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The Nero Book Awards

By Grace Briggs-Jones, Clara Garnier-Barsanti, Benedetta Giordani and Maria Sadek


The Nero Book Awards recognise the best books of the year by authors living in the UK and Ireland, having launched last year. The prizes are awarded across four categories: Children’s Fiction, Debut Fiction, Fiction and Non-Fiction. Each category has a winner, and an overall Book of the Year is crowned with the Nero Gold Prize. The four writers will each receive £5,000 and are now in contention for the £30,000 Nero Gold prize, judged by a panel chaired by Booker winner Bernardine Evaristo. Let’s delve into this year’s winners!


Children’s Fiction 


This year, The Swifts by Beth Lincoln, illustrated by Claire Powell, won the Children’s Fiction award. This laugh-out-loud children’s novel tells the story of the eccentric Swift family. It follows the adventures of Shenanigan Swift, who embarks on a journey to solve a mystery involving a murder and a long-lost treasure. Reminiscent of Lemony Snicket and Robin Stevens’ style, the story weaves suspense, witty dialogue and wordplay and celebrates words, individuality and the power of being true to oneself. The other shortlisted children’s authors were Lex Croucher for Gwen and Art Are Not in Love, Kat Dunn for Bitterthorn and Candy Gourlay for Wild Song


Non-Fiction


The Non-Fiction Award winner is Fern Brady’s memoir, Strong Female Character. It is a candid and groundbreaking look at neurodiversity, sexism and defying expectations through the eyes of a woman who was told she could not possibly be autistic due to her good eye contact and several past boyfriends. Brady explores class, mental health, societal pressure and individual ambition in her memoir, which Adam Kay described as “deeply moving and eye-opening.” Daisy Buchanan echoed this sentiment, believing the book makes everyone who reads it “kinder and more curious about the way we all live.” Other books shortlisted alongside Brady’s were The Tidal Year by Freya Bromley, Undercurrent by Natasha Carthew and Hags by Victoria Smith. 


Debut Fiction


The Debut Fiction prize winner for this year’s awards was Close to Home by Michael Magee. This fantastic book focuses on working-class brothers from Belfast and explores systemic societal issues such as poverty, disillusionment and community strain. What sets this book apart is the focus on the vulnerability of these working-class men, removing a sense of toxicity often explored in literary depictions of class. Magee beat other fantastic shortlisted debut works such as The Five Sorrowful Mysteries by Stephen Buoro, The New Life by Tom Crewe and Sunburn by Chloe Michelle Howarth to win this category.   


Nero Gold Book of the Year


And finally, let’s look at our Nero Gold Book of the Year winner! This year's winner is Paul Murray’s The Bee Sting, a novel that has already been popular in the awards circuit, given that it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Writer’s Prize 2023. The Bee Sting also won Nero’s Fiction Prize of the Year. The novel follows a rural Irish family and is a comic exploration of generational divide, family ties and urbanisation. Using the 2008 financial crisis as the background, Murray explores modern difficulties faced in post-Troubles Ireland by different social groups, using each character as a mouthpiece throughout the book. As this year’s winner, Murray won a £30,000 prize, as announced during the ceremony on Thursday. A deserving winner of this exciting inaugural prize!


The Nero Awards has come in and filled the gap left by the shocking exit of the Costa Book Awards. It was announced earlier last year that the popular award, which had been running for fifty years, would unfortunately be discontinued. However, with the arrival of the Nero Awards, a new opportunity for more fantastic books to be showcased has arrived. The only criteria for a winning book is whether the judges want to shout about it to everyone who will listen for its quality and readability. The 2023 winners are certainly books to shout about and should be on your To Be Read list!


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