Awards: The UK’s Parliamentary Book Awards’ Shortlist: Purposefully Political

In News by Porter Anderson

The Parliamentary Book Awards, in which political writing is the point, have issued a new and timely shortlist in London.

Downing Street in London, as seen from Whitehall, January 22. Image – Getty iStockphoto: VV Shots

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

Lotinga: ‘The Vibrancy of Political Writing Today’
As you quickly shred that latest invitation to a party at No. 10 Downing Street, it’s hard to think of a time in which political books could be of more importance—and yet less readily discussible in what once was called polite society.

It can take real fortitude for nonfiction publishers and authors to say what needs saying these days. This is what makes the Parliamentary Book Awards program in the United Kingdom important and distinctive. It’s an awards regime that honors books that are unabashedly political.

In the fog of awards that comes on little PR agency feet at this time of year—when relentless announcements of submissions, prize juries, and longlists begin to blur together in London’s lamplight—this program manages to stand out, an accomplishment in itself.

Established in 2016 by the UK’s Publishers Association and its Booksellers Association, the intent is “to champion the best of political writing and celebrate the link between politics and the book world.” That’s especially refreshing in a time when politics have become freakishly divisive in so many of world publishing’s international markets.

Not for nothing will you find that titles included here are responsive to the mounting menace of authoritarianism: One is How To Stop Fascism. Another is Freedom: How We Lose It and How We Fight Back. And the post-imperial post-Brexitian concerns of the UK’s culture are at issue here, too, in such titles as Hard Choices: The Making and Unmaking of Global Britain and Empireland: How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern Britain and Greater: Britain After the Storm–in the last of which, promotional copy says, “A wave of scandals has corroded public confidence in leadership.”

The Parliamentary Book Awards’ organizers are announcing today (February 1) their shortlist in “the only political book awards voted for by parliamentarians,” as the program rightly styles itself. In its sixth year, the competition once more zeroes in on three categories:

  • Biography, memoir, or autobiography by a Parliamentarian
  • Non-biographical book by a Parliamentarian
  • Political book by a non-Parliamentarian

Publishers were invited to nominate titles and authors for the awards, with booksellers selecting the shortlists. And voting is now open so that parliamentarians, as hoarse as they are from Question Time, may cast their ballots for a winner in each of those three categories. These are technically, by the way, the 2021 awards. This is one of the programs (like the Costa) that ordains its winners after the new year’s arrival.

The winners are to be announced on March 9. Perhaps from an undisclosed location.

Parliamentary Book Awards 2021 Shortlists

Biography, Memoir or Autobiography by a Parliamentarian

Non-Biographical Book by a Parliamentarian

Political Book by a Non-Parliamentarian

Halls: ‘Excellence and Breadth’

Meryl Halls

Meryl Halls, managing director of the Booksellers Association, is quoted in today’s announcement materials, saying, that the “shortlist for this year’s Parliamentary Book Awards, features some of the biggest names in British politics.

“With books on far-right extremism, the impact of imperialism on modern Britain, and discussions on how to tackle the most pressing global crises, this shortlist demonstrates the excellence and breadth of political writing which the Parliamentary Book Awards were created to champion.

“We look forward to seeing which of these titles parliamentarians vote for when the winners are announced at the ceremony in March.”

Stephen Lotinga

Stephen Lotinga

And Publishers Association CEO Stephen Lotinga says, “The Parliamentary Book Awards were created to celebrate the relationship between politics and publishing.

“This year’s shortlist shows us the vibrancy of political writing in the UK today.

“We have engaging memoirs from key figures, books which give us a glimpse behind the scenes of Westminster, and visions for how we should shape our future.

“I’m hugely looking forward to gathering together with parliamentarians, authors, publishers, and booksellers to celebrate these brilliant books.”

Past Winners in the Parliamentary Book Awards

2020

  • Memoir by a Parliamentarian: Long Way Home by Dan Jarvis
  • Nonfiction by a Parliamentarian: The Glamour Boys: The Secret Story of the Rebels who Fought for Britain to Defeat Hitler by Chris Bryant
  • Political Book by a non-Parliamentarian: The Prime Ministers: 55 Leaders, 55 Authors, 300 Years of History by Iain Dale

2019

  • Memoir by a Parliamentarian: This is Our Story: How the Fans Kept Their Hearts Beating, by Ian Murray
  • Nonfiction by a Parliamentarian: Women of Westminster: The MPs who Changed Politics by Rachel Reeves
  • Political Book by a non-Parliamentarian: How to be Right: In A World Gone Wrong by James O’Brien

2018

  • Memoir by a Parliamentarian: The Power of Politicians, by Tessa Jowell and Frances D’Souza
  • Nonfiction by a Parliamentarian: Adam Smith: What He Thought and Why it Matters by Jesse Norman
  • Political Book by a non-Parliamentarian: Why We Get the Wrong Politicians by Isabel Hardman

2017

  • Memoir by a Parliamentarian: A Woman’s Work, by Harriet Harman
  • Nonfiction by a Parliamentarian: How to Stop Brexit (And Make Britain Great Again), by Nick Clegg
  • Political Book by a non-Parliamentarian: Jo Cox: More in Common by Brendan Cox

2016

  • Memoir by a Parliamentarian: The Long Winding Road, by Alan Johnson
  • Nonfiction by a Parliamentarian: Called to Account, by Margaret Hodge
  • Fiction by a Parliamentarian: Now is the Time, by Melvyn Bragg
  • Political Book by a non-Parliamentarian: Citizen Clem by John Bew

Masked up on Westminster Bridge, January 20. Image – Getty iStockphoto: VV Shots


More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book awards is here, more from us on the United Kingdom’s book market is here, more on nonfiction is here, and more on political books 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 is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he 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.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (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.