The British Book Awards – also known as the Nibbies – 2022 shortlist has been announced.
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 across fiction, non-fiction, and children’s books.
Judges – Gabby Logan, Rob Rinder, Ugo Monye, and Giovanna Fletcher – have the near-impossible task of deciding the book of the year winners by category, which will be announced today, 25 May.
So, if your reading pile is looking a little low on the ground, the announcement of the shortlist should provide all the inspiration you need.
There’s an incredible range of talent among the shortlisted titles this year. In the fiction categories alone you’ll notice some well-established names (Kazuo Ishiguro and Sally Rooney), as well as newcomers (Women’s Prize for Fiction nominee, Meg Mason, and Obama’s favourite, Raven Leilani), so there are lots to get your teeth stuck into.
In honour of the British Book Awards shortlist 2022, we’re here to bring you the lowdown on the fabulous fiction categories. It’s time to get reading!
Fiction of the Year shortlist
‘The Passenger’ by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz, published by Pushkin Press: £7.37, Amazon.co.uk
Set in 1930, Boschwitz’s novel provides an account of Jewish persecution in Nazi Germany and is said to provide an almost unbearable and suspenseful story of a fight for survival.
‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’ by Anthony Doerr, published by Fourth Estate: £16.40, Whsmith.co.uk
Landing a spot in Barack Obama’s 2021 reading list, Cloud Cuckoo Land was noted as a “literary feat” when it was reviewed by The Independent owing to being more than 600 pages long. It tells the lives of five characters – that each form a sub-story to the main plot – and how they are each connected by a copy of a mysterious ancient text.
‘Klara and the Sun’ by Kazuo Ishiguro, published by Faber: £8.36, Bookshop.org
Ishiguro’s eighth novel is a luminous journey through the mind of Klara, an artificial friend who has been built to keep lonely children company. Using Klara’s voice, Ishiguro explores themes of power, status. and fear among humans, as well as the implications of AI and human relationships. Klara and the Sun was also longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize.
‘Empire of the Vampire’ by Jay Kristoff, published by HarperVoyager: £13.75, Blackwells.co.uk
This dark fantasy epic is the story of a lone warrior who has been captured by vampires, and it’s said to be a visceral account that is unputdownable.
‘Sorrow and Bliss’ by Meg Mason, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson: £12.99, Waterstones.com
Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction award 2022, Sorrow and Bliss also took the top spot in our guide to the best books of 2021 thanks to being an “exciting, funny, and thought-provoking novel”. It tells the story of 40-year-old Martha and her dysfunctional family, a failed marriage, and depression. While it “sounds like a truly awful misery read”, our writer noted that “it’s the funniest book of the year, with the most recognisable characters”.
‘Beautiful World, Where are You’ by Sally Rooney, published by Faber: £14.99, Waterstones.com
The author’s eagerly anticipated third novel, Beautiful World, Where are You is set in Ireland and does what Rooney’s other titles do well – explores the lives and loves of its characters. This one focuses on two best friends, Alice and Eileen, and their relationship with each other and those around them.
Debut Book of the Year shortlist
‘Open Water’by Caleb Azumah Nelson, published by Viking: £7.05, Amazon.co.uk
Gaining the “first novel award” in the Costa Book Awards 2021, Open Water touches on themes of love and race in contemporary society. It’s said to be a tender and emotional story about two young black British artists who form a relationship after meeting in a south east London pub.
‘Assembly’ by Natasha Brown, published by Hamish Hamilton: £12.99, Waterstones.com
Brown’s eagerly anticipated debut was lauded by The Independent for being a “completely captivating read you won’t be able to put down”. Narrated by a British black woman, it’s said to be a “hauntingly accurate novel about the stories we construct for ourselves and others”.
‘Mrs Death Misses Death’ by Salena Godden, published by Canongate Books: £7.37, Whsmith.co.uk
Death is tired of her job and is desperate for someone to talk to, but she befriends a young writer, who is able to write her memoir. Interspersed with poetry, Godden’s debut is said to be a thought-provoking read.
‘Luster’ by Raven Leilani, published by Picador: £9.29, Bookshop.org
Having featured in our review of the best debut novels, Barack Obama’s reading list of 2020, and the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist in 2021, the hype for Luster has been real. It tells the story of 23-year-old Edie and her awkward journey through modern life – it touches on themes of womanhood, sexuality, power dynamics in relationships and race, as well as notions of loneliness and loss. Leilani’s writing is pacy and piercing.
‘How to Kill Your Family’ by Bella Mackie, published by Borough Press: £14.99, Waterstones.com
How To Kill Your Family “depicts Grace’s mission to avenge her mother, which sees her tracking down numerous relatives, including her famous billionaire father, and picking them off one by one”, noted our reviewer. It was praised by The Independent for being a “deliciously addictive” and “very entertaining read”.
‘She Who Became the Sun’ by Shelley Parker-Chan, published by Mantle: £12.75, Amazon.co.uk
Set in the backdrop of famine-stricken China in the mid-1300s, She Who Became the Sun was described by The Independent as being a “brutal, war-strewn epic” that is “beautiful and detailed with queer re-imaginings of history”.
Crime and Thriller Book of the Year shortlist
‘Girl A’ by Abigail Dean, published by HarperFiction: £8.36, Bookshop.org
Dean’s first novel took the top spot in our guide to the best debut novels of 2021, and also featured in our review of the best fiction books. It tells the story of Lex Gracie, the “Girl A” of the title, who “is one of seven abused and neglected children who grew up in a home dubbed the House of Horrors”, noted our writer. They also said that after they put it down they couldn’t “stop thinking about it, harrowing though its subject matter is”.
‘The Appeal’ by Janice Hallett, published by Viper Books: £7.37, Amazon.co.uk
Set in the sleepy town of Lower Lockwood, a production and fundraiser leads to a murder, The Appeal is said to be filled with many twists and turns. Turning traditional storytelling on its head, Hallet reveals all by presenting a series of different emails, messages, and transcripts.
‘A Slow Fire Burning’ by Paula Hawkins, published by Doubleday: £6.25, Amazon.co.uk
Hawkins’s third novel is “set on a London canal where a man is found stabbed to death in his houseboat”. In our review of it, we said it “pays huge attention to detail in the light and shadows of the canal and its surroundings”, this makes it an “atmospheric tale” and a “good page-turning thriller”.
‘1979’ by Val McDermid, published by Sphere: £5.35, Waitrose.com
Set in Scotland, 1979 tells the story of reporter Allie Burns who’s on a mission to get her first big scoop. It sees Burns and her colleagues expose a series of criminal offences and risk making powerful enemies.
‘The Dark Remains’ by William McIlvanney and Ian Rankin, published by Canongate Books: £17.99, Waterstones.com
A prequel to the original DI Laidlaw stories, The Dark Remains is set against the backdrop of Glasgow in the Seventies – where poverty, high unemployment, alcohol and domestic abuse, and violence are rife. And it’s Laidlaw’s first case. The book was first written by McIlvanney and finished off by Rankin after his death.
‘The Man Who Died Twice’ by Richard Osman, published by Viking: £9.49, Whsmith.co.uk
A follow-up to his debut, The Thursday Murder Club (£5, Theworks.co.uk), this title is about the “same group of ageing sleuths as they are embroiled in murders, mysteries, stolen diamonds, and a mugging”. Our review mentioned how “they plot to take on a Columbian drug cartel and the mafia – all from their sleepy Kent retirement village” and praised Osman’s “wit and humour” for making it “a joy to read”.
Pageturner of the Year shortlist
‘Small Pleasures’ by Clare Chambers, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson: £7.49, Waterstones.com
Not only has this tome landed itself a spot in the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist, but it also took the top spot in our guide to the best new books to read in 2020. This “compassionate tale is exquisitely written and entranced us from the very first page”, praised our writer.
‘Worst Idea Ever’ by Jane Fallon, published by Michael Joseph: £5, Amazon.co.uk
Centred around Georgia, her friend, and her friend’s husband, Worst Idea Ever is about how a fake Twitter account unravels their lives. It is said to be a witty and gripping novel.
‘The Wolf Den’ by Elodie Harper, published by Head of Zeus: £7.37, Amazon.co.uk
Set in Pompeii’s brothels, The Wolf Den tells the story of enslaved Amara. Harper’s historical novel is a tale of survival and determination. It’s the first in the trilogy.
‘The Party Crasher’ by Sophie Kinsella, published by Bantam Press, Transworld: £16.99, Waterstones.com
A well-composed family drama, The Party Crasher is centred around Effie, while also allowing each character to have their own story. Effie gatecrashes a family party, and the novel is said to serve as a reminder that everyone around us has things bubbling under the surface.
‘The Summer Seekers’ by Sarah Morgan, published by HQ: £6.21, Amazon.co.uk
This uplifting, feel-good novel is about one of the most unconventional of road trips with the oddest of couples. The key message is no matter what your age, you should always follow your dreams.
‘The Last House on Needless Street’ by Catriona Ward, published by Viper Books: £6.29, Whsmith.co.uk
Ward’s novel “tells the story of a missing child and her sister’s quest to find her”, noted our review. And our writer praised the author for creating “a rare work of fiction that explores the human will to endure – no matter the cost”.
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Looking for more recommendations? Read our guide to the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022 longlist