Literary Agent

Emma Bal

What I'm Looking For

New perspectives in history, arts & culture, politics, economics, philosophy, psychology, and science; original approaches to travel and nature writing; unusual illustrated projects; thoughtful and dynamic cookery and food writing; and atypical narrative non-fiction and memoir.


What I'm Looking For

Thought-provoking non-fiction

I am very keen to hear from writers who want to break new ground across a range of subjects as varied as history, psychology, neuroscience, visual arts, economics, philosophy, geography, literature, anthropology and politics.

The best kind of non-fiction books stand the test of time and go on to become classics in their fields, such as recent bestsellers The Silk Roads, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race and Three Women, as well as other favourites of mine: The Emperor of all MaladiesThe Black SwanThinking, Fast and Slow and The Body Keeps the Score. I am interested in finding writers who are ambitious in terms of the scope of their work and the level of success they want to achieve, authors whose ideas can cross continents and gain universal status. I am looking for academics ready to write their first trade book as well as experts who are looking to write definitive works on a lifetime of research for a wide readership.

I’m also very interested in biographies and group biographies that are characterful and illuminating, particularly ones that offer new ways of seeing well-known figures or bring to light previously overlooked stories. Some recent favourites include Square HauntingThe Invention of Nature and Black Spartacus. I’m also interested in hearing about illustrated projects that are beautiful and stimulating. I have recently loved Accidentally Wes AndersonAnimaliumCabin Porn and Atlas of Remote Islands.

Narrative non-fiction

I believe that narrative non-fiction can be just as gripping as the most thrilling fiction. There is great power in oral histories by writers like Svetlana Alexievich, Hallie Rubenhold and Lisa Taddeo, and I would like to find more writers willing to study and document important issues through storytelling which is poignant in a way that is distinct from more polemical works. I am looking for very singular memoirs where the person’s life experiences offer genuine insights like When Breath Becomes Air and My Name is Why. I also love humourous memoirs (we need more funny books!), like Priestdaddy and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.

I want to champion nature writers who better reflect my understanding of the countryside as shaped by my own upbringing in Cornwall as a person of mixed heritage. It’s clear that no future exploration of the land can be apolitical and ignore the climate crisis so I want to find voices who speak to this and who want to help make the climate crisis an issue that everyone feels they can engage with. I would really like to hear from travel writers too. In both these areas, I have been very excited by The Book of Trespass by Nick Hayes, Around the World in 80 Trains by Monisha Rajesh, Afropean by Johny Pitts and The Lost Pianos of Siberia by Sophy Roberts

Cookery and food writing

I am interested in the power of food to introduce other cultures and ideas. I love how Meera Sodha uses British seasonal food to celebrate Indian cuisine and how the Dishoom cookbook tells a story of the multi-faith success of Bombay and the Irani cafes. I want to hear from exciting and emerging cooks and voices that are thinking about food differently and cooking with a clear vision. I am interested in hybrid and distinctive works in this space, and writers who explore areas such as gastro-politics, sustainability, identity, history, memoir and anthropology. I really admire books like The Flavour ThesaurusMidnight ChickenFast Food Nation and The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Some favourite books

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang

Citizen by Claudia Rankine

Factfulness by Hans Rosling

African Europeans by Olivette Otele

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan

Chernobyl by Serhii Plokhy

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells

Humankind by Rutger Bregman

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

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