UK: Rathbones Folio Prize Names Its 2021 Shortlist

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Eight titles from writers in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the United States include both fiction and nonfiction, with March 24 set as the date of a winner’s announcement.

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

‘Pushing at the Edges’
The work of seven women and one man is represented in the 2021 shortlist for the Rathbones Folio Prize, a £30,000 award (US$41,847) now jockeying for attention in the chock-a-block arena of British book honors.

Rathbones Folio Prize 2021Having been called since 2013 the Literature Prize and the Folio Prize, the award is today sponsored by Rathbone Brothers Plc—the brands of which tend to vary between “Rathbone” and “Rathbones”—the prize’s name is written without an apostrophe: Rathbones Folio Prize. Its visibility on the awards scene was interrupted by a one-year hiatus in 2016.

And in the announcement of its 2021 eight-book shortlist, Publishing Perspectives readers will find a familiar face: Monique Roffey, who won the Costa Book of the Year award in January is up for this honor, as well, for her  The Mermaid of Black Conch: A Love Story from Peepal Tree Press.

The Rathbones prize can be won by writers of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry written in English. Of the eight shortlisted titles here, five have been published by smaller, independent presses. Two of the other three are from Penguin Random House, and one is from Pan Macmillan’s Picador. Authors shortlisted are from Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

This year’s jurors are authors Roger Robinson, Sinead Gleeson, and Jon McGregor.

Roger Robinson

In a prepared statement, Robinson talks of spending “detailed and intimate time with the books nominated for the Rathbones Folio Prize and traveling deep into their worlds.

“The judges chose the eight books on the shortlist,” he says, “because they are pushing at the edges of their forms in interesting ways, without sacrificing narrative or execution.

“The conversations between the judges may have been as edifying as the books themselves. From a judges’ vantage point, the future of book publishing looks incredibly healthy – and reading a book is still one of the most revolutionary things that one can do.”

The announcement of the program’s winner is expected on March 24, and the award’s digital ceremony is to be produced with the British Library.

Rathbones Folio Prize 2021 Shortlist

The jurying process for the Rathbones Folio Prize draws on a pool of some 300 “academy members,” some of whom participate in nomination, jurying, and mentoring programming for secondary school students in low-income communities.

Previous winners are:

  • 2020: Valeria Luiselli Lost Children Archive (4th Estate)
  • 2019: Raymond Antrobus
  • 2018; Richard Lloyd Parry
  • 2017: Hisham Matar
  • 2015: Akhil Sharma
  • 2014: George Saunders

Below is a promotional video about the 2021 shortlisted authors.

The Coronavirus in the United Kingdom

At this writing, the 5:25 a.m. ET (10:25 GMT) update of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center sees 4,059,696 cases in United Kingdom’s population of 67 million, with 117,622 fatalities.

Those numbers continue to place the UK at fourth in the world for caseload (behind the United States, India, and Brazil) and at fifth in the world for death tolls (behind the States, Brazil, Mexico, and India).

The BBC News’ Nick Triggle today reports on the Boris Johnson government’s interest in making “COVID-19 a manageable disease like flu” with “vaccination and new treatments” to “reduce the death rate and allow us to live with the virus rather than constantly trying to fight it.”

As for lockdown regulations, another announcement is expected Monday (February 22) about the prospects for England’s spread-mitigation efforts. Scotland is committed to lockdown to the end of the month, Wales until at least Friday (February 19), and Northern Ireland until March 5.


More from us on the Rathbones Folio Prize is here, more on publishing and book awards in international markets is here, and more on the UK market is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing 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 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. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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