British Book Award Shortlists

The British Book Awards run by The Bookseller are the publishing industry’s equivalent of the BAFTAs and are affectionately known as The Nibbies. They celebrate the best British writers, books, publishers and bookshops. The Books of the Year are split into the following categories with one overall winner being picked too:

Harry guarding the book pile
  • Fiction
  • Debut
  • Crime & Thriller
  • Children’s Book
  • Children’s Illustrated & Non-Fiction
  • Non-fiction: Lifestyle
  • Non-fiction: Narrative
  • Audiobook

When asked if I’d like to feature one of the shortlisted categories on my blog, I said of course! There are some super books on the Fiction and Debut shortlists, and although I’ve only read a couple of them, I feel I know many of the titles rather well as several have cropped up so often in shortlists at the moment. Thus, I opted for Narrative Non-fiction because I’m trying to read more non-fiction in general. Thank you very much to FMcM publicists who sent me a set. It contains one book I’ve read, two I’ve been itching to read, two I am interested in, and one by a chap who I have no idea at all who he is!!! Let me introduce you to them.

  • The Language of Kindness by Christie Watson – this is the one I’ve read, (reviewed here). I’ve read many doctors’ memoirs, but this is the first by a nurse that I’ve encountered, and Watson covers her twenty year career in it including a long stint in intensive care. It is compassionate and caring, never boring, and often surprisingly funny. An excellent read indeed.
  • First Man In by Ant Middleton – Who? Turns out this chap is a former SBS (Special Boat Service) sniper having served two tours in Afghanistan. However, he is mostly known as having presented/led an SAS selection type TV series for Channel 4. While this book is sure to be quite blokey, I’ve not read any soldier’s memoirs, (luckily the TV career appears to be mostly incidental). Instead, it’s written as a series of ‘Leadership lessons’ with learning points at the end of each chapter. I could actually enjoy reading this – and the copy I received just happened to be signed!
  • The Secret Barrister by The Secret Barrister – I’ve been itching to read this book ever since I read Clare’s review here. An anonymous barrister’s memoir of ‘Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken’, I’m sure it will be totally eye-opening, with some horrifying moments, and hopefully some hilarity to balance them out. This will be the top of my pile.
  • Everything I know about love by Dolly Alderton – I’ve read about this memoir all over the place. Alderton is a journalist and columnist for the Sunday Times, (and a judge for this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction). It basically goes from her teens to turning thirty. Lots of short chapters punctuated by lists, the odd hangover cure recipe, there’ll be masses of booze, boys, men, sex, heartbreak, and female friendship. One of the quotes on the back cover calls it ‘Sex and the City for Millennials’. While I’m far from being a millennial, it’ll be fun (and nostalgic in a way, I’m sure).
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama – who doesn’t want to read this book? I was waiting for the paperback, but now I have the hardback at last and I just can’t wait to read about her extraordinary life.
  • Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff – I’m going to have to take the cover off this one! I can’t bear to have a picture of that awful man staring at me. I’m also not sure I will be able to read it very thoroughly – it’ll make me too cross I’m sure.

As shortlists go, this one is very heavy on the memoirs at five out of six titles, with Michael Wolff representing the rest of the wider world of narrative non-fiction. Reading the judging criteria for the Nibbies, sales success has to accompany literary merit, so these shortlists are bound to be dominated by bestsellers and in narrative non-fiction that really means memoirs. That said, I have no idea who will win this category – but it’d be particularly nice to see Christie Watson win. (Reni Eddo-Lodge won last year with Why I’m No Longer Talking About Race)

Anyway, as the prizes will be awarded on Monday 13th, I won’t have much time to read much of any of these books – so which should I start with? What do you think of this shortlist?


Thank you again to publicists FMcM for sending me the set of review copies. Much appreciated.

10 thoughts on “British Book Award Shortlists

  1. Wow, the SAS book looks like the sort I always find (and ignore) in B&Bs! Hope you enjoy it 🙂 I really want to read Becoming but am also waiting for the paperback.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      As shortlists go this one is rather unbalanced with the emphasis on sales etc alongside the literature. I will give Ant Middleton a go – at least in part. 😉

  2. I’ll sound like a snob if I say this is a fairly populist list 😉 But Obama’s and Watson’s are great memoirs in their own right, and I’d happily read the Alderton. I got bogged down in details with The Secret Barrister and only managed about 60 pages of it.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      That’s why I went to the website to read about the criteria – the requirement for sales success, marketing campaigns etc means it can only ever be populist – but that’s not a bad thing. Milkman is shortlisted for the fiction book for instance – but on the back of other success rather than its merit. So looking forward to reading Obama, but I think I’ll enjoy The Secret Barrister a lot.

  3. Narrative nonfiction is totally dominated by memoirs at the moment—but would highly recommend The Secret Barrister; there’s tons of data in there as well as anecdote, and the anonymous author manages to be bloody funny even as they induce despair in the reader at the state of the justice system.

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