The UK’s National Book Awards Announce Holiday Season Shortlists

In News by Porter Anderson

Designed ‘to find the best popular books of the year in the lead-up to Christmas,’ the UK’s Specsavers National Book Awards will end with a consumer vote.

Early holiday season in London’s Oxford Street. Image – iStockphoto: Morgan 23

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Use the Shortlists as Christmas Shopping Lists’
You’ll need to tell your American friends, “not those National Book Awards,” meaning not America’s National Book Awards that will be announced on the night of November 14 in New York City by the National Book Foundation.

These National Book Awards are in the UK. They’re intended to honor books and authors, to “help consumers choose titles for the busy festive gifting season,” and they’re sponsored by the British optical retail chain Specsavers. They’re produced by the independent television producer Cactus TV.

On Tuesday (October 30), the initiative kicks off with 13 book categories and a vote by the program’s academy of booksellers, publishers, literary agents, authors, reviewers, industry experts and influencers. The 13 categories:

  • New Writer of the Year
  • Popular Fiction Book of the Year
  • Crime/Thriller Book of the Year
  • Autobiography/Biography of the Year
  • Nonfiction Book of the Year
  • Food and Drink Book of the Year
  • Children’s Book of the Year
  • Young Adult Book of the Year
  • Audiobook of the Year
  • International Author of the Year
  • UK Author of the Year
  • ZBoS Book Club Book of the Year (voted for by the public)
  • Outstanding Achievement

Zoë Ball

On November 20, category winners are to be announced during a television program aired on ITV and hosted by television personality Zoë Ball (whose eponymous book club lends its name to one of the prize categories).

The vote then goes to the public, members of which will be asked to choose the an overall winner, to be announced on December 30.

2018 Specsavers (UK) National Book Awards Shortlists

Specsavers Popular Fiction Book of the Year

  • Mythos by Stephen Fry (Michael Joseph, PRH)
  • A Keeper by Graham Norton (Hodder & Stoughton, Hachette)
  • Munich by Robert Harris (Arrow, PRH)
  • Faking Friends by Jane Fallon (Michael Joseph, PRH)
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Harper Fiction, HC)
  • The Break by Marian Keyes (Michael Joseph, PRH)
  • Still Me by Jojo Moyes (Michael Joseph, PRH)
  • Melmoth by Sarah Perry (Serpent’s Tail, Profile Books)

Autobiography/Biography of the Year

  • My Thoughts Exactly by Lily Allen (Blink, Bonnier)
  • How To Be A Footballer by Peter Crouch (Ebury, PRH)
  • East of Croydon by Sue Perkins (Michael Joseph, PRH)
  • To Throw Away Unopened by Viv Albertine (Faber & Faber)
  • Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton (Fig Tree, Penguin General, PRH)
  • The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah by Benjamin Zephaniah (Scribner, Simon & Schuster)

Food and Drink Book of the Year

  • Jamie Cooks Italy by Jamie Oliver (Michael Joseph, PRH)
  • Ottolenghi Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi (Ebury Press, PRH)
  • BOSH! by Henry Firth and Ian Theasby (HQ, HarperCollins)
  • Nadiya’s Family Favourites by Nadiya Hussain (Michael Joseph, PRH)
  • Prue by Prue Leith (Bluebird, Pan Macmillan)
  • Cooking On A Bootstrap by Jack Monroe (Bluebird, Pan Macmillan) 

Audiobook of the Year

  • Life on Earth by David Attenborough read by David Attenborough (William Collins, HC)
  • A Better Me by Gary Barlow, read by Gary Barlow (Blink Publishing, Bonnier)
  • Heroes by Stephen Fry, read by Stephen Fry (Audio, PRH)
  • The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli, read by Benedict Cumberbatch (Audio, PRH)
  • The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory, read by Vanessa Kirby (HarperCollins Audio, HC)
  • Absolute Proof by Peter James read by Hugh Bonneville (Macmillan Digital Audio, Pan Macmillan)

Crime/Thriller Book of the Year

  • Lethal White by Robert Galbraith / JK Rowling (Sphere, Little, Brown, Hachette)
  • Insidious Intent  by Val McDermid (Sphere, Little, Brown, Hachette)
  • In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin (Orion, Hachette)
  • The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor (Michael Joseph, PRH)
  • Snap by Belinda Bauer (Transworld, PRH              )
  • He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly (Hodder & Stoughton, Hachette)

Popular Nonfiction Book of the Year

  • Slay In Your Lane by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené (4th Estate, HarperCollins)
  • Women & Power by Mary Beard (Profile Books)
  • Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race  by Reni Eddo-Lodge (Bloomsbury)
  • This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay (Picador, Pan Macmillan)
  • The Spy and the Traitor  by Ben Macintyre (Viking, Penguin General, PRH)
  • The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken by The Secret Barrister (Picador, Pan Macmillan)

Children’s Book of the Year

  • Head Kid by David Baddiel illustrated by Steven Lenton (HarperCollins Children’s Books, HC)
  • The Squirrels Who Squabbled by Rachel Bright, illustrated by Jim Field (Orchard Books, Hachette Children’s Group)
  • Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different by Ben Brooks illustrated by Quinton Winter (Quercus, Hachette)
  • Pages & Co: Tilly and the Book Wanderers by Anna James (HarperCollins Children’s Books, HC)
  • Once Upon a Wild Wood by Chris Riddell (Macmillan Children’s Books, Pan Macmillan)
  • A Spoonful of Murder by Robin Stevens (Puffin, PRH)

Young Adult Book of the Year

  • Feminists Don’t Wear Pink edited by Scarlett Curtis (Penguin Children’s Books, PRH)
  • Clean by Juno Dawson (Quercus Childrens, Hachette)
  • Things a Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls (Andersen Press)
  • The Surface Breaks: A Reimagining of The Little Mermaid by Louise O’Neill (Scholastic)
  • Run, Riot by Nikesh Shukla (Hodder Childrens Books, Hachette)

Audible New Writer of the Year

  • Reni Eddo-Lodge – Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race (Bloomsbury)
  • Imogen Hermes Gower – The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock (Harvill Secker, Vintage, PRH)
  • Gail Honeyman – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (HarperFiction, HC)
  • Adam Kay – This Is Going To Hurt (Picador, Pan Macmillan)
  • Stuart Turton – The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (Raven Books, Bloomsbury)

Specsavers Zoë’s Book Club (#ZBOS) Book of the Year
A public vote now is in progress at the book club’s site for this category’s winner.

  • This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay (Picador, Macmillan)
  • The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman (Ebury, Penguin Random House)
  • Never Greener by Ruth Jones (Penguin Random House)
  • Dark Pines by Will Dean (Oneworld)
  • The Man I Think I Know by Mike Gayle (Hodder)
  • I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell (Tinder Press, Headline)
  • The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell (Raven Books, Bloomsbury)
  • Killer Intent by Tony Kent (Elliott & Thompson)
  • The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson (Two Roads, Hodder)
  • A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee (Vintage, Penguin Random House)

UK Author of the Year

  • Sebastian Faulks – Paris Echo (Hutchinson, Cornerstone, PRH)
  • Matt Haig – Notes on a Nervous Planet (Canongate Books)
  • Sarah Perry – Melmoth (Serpent’s Tail, Profile Books)
  • Philip Pullman – La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Vol. 1 (Penguin and David Fickling Books, PRH)
  • JK Rowling / Robert Galbraith – Lethal White (Sphere, Little, Brown, Hachette)
  • Jacqueline Wilson – My Mum Tracy Beaker (Doubleday Children’s, PRH)

International Author of the Year

  • Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo – Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 2 (Timbuktu Labs)
  • Noah Yuval Harari – 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (Jonathan Cape, Vintage, PRH)
  • Jane Harper – Force of Nature (Little, Brown, Hachette)
  • Celeste Ng – Little Fires Everywhere (Little, Brown, Hachette)
  • Sally Rooney – Normal People (Faber & Faber)

Outstanding Achievement
Zoë Ball will announce the winner in this catetory on November 20.

Public Best-of-the-Best Vote Opens in November

In a prepared statement, Specsavers’ founder, Dame Mary Perkins is quoted, saying, “Reading remains one of Britain’s most popular pastimes and I love to relax with a good book.

“But good eyesight is fundamental to reading anything, whether it’s a book at bedtime or a tablet screen, so this is an obvious and perfect partnership for us.”

And Amanda Ross, co-founding CEO of Cactus TV, is quoted saying, in part, “These are the books and authors that have got everyone reading this year. The timing means people can use the shortlists as Christmas shopping lists, as there is something for everyone.”


More from Publishing Perspectives on book, author, and publishing awards is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.