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British Book Awards 2021: The shortlisted titles to add to your collection

Debut writers sit alongside some big names in this list of remarkable tomes

Eva Waite-Taylor
Friday 19 March 2021 09:21
<p>Whether you’re partial to fiction or non-fiction, there’s something for everyone here </p>

Whether you’re partial to fiction or non-fiction, there’s something for everyone here

Despite non-essential shops being closed for the majority of 2020, book sales defied the pandemic and hit an eight-year high, with more than 200 million being sold – a 5.5 per cent increase compared with the previous year.

The importance of reading during difficult times has been identified time and again – as long as we can read we can travel, escape, explore, laugh, cry and understand issues beyond our experience.

If your reading list is in a fallow period, the announcement of the 2021 British Book Awards shortlist – also known as the Nibbies – should provide all the inspiration you need.

As one of the leading literary awards, founded in 1990 by The Bookseller, it has become known as the Baftas of the book world and honours the best UK writers and their work.

More than 50 books have been shortlisted, and the nine “book of the year” winners will be decided by separate panels, with judges including comedians Lenny Henry and Mel Giedroyc, TV presenter Konnie Huq, musician Frankie Bridge, MP David Lammy and CBBC’s Rhys Stephenson. The winner will be announced on 13 May during a virtual awards ceremony.

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“After a year in which we needed books more than ever, these shortlisted titles exemplify everything that was good and necessary from authors and publishers in 2020,” said Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller and chair of the judges. He added that the list of chosen books reflects a year of “turmoil, debate and hope”.

There’s an incredible array of talent here, with a selection of the most highly anticipated books of the past year, including Barack Obama’s autobiography, Hilary Mantel’s conclusion to the Wolf Hall trilogy and the late Captain Sir Tom Moore’s release.

But you’ll also see some new names that have taken the literary world by storm, including Booker Prize winner Douglas Stuart and Delia Owens.

In honour of the announcement, we’ve taken a look at the whole longlist, outlining those from the adult categories across fiction and non-fiction.

In a year of unprecedented change, it’s clear that reading can provide the escapism so many of us crave, so join us in celebrating, championing and supporting writers by adding these books to your “to-read” pile now.

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Fiction Book of the Year

‘The Vanishing Half’ by Brit Bennett, published by Dialogue Books: £12.99, Waterstones.com

Brit Bennett was also longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction for this hotly anticipated novel.

Buy now

‘The Lying Life of Adults’ by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein, published by Europa Editions: £13.26, Amazon.co.uk

Read the review of this title in our piece on the best novels of 2020.

Buy now

‘The Evening and the Morning’ by Ken Follett, published by Macmillan: £12.32, Amazon.co.uk

Buy now

‘The Midnight Library’ by Matt Haig, published by Canongate: £14.99, Foyles.co.uk

Featuring in our review of the best novels of 2020 as well as our editor’s picks of what we’ve been reading and loving in lockdown, The Midnight Library has been a big favourite with us at IndyBest.

Buy now

‘The Mirror and the Light’ by Hilary Mantel, published by HarperCollins: £9.29, Bookshop.org

The long-awaited conclusion to Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy, it featured in the Duchess of Cornwall’s book club, The Reading Room, and was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2020.

Buy now

‘Hamnet’ by Maggie O’Farrell, published by Tinder Press: £7.37, Whsmith.co.uk

IndyBest editor Emma Henderson noted this as her favourite book that she read during lockdown in our guide to what you should read next.

Buy now

Debut Book Of The Year shortlist

‘Ghosts’ by Dolly Alderton, published by Fig Tree: £11.55, Amazon.co.uk

Buy now

‘The Girl with the Louding Voice’ by Abi Daré, published by Sceptre: £7.49, Waterstones.com

Landing the top spot in our review of the best debut novels, it stuck in our writer’s mind for a long time after she finished reading it.

Buy now

‘Exciting Times’ by Naoise Dolan, published by W&N: £7.37, Amazon.co.uk

As one of our favourite novels of the moment, we’ve featured this title time and again. Naoise Dolan’s debut was recently longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021.

Buy now

‘Rainbow Milk’ by Paul Mendez, published by Dialogue: £8.36, Bookshop.org

Featuring in our review of the best LGBT+ books, our writer praised it for being a “fearless and hopeful account of one black man’s entry into adulthood”.

Buy now

‘Such a Fun Age’ by Kiley Reid, published by Bloomsbury Circus: £6.61, Blackwells.co.uk

Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2020, Such A Fun Age also appeared in our review of the best novels of 2020 – a must-read.

Buy now

‘Shuggie Bain’ by Douglas Stuart, published by Picador: £13.94, Bookshop.org

This emotionally raw debut was crowned the winner of the 2020 Booker Prize – read our review of it in our round-up of the best novels of 2020.

Buy now

Crime and Thriller Book Of The Year shortlist

‘The Sentinel’ by Lee Child and Andrew Child, published by Transworld: £4.49, Whsmith.co.uk

Buy now

‘The Patient Man’ by Joy Ellis, published by Joffe Books: £6.55, Amazon.co.uk

Buy now

‘The Guest List’ by Lucy Foley, published by HarperCollins: £7.49, Waterstones.com

Read a full review of the novel in our guide to the best e-books to download.

Buy now

‘Troubled Blood’ by Robert Galbraith, published by Little, Brown: £9.99, Amazon.co.uk

Buy now

‘The Thursday Murder Club’ by Richard Osman, published by Viking: £10.99, Foyles.co.uk

Osman’s debut novel featured in our review of the best novels of 2020, with our writer noting it for being “smart and absorbing”.

Buy now

‘A Song for the Dark Times’ by Ian Rankin, published by Orion Fiction: £10, Amazon.co.uk

Buy now

Pageturner of the Year shortlist

‘False Value’ by Ben Aaronovitch, published by Gollancz: £6.35, Blackwells.co.uk

Buy now

‘Rag and Bone Christmas’ by Dilly Court, published by HarperCollins: £5.40, Amazon.co.uk

Buy now

‘All the Lonely People’ by Mike Gayle, published by Hodder & Stoughton: £6.55, Amazon.co.uk

Another one of our favourites, we featured All the Lonely People in our review of the best books of 2020.

Buy now

‘Darkdawn’ by Jay Kristoff, published by HarperVoyager: £7.99, Waterstones.com

Buy now

‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owen, published by Little, Brown: £7.49, Waterstones.com

One of Amazon’s bestselling books of 2020, it was also included in the Duchess of Cornwall’s first book club, The Reading Room.

Buy now

‘Just My Luck’ by Adele Parks, published by HarperCollins: £5, Amazon.co.uk

Buy now

Non-fiction: Narrative Book of the Year shortlist

‘A Life on Our Planet’ by David Attenborough, published by Ebury Press: £10, Amazon.co.uk

Buy now

‘Diary of a Young Naturalist’ by Dara McAnulty, published by Little Toller: £8.19, Whsmith.co.uk

Buy now

‘Tomorrow Will Be a Good Day’ by Captain Sir Tom Moore, published by Michael Joseph: £11, Amazon.co.uk

Buy now

‘A Promised Land’ by Barack Obama, published by Viking: £17.50, Waterstones.com

A firm non-fiction favourite, this featured in our round-up of the best non-fiction books of 2020 and was also included in our guide to what you should read next during lockdown.

Buy now

‘Me and My White Supremacy’ by Layla F Saad, published by Quercus: £13.94, Bookshop.org

Buy now

‘Entangled Life’ by Merlin Sheldrake, published by Vintage: £9.34, Whsmith.co.uk

Sheldrake’s debut was also longlisted for the André Simon award, proving its popularity.

Buy now

Non-fiction: Lifestyle Book of the Year shortlist

‘Skincare’ by Caroline Hirons, published by HQ: £15.64, Blackwells.co.uk

Buy now

‘Nadiya Bakes’ by Nadiya Hussain, published by Michael Joseph: £11, Amazon.co.uk

Buy now

‘Think Like a Monk’ by Jay Shetty, published by Thorsons: £15.79, Bookshop.org

Buy now

‘Not a Diet Book’ by James Smith, published by HarperCollins: £5.79, Amazon.co.uk

Buy now

‘Five Minute Mum: Give Me Five’ by Daisy Upton, published by Penguin Random House Children’s: £12.43, Blackwells.co.uk

Buy now

‘What Mummy Makes: Cook just once for you and your baby’ by Rebecca Wilson, published by DK: £11.35, Amazon.co.uk

Buy now

Unsure what to read next? Take inspiration from the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021 longlist, a collection of inspiring titles

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