Adult Non-Fiction Cover Award

The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future by David Wallace-Wells

'In crystalline prose, Wallace-Wells provides a devastating overview of where we are in terms of climate crisis and ecological destruction, and what the future will hold if we keep on going down the same path. Urgently readable, this is an epoch-defining book’ – Guardian 

Without a revolution in how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth could become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.

In his travelogue of our near future, David Wallace-Wells brings into stark relief the climate troubles that await – food shortages, refugee emergencies, and other crises that will reshape the globe. But the world will be remade by warming in more profound ways as well, transforming our politics, our culture, our relationship to technology, and our sense of history. It will be all-encompassing, shaping and distorting nearly every aspect of human life as it is lived today.

The Uninhabitable Earth is both a meditation on the devastation we have brought upon ourselves and an impassioned call to action. 

  • The Uninhabitable Earth

    Selected as a Book of the Year 2019 by the SUNDAY TIMES, SPECTATOR and NEW STATESMAN

    'If you read just one work of non-fiction this year, it should probably be this ... what this book forces you to face is more important than any other subject' David Sexton, Evening Standard

    It is worse, much worse, than you think.

    The slowness of climate change is a fairy tale, perhaps as pernicious as the one that says it isn't happening at all, and if your anxiety about it is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today.

    Over the past decades, the term "Anthropocene" has climbed into the popular imagination - a name given to the geologic era we live in now, one defined by human intervention in the life of the planet. But however sanguine you might be about the proposition that we have ravaged the natural world, which we surely have, it is another thing entirely to consider the possibility that we have only provoked it, engineering first in ignorance and then in denial a climate system that will now go to war with us for many centuries, perhaps until it destroys us. In the meantime, it will remake us, transforming every aspect of the way we live-the planet no longer nurturing a dream of abundance, but a living nightmare.

  • Find out more about the book

The Brief

‘Relentless, angry journalism of the highest order’ Sunday Times

‘Most of us know the gist, if not the details, of the climate change crisis. And yet it is almost impossible to sustain strong feelings about it. David Wallace-Wells has now provided the details, and with writing that is not only clear and forceful, but often imaginative and even funny, he has found a way to make the information deeply felt. This is a profound book, which simultaneously makes me terrified and hopeful about the future, full of regret and new will’ Jonathan Safran Foer

Timely and provocative, this New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling book has helped climate change to take centre-stage in our everyday news, coinciding with new green movements lead by Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg.

The cover design needs to reflect the themes and message of the book in a clear and engaging way and appeal to the broadest possible audience.

Your cover design needs to include all the cover copy supplied and be designed to the specified design template – B format, 198mm high x 129mm wide, spine width 20mm. Please refer to the Submissions Details page for full details on how to submit your entry.

Copyright must be cleared for all images used in your cover design and you must include a credit line on the back cover of your design for any third-party images used. For example: ‘Cover photograph by Joe Bloggs’.

Read before you start designing

We recommend that you read the book before you start on your design in order to get a sense of the themes and of the author’s voice. If you would like to be sent a link to download a free digital copy or an audiobook please register your request here.

What the judges are looking for:

We are looking for a striking cover design that is well executed, has an imaginative concept and clearly places the book for its market. 

While all elements of the cover (front, back and spine) need to work together, remember that the front cover has to be able to work on its own, and to be eye-catching within a crowded bookshop setting as well as on screen at a reduced size for digital retailers.

The winning design will need to:

  • have an imaginative concept
  • be an original interpretation of the brief
  • be competently executed with strong use of typography
  • appeal to the broadest possible audience for the book
  • show a good understanding of the marketplace
  • have a point of difference from other books that it will be competing against in the market
  • be able to sit on the shelves of a supermarket or ebook store as easily as it sits on those of more traditional bookshops 

The Prizes

1st Prize

The winner of each category will receive a cash prize of £1,000 and be invited to spend four weeks in the Penguin Random House Design Studios on a work placement* if it can be offered as part of the prize, working on live briefs. The work placement will be paid at the current London Living Wage rate (subject to any applicable taxation).

*Subject to agreeing terms in advance. Entrants must be eligible to work in the UK. The provision of a work placement prize shall be subject to any corporate policies, government guidelines, laws or other recommendations issued or in force at the time as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic or otherwise.

2nd Prize

The winner of the 2nd Prize will receive a £500 cash prize.

3rd Prize

The winner of the 3rd Prize will receive a £350 cash prize.

All the shortlisted entrants will be invited to an award ceremony* where the winners will be announced, and at which an exhibition of all the shortlisted designs will be on display.

*Subject to any corporate policies, government guidelines, laws or other recommendations issued or in force at the time in relation to public gatherings as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic or otherwise

The Judges

Penguin Random House Judges

Richard Bravery

Richard Bravery – Art Director, Penguin General Books

Richard studied Illustration at Falmouth and has an MA in Typography from London College of Printing. After graduating Richard worked in a variety of creative industries including Furniture Design, before embarking on a career in Cover Design firstly at 4th Estate and then with Penguin, where he has worked since 2007. As Art Director for Penguin General, he works on a wide-ranging list of authors including Zadie Smith, Dave Eggers, John le Carré and Alain De Botton. 

Joanna Prior

Lee Motley – Art Director, Michael Joseph

After graduating from the University of Westminster, Lee took a junior designer position at Harper Collins Publishers. After 19 years, she left her role as Art Director to join Penguin Books as Deputy Art Director to John Hamilton. For the next few years Lee designed and art-directed for both Penguin General and Michael Joseph, on a range of fiction and non-fiction titles. Now, as Art Director for Michael Joseph, she works on a wide range of new talent and established authors including Marian Keyes, Jamie Oliver, Dawn French and Jojo Moyes.

Jim Stoddart

Jim Stoddart – Art Director, Penguin Press

After graduating in Sheffield, Jim took a placement at Bill Smith Studio in London, which turned into a job designing record and CD covers for such labels as EMI, Virgin, BMG, Mute and Trojan Records. Five years later he joined Penguin, where he worked as a cover designer for eighteen months, and then he went to work with Chris Ashworth under Lewis Blackwell at Getty Images for twelve months. In 2001 he returned to Penguin as Art Director of Penguin Press, where he has overseen the redesign and rebranding of Penguin Classics, Penguin Modern Classics and Pelican Books, as well as designing and art-directing covers for Penguin’s Allen Lane hardback imprint, the Particular Books imprint and Penguin non-fiction paperbacks.

Guest Judges

To be announced in 2021

Get insight from Junior Designers



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