John Farndon - home

“Where there is shouting, there is no true knowledge.” said Leonardo da Vinci, and here on this website I hope to quietly introduce you to some of my work as a writer – of books, plays and music. Some of it is simply a catalogue, a rundown of the books I have written, the songs and plays that have made it into the world. But there are other things here simply to be discovered, such as my occasional podcast The Thinking Cap.

“John Farndon is committed to the idea that 'the proper study of mankind is Man’”
Michael Douglas Porter, Amazon review of ‘The World’s Greatest Idea’

“John Farndon’s book celebrates being 'clever' in its widest possible sense, championing the free thinker, the alternative, the individual, the power of deep thought.”
Judges Comments, Society of Authors Education Award, 2010 on “Do You Think You’re Clever



Russian and Uzbek translations
I have just translated a collection of Uzbek poems for inclusion in brilliant Uzbek author Hamid Ismailov's new book, The Devil's Dance, due out in spring 2018. I am now working on translating for the first time, a collection of lyrics and poems, by the legendary Russian singer songwriter Vladimir Vysotsky.

From the History of the World to the workings of the Universe
A follow up to the best-selling Stuff You Should Know about the Human Body with its fantastic steampunk artworks, I'm now doing Stuff You Should Know about the Earth, which is an elf's eye view of geology....

Art? or Politics? It's a riot
I'm running a series of evenings of music, poetry, spoken word and ideas, Art? or Politics? It's a riot...  featuring inspirational people and performers such as Zoe Wren, Kim Lowings, Martin Daws, Lola Perrin, Margo Perin, Leesa Gazi, Maya Foa, Joshua Agbo, Igor Outkine and many more.

Secret science stories
Developing a fantastic project with Docklands Sinfonia to tell epic science stories to children with an orchestral backing and a film


The Whisperers
A story for young and old about the whisperers, special magical beings whose task is to spread knowledge, and their secret battle with The Obscurants, the dark forces who enslave us all by hiding the truth.



April 2018
Fabulous reviews for the English translation of Hamid Ismailov's The Devil's Dance for which I contributed the poetry in the Financial Times, The Economist and New Statesman. The Asian Review said "Translating a novel from Uzbek would be challenging at the best of times; but translating poetry into a readable English equivalent is quite an extraordinary achiievement."


November 2017

Two poems have come out of the Art? Or Politics evenings, including Grenfell No More and Mutually Assured Redemption

The most recent event had some fabulous performances including this from Kim Lowings and this from Zoe Wren, and a wonderful set from Martin Daws and Huw V Willams.

My translation of Kazakh poet Galym Mutanov's work was hailed as 'a landmark in world literature.'

My series of little books about the human body got glowing Amazon reader reviews.


January 2017

My translation with Olga Nakston of Lidia Grigorieva's poems in a collection entitled Shards from the Polar Ice has been nominated for the The Best Translated Book Award, The Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize

My translation with Olga Nakston and Bota Soltan of Anatoly Kucherena's Time of the Octopus, the fictionalized memoirs of whistleblower Edward Snowden has been published by Glagoslav to coincide with the UK launch of Oliver Stone's film Snowden which was inspired by the book

My children's picture book Stuff You Should Know about the Human Body has been published in English, French, German and a number of other languages.


October 2016

My translation with Olga Nakston of Lidia Grigorieva's poems in a collection entitled Shards from the Polar Ice has been nominated for the Griffin Poetry Prize 2017

I'll be in Cardiff on 21st November for the awards ceremony for Royal Society Young People's book prize 2016.

My fun children's book Stuff You Should Know about the Human Body is off to the printers, due for publication in the New Year


May 2016

My book Project Body is on the shortlist for the Royal Society Young People's book prize 2016.

Amazing trip to Kazakhstan, thanks to the great Kazakh writer Rollan Sesyenbaev, including celebrations of the 1000th anniversary of poet al-Farabi and journeying across the steppes where Chingis Khan raised his army to the last remote home of the great Kazakh poet Abai.

December 2015

My song Peace in my Heart with Dave Swarbrick and Kelvin Thomson on Folkstock's The Christmas Present is getting played on Dave Chamberlain's show on Blues and Roots, and Pete Englefield's country show. I just uploaded a live version. There's a couple of other versions on YouTube. This with Siri on vocals, and this with me and Eliza S


A selection of my lyric poems is being translated into Kazakh and Russian for publication next spring.


Lola Perrin and I compiled this track as a gentle reminder of what matters. Only Love Can Do That


Absurdly complementary review in Kirkus of my children's books on megafast vehicles. "An insanely joyful collection of  - well call them electricifying biographies of very fast trucks...With considerable panache, Farndon bestows these beasts with their own brand of beauty."


Merry Christmas to all!!! 


November 2015
The paperback version of Do You Still Think You're Clever? is out, retitled So You Think You're Clever?  It's also out in Korea and Turkey. I just did a long interview with Korea's leading newspaper Chosun daily about it.

The Sherlock Holmes Book and The Movie Book are out and nicely received.


August 2015
Great reviews for my libretto for La Boheme, 'superb, contemporary English libretto' (London Theatre), 'a fine job' (idncard), 'a sharp new translation' (Plays to See) and in British Theatre, 'the production scores a palpable hit with John Farndon’s witty, slightly knowing, but entirely plausible contemporary translation' and 'there are some very funny episodes in this production, and they take their origin from the brio and sheer quality of the writing.'


August 2015
My new libretto for Puccini's La Boheme is opening at the Arcola on 4th August as part of the Grimeborn Festival

July 2015
Just recording voice over for the opening of the fantastic new Hydropolis multi-media museum about water in Wroclaw, Poland, ready for Wroclaw to be European City of Culture 2016

May 2015
I'm performing science stories for children at the Moscow Polytech festival, with music by Natali Drosou, with additional music by Petr Theremin and Rebecca Moloney

April 2015
The Shakespeare Book (Dorling Kindersley) has come out. Stanley Wells was consultant and I wrote about half of it.

March 2015
Working on The Sherlock Holmes book for Dorling Kindersley and The Movie Book

December 2014

Looking forward to the Christmas Cauldron on Sunday 21st December!

Last day of my first term as Royal Literary Fellow at Anglia Ruskin! Amazingly intense, but so rewarding!

Just had a great interview with Simon Rose on Share Radio about my new book Do You Still Think You're Clever?

The Sunday Times selected The Christmas Present featuring my song with Dave Swarbrick as one of their essential albums for Christmas  - along with Robbie Williams and Leonard Cohen!  "Dave Swarbrick, a member of folk's old guard, helps out on John Farndon's elegiac 'Peace in My Heart', There isn't a weak link to be found" Clive Davis.

Danny Farragher on Folk-All describes it as 'a really thought-provoking ballad that does have the feel of a hybrid between a carol and a traditional music hall song.'


The Daily Telegraph does a fun feature on 'Do You Still Think You're Clever?', entitled "Could you answer the toughest question?'


My song "Peace in My Heart" with Dave Swarbrick and Kelvin Thomson is included on Folkstock's The Christmas Present album.



November 2014

I talk at the Camden School for Girls Literary Festival


My book Do You Still Think You're Clever? is published by Icon books



September 2014

I start at Anglia Ruskin in Cambridge as Royal Literary Fellow, giving advice on writing to students


June 2014

John begins work on The Shakespeare Book for Dorling Kindersley with Stanley Wells


May 2014

John's translations with Olga Nakston of poems by Lidia Grigorieva will be published by Glagoslav

John sang his song Peace in My Heart with the legendary Dave Swarbrick on the last date of his tour.

April 2014

John's recording of his song 'Peace in My Heart' is selected by the legendary folk fiddler Dave Swarbrick for Folkstock's Passing the Baton EP to launched in 5th April, with a fabulous violin line added by Dave himself. "'s a masterpiece" (Dave Swarbrick)

Passing the Baton gets a great review in Fatea.

Passing the Baton is featured on Brian Player's Acoustic Radio show, syndicated to stations such as Blues and Roots.

John will sing the song on the last date of Dave Swarbrick's tour, 24th May at Harpenden Public Halls.



March 2014

John's song for the Christmas Cauldron  'Diamonds in her Eyes' hits 5,000 hits on YouTube. You can catch other Cauldron performances on the Cauldron's YouTube channel


John is offered a Royal Literary Fellowship at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge


July 2013

Do You Still Think You're Clever? a sequel to the best-selling Do You Think You're Clever? commissioned by Icon Books

The Cauldron series of magical evenings of ideas, music and poetry continues

John is invited to present three of his translations of Lydia Grigorieva's poems at the Festival La Lyre émigrée in Liege in Belgium: Lydia Grigorieva will read translations of three of John's poems into Russianeee

John is interviewed at various locations about Victorian master criminal Adam Worth for a Pioneer TV documentary on Scotland Yard.


June 2012

John is acclaimed for his readings of his translations with Olga Nakston of celebrated Russian poet  Lydia Grigorieva 

John performs his music poem I need you with Lola Perrin at the Cauldron



July 2012

The World's Greatest Idea reaches no.7 on the Amazon UK Kindle chart.

Do You Think You’re Clever? is selected as Apple iTunes/Starbucks book of the week, w/c 2nd July.

Random House imprint Square Peg sign up to publish John Farndon's 'Know-all: a handy guide for the Renaissance Man and Woman"


June 2012

Do Not Open is a best-seller in Russia and John Farndon  appears at the Moscow Open Book Festival


June 2012

Peace in my heart hits 10,000 views on YouTube


Spring 2012
Do You Think You’re Clever?” reaches the top 20 best-sellers in Turkey.

John Farndon’s song “This Baby Sleeps” is published by Josef Weinberger.

John Farndon's Atlas of Oceans is selected by Canada's biggest newspaper, The Globe and Mail, as one of their 2011 gift books on Nature & Science


Discover the Extreme World is one of four books on the Blue Peter Book Awards 2012 shortlist


Do You Think You’re Clever?returns to number 1 on Germany's kindle charts 


March 2012: The World's Greatest Idea is number 1 Germany's kindle chart


John Farndon's translation of Spanish Golden Age playwright Lope de Vega's play El Perro del Hortelano ('Dog in a Manger') is featured on the new 'Out of the Wings' website. Another (La Dama Boba - 'Mad for Love') will appear soon


Featured books and songs

My Christmas song for Syrian refugees Diamonds in Her Eyes has notched up over 15,000 views on YouTube.

An important message for our times with music by Lola Perrin: Only Love Can Do That

You can hear my performance of my song Peace in My Heart with the late great Dave Swarbrick, courtesy of Helen Meissner.

My musical poem I Need You performed at the Cauldron.

St Petersburg group Koleso made beautiful recordings of three of my songs: The Closed Door; The Sleep of Winter; and This Baby Sleeps

A terrific performance of my song Crime of the Heart by Anthony Cable with Sam Cable



The World’s Greatest Idea
"writing that is both witty and insightful. As a history buff, I enjoyed this book immensely..."
Myles Gough, Cosmos science magazine, Australia

This Baby Sleeps
“My personal favourite though has to be the John Farndon song, This Baby Sleeps: a stunningly tender and luxurious song, with beautiful piano accompaniments and what is undoubtedly Whitefield’s best vocal.”

Julie Robinson "Public Review" on  ‘Beyond the Gate’ CD