Join BookBrowse today and get access to free books, our twice monthly digital magazine, and more.

Simon Winchester biography

Author Biography  | Interview  | Books by this Author  | Read-Alikes

Simon Winchester

Simon Winchester

Simon Winchester Biography

Simon Winchester, OBE, a British writer, journalist and broadcaster, was born in north London on 28th September 1944, the only child of Bernard and Andrée Winchester (née deWael).

Though not Catholic, he was educated first at a boarding convent in Bridport, Dorset and later at Hardye's School, Dorchester, Dorset. After taking time off to hitch-hike around Canada and the United States for almost a year between leaving school and entering university, he went up to Oxford in 1963, to read geology at St. Catherine's College.

After graduation in 1966 he joined a Canadian mining company, Falconbridge of Africa, and worked as field geologist in Uganda, looking for copper deposits in the foothills of the Ruwenzori Mountains, close to the border with Congo.

He then made a sudden and unexpected switch to journalism in 1967, a short while after reading, while in a jungle camp in Uganda, a copy of Coronation Everest by James (now Jan) Morris. After being employed on an offshore oil rig in the North Sea for some months, all the while applying for work on a variety of newspapers which, not unreasonably, displayed little interest in hiring so inexperienced a candidate, Winchester was eventually offered the chance to work as a junior reporter on The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

In 1969 he joined The Guardian, first as the Newcastle upon Tyne-based regional correspondent and later as Northern Ireland Correspondent, based in Belfast. He was also briefly detached from Ireland to Calcutta, to undertake his first foreign assignment for the newspaper, covering the war that led to the independence from Pakistan of the new Bengali homeland of Bangladesh.

In 1972 he was posted to Washington, DC, as America correspondent, and spent much of the following four years covering the Watergate affair, the resignation of President Nixon and the election to the White House of Jimmy Carter. It was also during this period that, on the urging of the noted Faber editor Charles Monteith (who edited the poet Philip Larkin and discovered William Golding's Lord of the Flies) Winchester wrote his first book, In Holy Terror, an account of his reporting years in Ireland.

It was in New York that his recent good fortune as an author began, with the publication in 1998 of The Professor and the Madman, a book about a forgotten American player in the extraordinary story of the making of the Oxford English Dictionary. His books include The Man Who Loved China, about the life of the remarkable Cambridge scholar-eccentric Joseph Needham and Atlantic: A Biography of the Ocean.

He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) 'for services to journalism and literature' in the New Year Honours list for 2006. He was elected an Honorary Fellow of St. Catherine's College, Oxford, in October 2009.

Simon Winchester, who is married to the former NPR producer Setsuko Sato, lives in New York and on a small farm in the Berkshires. His interests include letterpress printing, bee-keeping, astronomy, stamp-collecting, model railways and cider-making.

Simon Winchester's website

This bio was last updated on 03/21/2023. In a perfect world, we would like to keep all of BookBrowse's biographies up to date, but with many thousands of lives to keep track of it's simply impossible to do. So, if the date of this bio is not recent, you may wish to do an internet search for a more current source, such as the author's website or social media presence. If you are the author or publisher and would like us to update this biography, send the complete text and we will replace the old with the new.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Interview

In two separate articles Simon Winchester discusses three of his books: The Man Who Loved China, Krakatoa and The Professor and The Madman.

In two separate articles Simon Winchester discusses The Man Who Loved China, Krakatoa and The Professor and The Madman.

A Back-Story to The Man Who Loved China
A Coincidence Most Curious and Telling

During the final months of 2006, when I was starting the actual writing of this book, I found I had developed a habit: I would ask people—all sorts of people, relatives and friends, complete and total strangers—if they had ever heard of the man about whom I was writing: Joseph Needham. I thought I had fair reason. I had no doubt but that, considering his extraordinary achievements in helping the world understand the enigma that is China, he should by rights be a vastly famous man. Yet I had to accept that he was not and that most people would look back blankly on being asked, What do you know about Joseph Needham? So I thought that by asking around, by trying to find out just how well or how little he was known, I would come to realize the magnitude of the task that lay ahead of me—which was helping to make him just as well-known as his achievements suggest he deserves. What sort of people did know of him, I wondered, and what kind did not? Such knowledge would, I thought, allow me ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Books by this Author

Books by Simon Winchester at BookBrowse
Knowing What We Know jacket The Perfectionists jacket Pacific jacket The Men Who United the States jacket
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Read-Alikes

All the books below are recommended as read-alikes for Simon Winchester but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose read-alikes

  • Diane Ackerman

    Diane Ackerman

    Poet, essayist, and naturalist, Diane Ackerman is the author of many highly acclaimed works of nonfiction, including A Natural History of the Senses -- a book beloved by readers all over the world and the volumes Deep Play, A... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Pacific

    Try:
    The Human Age
    by Diane Ackerman

  • Jasper Becker

    Jasper Becker

    Jasper Becker is a British author, commentator and journalist who has spent two decades as a foreign correspondent mostly in China. Becker has contributed features to Vanity Fair, National Geographic, Marie Claire, Travel & ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    The Man Who Loved China

    Try:
    The Chinese
    by Jasper Becker

We recommend 46 similar authors


Non-members can see 2 results. Become a member
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Clear
    Clear
    by Carys Davies
    John Ferguson is a principled man. But when, in 1843, those principles drive him to break from the ...
  • Book Jacket: Change
    Change
    by Edouard Louis
    Édouard Louis's 2014 debut novel, The End of Eddy—an instant literary success, published ...
  • Book Jacket: Big Time
    Big Time
    by Ben H. Winters
    Big Time, the latest offering from prolific novelist and screenwriter Ben H. Winters, is as ...
  • Book Jacket: Becoming Madam Secretary
    Becoming Madam Secretary
    by Stephanie Dray
    Our First Impressions reviewers enjoyed reading about Frances Perkins, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Half a Cup of Sand and Sky
by Nadine Bjursten
A poignant portrayal of a woman's quest for love and belonging amid political turmoil.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The House on Biscayne Bay
    by Chanel Cleeton

    As death stalks a gothic mansion in Miami, the lives of two women intertwine as the past and present collide.

  • Book Jacket

    The Flower Sisters
    by Michelle Collins Anderson

    From the new Fannie Flagg of the Ozarks, a richly-woven story of family, forgiveness, and reinvention.

Win This Book
Win The Funeral Cryer

The Funeral Cryer by Wenyan Lu

Debut novelist Wenyan Lu brings us this witty yet profound story about one woman's midlife reawakening in contemporary rural China.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

M as A H

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.