The awards nominations are coming thick and fast right now, and this time it’s the Guardian First Book Award longlist. The submissions (strictly first-time books, but any genre) are whittled down to the shortlist by a panel of judges: Susie Orbach, Rachel Cusk, Philip Hensher and Paul Mason and chaired by Guardian Review editor Lisa Allardice, and made up of store-based reading groups in Waterstones. The winner will be announced in November, receiving a prize of £10,000.
But who are these lucky few on the longlist?
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo (Fiction: Chatto & Windus)
Also longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, We Need New Names has been cropping up all over the place. It is the story of 10-year-old Darling and her friends growing up in a shanty town called Paradise and dreaming of escape.
Read a Guardian review of We Need New Names.
Sex and the Citadel by Shereen El Feki (Non-fiction: Chatto & Windus)
In Sex and the Citadel, El Feki uses devices like interviews, statistics, opinion polls and her own discoveries and memories to study of the secretive sexual politics of the Arab world, and how it is changing the landscape of everything from politics and religion to economy and gender.
Read a Guardian review of Sex and the Citadel.
The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves by Stephen Grosz (Non-fiction: Chatto & Windus)
Using over 50,000 hours of conversation, Grosz gives us a unique psychological insight about the tales we tell, emotions we feel and behaviours we express – all distilled into “stories” based on the real case histories.
Read a Guardian review of The Examined Life.
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Fiction: Picador)
It’s not been long since Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites was picked as part of the Waterstones 11. It tells the story of Agnes Magnusdottir, the last woman in Iceland to be condemned to death, and her time on a remote farm with a family.
Read a blog post from Hannah Kent on the Guardian.
Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach (Fiction: Picador)
Kiss Me First has been described as “a true thriller for the Facebook generation” by Allardice, and tells the tale of Leila – a computer games nerd – who assumes the identity of charismatic but traumatised Tess, with devastating consequences. This book is so good, it prompted an 11-publisher strong bidding war.
Read a Guardian review of Kiss Me First.
The Hive by Gill Hornby (Fiction: Little, Brown)
A sharply comic observation of playground politics for mothers. From the queen bee to the outcast, from the car boot sales to the fancy dress costumes, all manner of school life is here – all from the point of view of the mums.
Read a Guardian review of The Hive.
The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan (Fiction: Doubleday Ireland)
Another member of the Waterstones 11 alumni and Man Booker selection, The Spinning Heart is another title that’s cropping up here, there and everywhere. It’s a dark tale of Ireland in the midst of the financial crisis, centred around a small town and with multiple narrators.
Read the Guardian interview with Donal Ryan.
10 Billion by Stephen Emmott (Non-fiction: Penguin)
10 Billion has been described by Allardice as a “brutally brief polemic on the impending twin catastrophes of inexorable population growth and climate change”, and is Emmott’s appeal and warning about the consequences of human expansion across the planet.
Money: The Unauthorised Biography by Felix Martin (Non-fiction: Bodley Head)
Martin is putting the world straight in this bright debut. It discusses what money is, where it comes from and how it works, and what it means for our money-driven society, demonstrating the power it holds.
Read a Guardian review of Money: The Unauthorised Biography.
The Society of Timid Souls by Polly Morland (Non-fiction: Profile)
Philosophy, literature, propaganda and popular culture all play their part in Morland’s journey to discover the truth about courage – what it means today and how it comes about. From the Society of Timid Souls (created in 1942 to cure stage fright sufferers) to a woman who performs her own caesarean section, Morland explores what it means to be a Timid Soul in a world where anxiety has reached pandemic levels.
Read a Guardian review of The Society of Timid Souls.
The Shipwrecked House by Claire Trévien (Poetry: Penned in the Margins)
This collection of sea-inspired poetry, from independent publishers Penned in the Margins, was the readers’ choice and so already has the public’s backing. This haunting, magical and surreal collection has been likened to Pan’s Labyrinth or an Angela Carter novel.
There are three books that I’m absolutely dying to get my hands on… Kiss Me First, because there is nothing but praise for this debut, The Society of Timid Souls, because it sounds so uplifting and fascinating, and The Shipwrecked House, because the description of the poetry sounds beautiful in itself, and it has a gorgeous cover! I happen to know that Mum would adore The Hive as well…
What do you think of the longlist?
Have you read/will you be reading any of the books nominated?