nicholas Spice about the life and times of the legendary paper, on Monday 7 October.

Mary-Kay Wilmers said: ‘Back in 1979, I’m not sure any of us would have held out much hope that the paper would still be going 40 years later. Yet here we are, with a circulation that’s grown from the low thousands to more than 75,000, new generations of writers and editors, and a new website that I don’t entirely disapprove of. The LRB’s future looks bright. What I’m less sure of is whether we’ve ever managed to produce another issue as good as the first one.’

A limited edition facsimile of Vol. 1 No. 1 will be part of a range of anniversary gifts, some featuring work by the founding designer of the LRB, the late Peter Campbell, exclusively available at the London Review Bookshop and on the LRB’s online store. From August through to the end of October, a year’s subscription to the LRB (plus a free tote bag) costs just £40/$40.

The London Review Bookshop will host a series of ‘birthday conversations’ throughout October, with star contributors and editors reflecting on the last four decades.

A live edition of the Talking Politics podcast, produced in partnership with the LRB, will see Rory Stewart interviewed by regular presenters David Runciman and Helen Thompson at a venue in Westminster in the week of the Brexit deadline.

The anniversary celebrations conclude with an evening of readings and music at Southbank Centre on 30 October. The LRB is bringing ‘Against the Grain’, the acclaimed literary-music series it presents in partnership with National Sawdust in Brooklyn, to the UK for the first time. Curated and presented by Paul Muldoon, it pairs writers with musicians to discuss and create art that speaks to the contrariness and complexity of our moment.

The autumn will also see the LRB relaunch its website for the first time in ten years, with a complete overhaul of its online presence – blog and newsletters, archive and podcasts.

Sign up for the LRB newsletter here for further information about the programme. Details of how to book tickets for the first anniversary events to go on sale may be found on the London Review Bookshop and the Southbank Centre websites. Remaining events will go on sale on Wednesday 14 August.