New Year, New Prize Lists!

Posted on 19th January 2024

Happy New Year, everyone. We hope you had a good break over Christmas, maybe with a little time to curl up with a good book alongside the whirl of visiting friends, family and social activities.

The literary year is off to a flying start with the recent announcement of the shortlists for The Writers’ Prize (formerly known as the Rathbones Folio Prize). The Prize, which rewards literary excellence, is open to all works of literature written in English and published in the UK in 2023. All genres and forms of literature are eligible, except work written primarily for children. (Other literary awards are well placed to recognise this area.)

The Writers’ Prize is unique in that there are no submissions of specific books by publishers. Instead, The Folio Academy – an international group of writers and critics immersed in the world of books – nominates and judges entrants for the Prize.

This year, there are three categories: Fiction, Non-Fiction and Poetry, with three shortlisted books in each category – and luckily, we love the Academy’s choices!

Fiction Category Shortlist

  • The Wren, The Wren by Anne Enright
  • The Bee Sting by Paul Murray
  • The Fraud by Zadie Smith

In Fiction, we have The Wren, The Wren by Anne Enright, one of Ireland’s finest writers and a Booker Prize Winner in 2007 for The Gathering. Enright’s latest novel, The Wren, The Wren, is “an exploration of the love between mother and daughter – sometimes fierce, often painful, but always transcendent”.

Also shortlisted is Paul Murray – another Irish writer! – for his funny, wise, thought-provoking novel The Bee Sting, “a tour de force about family, fortune and the struggle to be a good person when the world is falling apart”. This novel was also shortlisted for last year’s Booker Prize, so clearly one to watch.

Finally, in the Fiction category, we have The Fraud by Zadie Smith, author of the critically-acclaimed White Teeth. In The Fraud – her first historical novel – Smith “transports the readers to a Victorian England transfixed by the real-life trial of the Tichborne Claimant”. Sounds fascinating!

Non-Fiction Category Shortlist

  • Thunderclap: a memoir of life and art and sudden death by Laura Cumming
  • Doppelganger: a trip into the Mirror World by Naomi Klein
  • A Thread of Violence: a story of truth, invention and murder by Mark O’Connell

The Non-Fiction shortlist features Laura Cumming’s stunning memoir Thunderclap, which connects “the author’s life as an art critic with the vivid world of her father’s paintings and those of the Dutch Golden Age”. Cumming’s previous book, On Chapel Sands, was a big hit with readers, so we’re delighted to see her latest on this shortlist! 

Naomi Klein’s Doppelganger has featured on lots of reviewers’ Books of the Year lists. Weaving together elements of memoir, chilling reportage and piercing cultural analysis, Klein delves deep into what she terms “the Mirror World – our destabilised present, rife with doubles and confusion”. A vital read.

Finally, in the Non-Fiction category, we have Mark O’Connell’s A Thread of Violence, the compelling account of “a notorious double-murder, a political scandal and writer who found himself entangled in this strange, true story”. Reviews for this book have been excellent, so it’s good to see it being recognised here.

Poetry Category Shortlist

  • Self-Portrait As Othello by Jason Allen-Paisant
  • The Home Child by Liz Berry
  • Bright Fear by Mary Jean Chan

From a poetic memoir that imagines Othello in the urban landscapes of modern capital cities to a novel-in-verse about a child far from home to poems on identity and postcolonial legacy, there is much for readers to discover in this wide-ranging category.

If you’d like to read any of the books on these shortlists, they can be ordered from our bookshops. Alternatively, you can buy them here from our online shop.

The Writers’ Prize Category Winners and Overall Book of the Year will be announced on 13th March 2024. Good luck to all the shortlisted writers and publishers!

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