The British Book Awards: 2019 Books of the Year Shortlists

In News by Porter Anderson

The British Book Awards, or ‘Nibbies’—which comprise both industry and book honors—today announce their books of the year shortlists.

The 2019 British Book Awards are to be presented on May 13, again at London’s Grosvenor House in Mayfair. Image

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

‘A Real Hunger for Stories’

Producers of the British Book Awards are pointing out that this year’s shortlists have a particularly strong international streak, from the Prix Goncourt Franco-Moroccan author Leila Slimani to Ireland’s Sally Rooney and the runaway bestselling American former first lady, Michelle Obama.

Tomi Adeyemi, the Nigerian-American author we mentioned earlier this week in our report on the impact of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on an author’s Amazon ranking, is shortlisted for her book Children of Blood and Bone—which Fallon’s viewers chose for his book club last summer. Norway’s Jo Nesbø is in the running in the crime and thriller division for his Hogarth Shakespeare retelling of Macbeth.

And from North America, another book you might recall is included: Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, one of the books Donald Trump has tried to block from publication.

Philip Jones

As the shortlists for the books-of-the-year 2019 “Nibbies,” as they’re known, are released today (March 22), Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller, which owns and stages the awards program, is quoted in a prepared statement, saying, “The shortlists this year showcase the breadth of talent available to publishers in the UK, after a year in which international writers such as Leila Slimani, Heather Morris, Sally Rooney, and Tomi Adeyemi have shown that there is a real hunger for stories, well-told, that originate elsewhere but reflect back on us.

“The sales success of these titles, along with nonfiction hits such as Michelle Obama’s Becoming, Michael Wolff’s Trump era exposé, Fire and Fury, and Feminists Don’t Wear Pink, demonstrate that today books sit at the intersection between culture and politics, and between entertainment and reality.”

One of the largest awards programs, the Nibbies require a squadron of jurors—more than 65 of them this year. The category winners are  decided by eight separate judging panels, with judges including illustrator Axel Scheffler—who last year made an impassioned anti-Brexit statement at the awards—food critic Jay Rayner, and Adam Kay, author of the bestseller This is Going to Hurt.

A separate panel will go on to choose the overall Book of the Year, with the Labour MP Jess Phillips is judging alongside Sky News presenter Kay Burley.

And in their evolved state—since being revived by Nigel Roby’s purchase of the brand for The Bookseller—the British Book Awards have been expanded to embrace, each year, a broader cross section of both the business and the literature of the UK publishing market. As the company’s promotional material puts it, the Nibbies are “the only literary awards in the UK that champion books that have been both well-written and brilliantly published, honoring not just the author and illustrator of a title but the entire publishing team.”

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, this year’s new classification in the books side (as opposed to the industry awards, which for the first time will recognize small presses) is in children’s books: the Nibbies are splitting the children’s book-of-the-year honors into (a) fiction and (b) illustrated and nonfiction.

The awards ceremony is scheduled for May 13 with a return for the evening to Mayfair’s Grosvenor House.

As announced in today’s print edition of The Bookseller and at the trade magazine’s online site, the shortlisted titles are below.

2019 British Book Award Books of the Year Shortlists


  • Transcription by Kate Atkinson (Doubleday)
  • Milkman by Anna Burns (Faber & Faber)
  • Still Me by Jojo Moyes (Michael Joseph)
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney (Faber & Faber)
  • Tombland by C. J. Sansom (Mantle)
  • Why Mummy Swears by Gill Sims (HarperFiction)


  • The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar (Harvill Secker)
  • Never Greener by Ruth Jones (Bantam Press)
  • The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (Zaffre)
  • Dear Mrs Bird by A. J. Pearce (Picador)
  • Lullaby by Leila Slimani (Faber & Faber)
  • The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (Raven Books)

Crime & Thriller

  • Our House by Louise Candlish (Simon & Schuster)
  • The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn (HarperFiction)
  • The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen (Pan)
  • Close to Home by Cara Hunter (Viking/Penguin Paperbacks)
  • Macbeth by Jo Nesbo (Hogarth)
  • In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin (Orion)

Children’s Fiction 

  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (Macmillan Children’s Books)
  • The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson (Usborne)
  • Head Kid by David Baddiel (HarperCollins Children’s Books)
  • The Skylarks’ War by Hilary McKay (MacMillan Children’s Books)
  • The Ice Monster by David Walliams (HarperCollins Children’s Books)
  • My Mum Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson (Doubleday)

Children’s Illustrated & Nonfiction (new category)

  • Stories for Boys Who Dare To Be Different by Ben Brooks, illustrated by Quinton Winter (Quercus)
  • Politics for Beginners by Alex Frith, Rosie Hore, Louie Stowell, illustrated by Kellan Stover (Usborne)
  • Oi Duck Billed Platypus! by Kes Grey and Jim Field, illustrated by Jim Field (Hodder Children’s Books)
  • Fantastically Great Women Who Made History by Kate Pankhurst (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)
  • You Are Awesome by Matthew Syed, illustrated by Toby Triumph (Wren & Rook)
  • I Am The Seed That Grew The Tree: A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow)

Nonfiction: Lifestyle

  • Slay in Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinene (4th Estate)
  • Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies) by Curated by Scarlett Curtis (Penguin)
  • Bosh! by Henry Firth and Ian Theasby (HQ)
  • Lose Weight for Good by Tom Kerridge (Absolute Press)
  • Ottolenghi Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi and Tara Wigley (Ebury Press)
  • The Ordnance Survey Puzzle Book by Ordnance Survey (Trapeze)

Nonfiction: Narrative

  • Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton (Fig Tree)
  • First Man In: Leading From the Front by Ant Middleton (HarperNonFiction)
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama (Viking)
  • The Secret Barrister by The Secret Barrister (Picador)
  • The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story by Christie Watson (Chatto & Windus)
  • Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff (Little, Brown)


  • Milkman, narrated by Brid Brennan, by Anna Burns (Faber & Faber)
  • Their Lost Daughters, narrated by Richard Armitage, by Joy Ellis (Audible Studios)
  • Lethal White, narrated by Robert Glenister, by Robert Galbraith/JK Rowling (Hachette Audio)
  • Brief Answers to the Big Questions, narrated by Ben Wishaw, by Stephen Hawking (John Murray)
  • First Man In: Leading From The Front, narrated by Ant Middleton, by Ant Middleton (HarperNonFiction)
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama (Penguin)

In another comment from The Bookseller team, books editor Alice O’Keeffe is quoted, saying, “Our shortlists this year took the judges from Georgian London to the Second World War to contemporary New York. There are books from exciting fresh voices at the very start of their career, contrasted with books from with well-established brand authors at the top of their game.

“These are the books that sum up 2018 but which, we think, will be read for years to come.”

Bath’s Wild Things: Small Press of the Year

During the London Book Fair, it was announced that the new element of the Nibbies’ industry awards, a prize for Small Press of the Year, has been won by Wild Things Publishing, a travel publisher based in Bath, in the West Country of England.

Founded in 2011 Wild Things Publishing has published 27 titles that encourage travelers to get off the beaten track, including Wild Swimming, Hidden Beaches and The Scottish Bothy Bible. According to the Nibbies’ promotional material, Wild Things’ sales growth has been pretty wild in itself, from £33k in its first year (US$43,208) to just below the £1 million threshold (US$1.3 million) in 2018.

As we had reported, there were 41 contenders in this new category. As in the case of the Independent Bookstore of the Year honor—we covered its shortlists here—the small prize starts with a group of regional finalists from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, North England, Midlands, East England, London, Southeast England, and Southwest England. That’s why it starts with such a large slate of shortlisters.

And Wild Things Publishing now goes into contention for the Independent Publisher of the Year award, which won’t be announced until the May 13 awards ceremony.

More coverage of the British Book Awards from Publishing Perspectives is here. And more on publishing awards is here.

Our Spring Magazine is ready for your free download, having been produced to coincide with the London Book Fair. Trade visitors to London found a print edition available, also free of charge.

In the magazine, you’ll find issues and players who were important at this year’s London Book Fair and who will factor into other major fairs of the season this year, plus an early look at the coming Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 16 to 20).

Download the new magazine 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 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.