Londoner John Farndon is a writer of non-fiction books, and a playwright, lyricist, composer and literary translator. Spurred by intense intellectual curiosity, his interests range widely and he writes on topics from chemistry to China — he’s currently writing the hubristically conceived Omnipaedia, about how to know everything. Another current project is Do You Still Think You’re Clever?, a follow-up to his successful Do You Think You’re Clever?: the Oxbridge questions.
An urge to inspire and inform is a common thread in his work, evident in his acclaimed Atlas of Oceans on endangered life in the oceans, and in mentoring students on everything from surveying to fashion. He’s written hundreds of books, sold around the world — including the bestselling Do Not Open, a cult hit in both the USA and Russia — and has contributed to major reference works such as The Economics Book. He wrote more for children at first and was shortlisted four times for the junior Science Books prize; now he writes mostly for adults.
His works for stage have been performed at theatres such as the Donmar and Almeida in London and his songs by artists from Russian folkgroup Koleso to West End stars. Now he’s venturing out to perform himself, reading his poetry, performing his songs, and hosting the Cauldron evenings in Islington that stir together writers, thinkers and musicians — and anyone with an idea. In 2014 he recorded one of his songs with legendary folk-fiddler Dave Swarbrick for a showcase EP of new acoustic music; he also performed on Swarbrick’s tour.