The Booksellers Association of the United Kingdom & Ireland Limited

Nero Book Awards Announce Inaugural Shortlist

21/11/2023
Premium coffee house Caffè Nero today has announced the 16-strong shortlist for the inaugural Nero Book Awards, recognising the outstanding books of the past 12 months across four categories: Children’s Fiction, Debut Fiction, Fiction and Non-Fiction. Twelve category judges – a mix of authors, booksellers and journalists – were tasked with choosing the best books of the year from writers based in the UK and Ireland.
 
Launched in May 2023, the Nero Book Awards are part of Caffè Nero’s programme to sponsor the arts. Caffè Nero is an independent, family-owned business. It has embraced many cultural and intellectual endeavours since its start in 1997, supporting outstanding new singer-songwriters, exceptional writers, quality designers and excellent photography. The Nero Book Awards are run in partnership with Right to Dream, Brunel University London and The Booksellers Association. A not-for-profit organisation, the Awards celebrate the craft of great writing and the joy of reading, providing readers of all tastes with a combination of high-quality writing and readability.
 
The publishing industry has embraced the Awards since they were announced earlier in 2023. Over 100 publishers and imprints have submitted hundreds of books across the four categories to the judges. Judges include: the novelist and screenwriter Sara Collins; the journalist, screenwriter and author Sarfraz Manzoor; and the novelists Anthony Quinn and Dave Rudden. The full list of judges can be found here.
 
CHILDREN’S FICTION AWARD SHORTLIST 
  1. Gwen and Art Are Not in Love by Lex Croucher (Bloomsbury YA)
  2. Bitterthorn by Kat Dunn (Andersen Press)
  3. Wild Song by Candy Gourlay (David Fickling)
  4. The Swifts by Beth Lincoln (Puffin). Illustrated by Claire Powell
 
DEBUT FICTION AWARD SHORTLIST
  1. The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa by Stephen Buoro (Bloomsbury Circus)
  2. The New Life by Tom Crewe (Chatto & Windus)
  3. Sunburn by Chloe Michelle Howarth (VERVE Books)
  4. Close To Home by Michael Magee (Hamish Hamilton)
 
FICTION AWARD SHORTLIST
  1. Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton (Granta)
  2. The Bee Sting by Paul Murray (Hamish Hamilton)
  3. Ordinary Human Failings by Megan Nolan (Jonathan Cape)
  4. Fifteen Wild Decembers by Karen Powell (Europa Editions)
 
NON-FICTION AWARD SHORTLIST
  1. Strong Female Character by Fern Brady (Brazen)
  2. The Tidal Year by Freya Bromley (Coronet)
  3. Undercurrent by Natasha Carthew (Coronet)
  4. Hags by Victoria Smith (Fleet)
 
Gerry Ford, Founder and CEO of Caffè Nero commented: “The Nero Book Awards are important to Caffè Nero and to me because of our interest in bringing the arts, cultural programmes and intellectual pursuits to our coffee houses. The response from publishers and authors to these Awards has been tremendous, and I’m excited by the quality books that the judges have shortlisted. We hope readers of all tastes will enjoy these books and recommend them to others.”
 
Amanda Johnson, Awards Director, adds: “The announcement of our shortlist is such an exciting milestone for the Nero Book Awards. We have here an incredible range of books that will speak to a variety of different audiences, from books based on true stories to fantasies to explorations of self, place and landscape. Huge congratulations to all the shortlisted authors and their publishers. We hope that everyone will find a new favourite book on this list.”
 
In the Children’s Fiction category, we see a range of topics from sapphic gothic romance to a laugh-out-loud mystery adventure. Social media star and novelist Lex Croucher makes the shortlist with their first YA book, historical fantasy romcom Gwen and Art Are Not in Love (Bloomsbury YA). Croucher is joined by fellow Londoner and Japanese translator Kat Dunn with her second novel, a gothic love story, Bitterthorn (Andersen Press). Candy Gourlay, also based in London and a winner of the Philippines’ National Children’s Book Award, makes the shortlist with her ninth book: a coming-of-age tale, Wild Song (David Fickling Books), published by an independent press. Beth Lincoln, who lives in Newcastle and has a love of word games, puzzles, linguistic acrobatics and puns, rounds off the list with her mystery adventure and debut novel The Swifts (Puffin).
 
The Debut Fiction category features three of the Observer’s Best New Novelists of 2023 in Stephen Buoro, Tom Crewe and Michael Magee. Norwich-based Nigerian author Buoro – who has a first-class degree in Mathematics and an MA in Creative Writing – is currently studying for a PhD in Creative & Critical Writing at the University of East Anglia and is nominated for his tragicomic novel The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa (Bloomsbury Circus). Buoro’s book sits alongside The New Life (Chatto & Windus), an historical tale of desire by London Review of Books editor Tom Crewe, who also features as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists in 2023. They are joined by two Irish writers, Michael Magee and Chloe Michelle Howarth. Magee’s Close to Home (Hamish Hamilton) – which won the Rooney Prize for Literature 2023 and was shortlisted for the Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize 2023 – is set in Belfast, where Magee is the fiction editor of literary magazine The Tangerine. Sunburn (VERVE Books) by Brighton-based Howarth, an Evening Standard One To Watch 2023, is a coming-of-age novel inspired in part by the author’s childhood in the West Cork countryside.
 
In the Fiction category, there is an even split between books from independent presses and major publishing houses. Canada-born, New Zealand-raised, Cambridge-based Eleanor Catton, who was the youngest person to ever win the Booker Prize, is nominated for her psychological thriller Birnam Wood (Granta), whilst Karen Powell – who works for a North Yorkshire charity to conserve and restore York Minster – features for her reimagining of the lives of the Brontë family, Fifteen Wild Decembers (Europa Editions). Irish writer Paul Murray is shortlisted for his acclaimed comic novel, the 2023 Booker-shortlisted The Bee Sting (Hamish Hamilton), with Waterford-born Megan Nolan’s story of family secrets, Ordinary Human Failings (Jonathan Cape), completing the list.
 
Four books by women make up the Non-Fiction shortlist, three of them by debut authors Fern Brady, Freya Bromley and Victoria Smith. Strong Female Character (Brazen) by the autistic, Scottish comedian Fern Brady, who lives in London, and Hags (Fleet) by the feminist journalist Victoria Smith, who lives in Cheltenham, both tackle misogyny and its intersections with factors of neurodiversity and age, respectively. Undercurrent (Coronet) by the Cornish writer and poet Natasha Carthew – also the Founder and Artistic Director of The Working Class Writers Festival who writes all her books exclusively outside – highlights the issue of rural poverty and a life defined by the beauty of nature. The final title on the Non-Fiction shortlist is The Tidal Year (Coronet) by Londoner Freya Bromley, an exploration of grief and the healing power of wild swimming. Bromley is the host of a podcast which shares its name with the book.
 
A winning title from each of the four categories will be announced on 16th January 2024 and, of those, one book will be selected as the overall winner – The Nero Gold Prize – by a final panel of judges and announced at a ceremony in late February 2024. Each of the category winners receives £5,000, with the overall Nero Gold Prize - Book of the Year winner receiving an additional £30,000.

To be eligible for the 2023 Nero Book Awards, books must have been first published in English in the UK or Ireland between the 1st of December 2022 and 30th of November 2023. At the time of entry, authors must have been alive and resident in the UK or Ireland for the past three years.
 
For full details of the shortlists follow Nero Book Awards on Twitter and Instagram. For additional information, visit: nerobookawards.com.

Twitter - @NeroBookAwards
Instagram - @nerobookawards          
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/NeroBookAwards