The PEN Ackerley Prize is awarded each year to a volume of autobiography by a British author. It was founded in 1982 in memory of the writer and editor J.R. Ackerley. Originally endowed by his sister Nancy West,  it is now funded by the royalties received for  Ackerley’s books, and remains the only British prize for autobiography. 

The judges do not accept submissions by publishers but call in books themselves, and are looking for ones that display the high standards Ackerley himself set in My Dog Tulip and My Father and Myself-  enquiring, absolutely candid and, above all, very well written. 

The judges are the Trustees of J.R. Ackerley Memorial Trust are all themselves writers, currently Ackerley’s biographer, Peter Parker (chair); the playwright, food writer and historian Colin Spencer; the novelist and short story writer Georgina Hammick; and the biographer and critic Claire Harman. Former judges include the novelist Francis King, the biographer Michael Holroyd, the editor of Ackerley’s letters, Neville Braybrooke, and the biographer and historian Richard Davenport-Hines. 

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Winners of the

PEN Ackerley Prize

The Terrible

Yrsa Daley-Ward

Penguin Books 2019

Dead Babies and Seaside Towns

Alice Jolly

Unbound 2016

Leaving Alexandria: A Memoir of Faith and Doubt

Richard Holloway

Canongate Books 2013

Direct Red

Gabriel Weston

Cape 2010

Keeping Mum

Brian Thompson

Atlantic Books 2007

Clouds of Glory-A Hoxton Childhood

Bryan Magee

Jonathan Cape 2004

Bad Blood

Lorna Sage

4th Estate 2001

True to Both My Selves

Kathrin Fitzherbert

Virago 1998

Something in Linoleum

Paul Vaughan

Sinclair-Stevenson 1995

Almost a Gentleman

John Osborne

Faber & Faber 1992

The Grass Arena

John Healy

Faber & Faber 1989

Time and Time Again

Dan Jacobson

Flamingo 1986

Her People

Kathleen Dayus
Joint winner

Virago 1983

The Day That Went Missing

Richard Beard

Harvill Secker 2018

Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery

Henry Marsh

Weidnfeld & Nicolson 2015

How to Disappear

Duncan Fallowell

Ditto Press 2012

The Three of Us

Julia Blackburn

Vintage 2009

Untold Stories

Alan Bennett

Faber & Faber 2006

Stranger on a Train

Jenny Diski

Virago 2003

Child of My Time

Mark Frankland

Sinclair-Stevenson 2000

The Scent of Dried Roses

Tim Lott

Penguin Classics 1997

And When Did You Last See Your Father?

Blake Morrison

Granta Books 1994

St Martin's Ride

Paul Binding

Secker & Warburg 1991

Little Wilson & Big God

Anthony Burgess

Penguin Books Ltd 1988



Deceived with Kindness

Angelica Garnett

Harcourt 1985

High Path

Ted Walker
Joint winner

Routledge & Kegan Paul 1983

The Outrun

Amy Liptrot

Canongate 2017


Sonali Deraniyagla

Virago 2014

My Father's Fortune

Michael Frayn

Faber & Faber 2011

In My Father's House

Miranda Seymour

Simon & Schuster 2008

Half An Arch

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy

Timewell Press 2005

Out of India: a Raj Childhood

Michael Foss

Michael O'Mara Books 2002

Precious Lives

Margaret Forster

Vintge 1999

The Railway Man

Eric Lomax

Vintage 1996

More, Please

Barry Humphries

Viking 1993

Daddy We Hardly Knew You

Germaine Greer

Randon House USA Inc 1990

After a Funeral

Diana Athill

Hamish Hamilton 1987

Still Life – Sketches from a Tunbridge Wells Childhood

Richard Cobb

Chatto & Windus 1984

Shaky Relations

Edward Blishen

David & Charles 1982

© The Estate of J.R. Ackerley 2019