The British Book Awards: Spotlighting the Discover Category
By Brodie Mckenzie, Clara Garnier-Barsanti, Anna-Maria Poku and Grace Briggs-Jones
The excitement of finally seeing the long-awaited first trailer of series two of your favourite show is how we feel about the Nibbies when they dropped their shortlist on 17 March 2023. The British Book Awards, affectionately nicknamed The Nibbies, is one of the most prestigious literary awards in the UK. We decided to spotlight the “Discovery Category” which aims to feature “an even more comprehensive collection of books by traditionally underrepresented writers.”
Carrie Marshall’s memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is one of the many vibrant, important books on the shortlist – and what a fearless, frank and funny glory of a book it is. An irreverent, brash and frequently laugh-out-loud hilarious trans memoir, Carrie Kills A Man explores coming out, trans parenthood and cringeworthy fashion disasters with fabulous aplomb. “Marshall documents great friendships, meaningful acts of kindness, and the euphoria and emancipation that comes with freedom of self-expression” according to Laura Waddell of The Scotsman.
“A searing story of war, loss, family and love, of seeking grace in madness and hope in tragedy,” according to Sabaa Tahir, As Long As The Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh, is another novel on the shortlist. Set in war-torn Syria, this deeply powerful work centres around Salama and her agonising decision as to whether to flee her native country or stay and help those in danger. Elizabeth Laird says, “the tender love story at the heart of the novel humanises the horrors of war and the shocking tragedy that has befallen Syria.” Being hailed as a must read it is no wonder this novel has been recognised by The British Book Awards!
Sheena Patel’s electric debut novel I’m A Fan has also been shortlisted. Having been termed “spellbinding” by The New Statesman, it certainly does not disappoint. The novel’s chapters are a patchwork of punchy, powerful happenings, exploring gendered power imbalances, privacy and access, as well as society’s unhealthy, obsessive interest in status and celebrity. Patel’s protagonist rebels against respectability and the status quo as we know it: “As unreasonable and unhinged as the power structures she rails against, she’s the person we’re most afraid of being seen as, but secretly wish we could be. At points you pity her, at points you hate her guts, but above all else you will recognise seeds of your own thought processes in her often quite extreme behaviour…” (Emma Garland, Dazed). We absolutely adore this book – and its glorious cover!
Another phenomenal work nominated in the category is Aftermath (And Other Stories) by Preti Taneja, having already won the Gordon Burn Prize 2022. “Brutal,” “unnerving” and “radical” were just some of the terms uttered by Gordon Burn Prize judges in their feedback following her win. A book that elicits that kind of response? Count. Us. In. Aftermath is a ground-breaking piece of creative non-fiction which successfully and strikingly blurs genre and form, daring to examine the ill-placed suspicion invoked by misinformed and ignorant populations towards Muslims in a society which expends abundant resources on counterterrorism but refuses to acknowledge its own dark, imperial past. This work is complex, significant and utterly ground-breaking – a must read.
Garnering much praise since its release is Paterson Joseph’s début The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sanchez. Also nominated in this category, the novel tells the fictionalised story of Sancho, who lived a unique life in Georgian London, ultimately becoming the first Black Briton to vote. Described as “an absolutely thrilling, throat-catching wonder of a historical novel,” the book, Joseph’s passion project, is chock full of compassion and deftly narrates the life of an incredible individual – a story that “resonates with compassion and offers a welcome insight into the presence of Black people in Georgian England.” Upon release, Joseph performed as Sancho in full costume at the Waterstones launch, propelling the book to smash its sales target in eight weeks and go on to become Dialogue Books’ bestselling hardback debut. A must read if you ask us.
Last, but not least, is Johny Pitts and Roger Robinson’s Home Is Not A Place, a free-form collection of photography, poems and essays reflecting on Black Britishness, Home Is Not A Place is a spectacular look at Black Britishness in the 21st century. Born from a cross country trip the authors took from London to Margate to Land's End, Bristol to Blackpool, Glasgow to John O'Groats and Scarborough to Southend-on-Sea, the collection looks to shine a light on the often-overlooked history of Empire and transatlantic slavery to which every Briton is tethered. A complex, resilient and necessary book, this is definitely one not to miss.
The conversations around these books are already so prevalent and exciting – we can’t imagine how the selection committee will make their final choice as they all deserve the winning spot! Pick any book from that category, and we promise you a worthwhile literary trip.