A Bite of the Apple: A Life with Books, Writers and Virago

ISBN : 9780198828754

Lennie Goodings
320 ページ
134 x 200 mm
  • A behind-the-scenes glimpse of the history and workings of Virago Press
  • Explores the idea of idealistic publishing via Virago's journey from its early days of independence, through its various commercial incarnations
  • Casts light on Virago and the feminist movement, but also on any small and passionate publishing enterprise

'The moment I got my job at Virago in 1978 I knew it would be a long time before I would leave. I certainly wouldn't have had the brazen hope then-only twenty-five and very recently new to Britain-that I would ever become the Publisher, but I did know that I had found my home: where books, ideas, politics, imagination, feminism, and business was the air we breathed . . .'
A Bite of the Apple is part-memoir, part history of Virago, and part thoughts on over forty years of feminist publishing. This is the story of how the authors and staff who, driven by passion, conviction and excitement, have made Virago Press one of the most important and influential English-language publishers in the world. Lennie Goodings has been with the iconic press founded by Carmen Callil almost since the start. First a publicist and then for over twenty years, publisher and editor, she has worked with extraordinary authors: Margaret Atwood, Marilynne Robinson, Sarah Waters, Linda Grant, Natasha Walter, Naomi Wolf and Maya Angelou among many others.
Virago has been a life-changer for Lennie Goodings - but certainly not only for her. Following the chronology of the press and the enormous breadth of the Virago titles published over these years, she sets her story in the context of feminism, and segues into thoughts on editing, post-feminism, reading, breaking boundaries, and the Virago Modern Classics. Virago lives within the tension between idealism and pragmatism; between sisterhood and celebrity; between watching feminism wax and wane at the same time as knowing so many of the battles are still to be won. This book is about how it felt to be there.
A Bite of the Apple is a celebration of writing, of publishing, and of reading.



Part One: A New Kind of Being
1: First Bites: The early years
2: Setting the world on fire
3: The acceptable face of feminism? Why not!

Part Two: The Books
4: The Virago Modern Classics
5: Fuck the Patriarchy!: Nonfiction
6: What Stories Can Do: Fiction

Part Three: The Politics: office and otherwise
7: The Dramas
8: Disrupting the old stories
9: Beyond Borders
10: Up, Down and Up Again

Part Four: The Power to Publish is a Wonderful Thing
11: The Intimacy of Editing
12: Does any other successful publisher get asked constantly if they are still necessary?
13: Why can't a man read like a woman?
14: Giving and taking courage


Lennie Goodings, Publisher, Virago Press
Lennie Goodings is Chair of the UK publishing house Virago Press. Her authors include, amongst many others, Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou, Sarah Waters, Natasha Walter, Sandi Toksvig and Marilynne Robinson. Goodings was part of Virago's management buy-out team of five who created a newly independent Virago in 1987 and became the Publishing Director in 1992. In 1995 Virago was sold to Little, Brown where Goodings remained the Publisher and Editorial Director. She stepped back from that position in 2017 and became Virago Chair, still editing and commissioning her authors. Lennie Goodings won the Bookseller's Industry Award: Editor and Imprint of the Year in 2010 and A Lifetime's Achievement at WOW, London's Southbank Women of the World festival in 2018. Born in Canada, she came to London in her early twenties and has remained there since. She is married with two children. Working with authors and books is her passion.

"An immersive, lovingly written memoir, whose story resonates beyond publishing." - Johanna Thomas-Corr, The Sunday Times

"Moving and hugely inspiring ... As a cultural history, A Bite of the Apple is clear. As a reminder of female artists' ongoing fight for space and respect, it's necessary. As a riff on writers and writing, it's essential." - Bidisha, The Observer

"A Bite of the Apple feels effortless, and so alive to the conversations about women's rights today ...[Goodings'] voice is engaging and full of warmth." - Julie Vuong, BookBrunch

"Brilliant." - Julie Vuong, BookBrunch, What We're Reading

"All an apple should be: crisp, tart but sweet, steeped in mysterious history and tangled symbolism, and not a bad missile when it comes to alleyway combat. Oh, and delicious!" - Margaret Atwood, on Twitter

"There is so very much to enjoy -and learn about- in this engaging book. We meet a young Lennie from Canada, in love with books, who lands a job at Virago and over the years survives and steers many of its changes to ensure its safety and vibrancy. Along the way, we track the changes in the publishing industry, feminist practice, and encounter the magnificence of Virago authors. A wonderful memoir and such a great read." - Susie Orbach

"An indispensable piece of feminist history; nothing less than the exciting story of how women found their voice and made society listen. I enjoyed it hugely." - Caroline Criado Perez

"Lively, frank, fascinating and above all, inspiring. A celebration of boldness: of wanting something better and making change happen." - Sarah Waters

"Behind every great book there is a great editor. And behind every feminist press, a remarkable set of women. Lennie Goodings is one of both." - Sarah Dunant

"A fascinating, charming and sometimes fierce, but always beguiling memoir... A celebration of the power of women supporting women." - Kate Mosse

"Enthralling ...the best book I've read on publishing since Diana Athill's Stet." - Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller