We love an Award here at LoveReading and so we are delighted that Caffè Nero has today announced the 16-strong shortlist for the inaugural Nero Book Awards, recognising some of the outstanding books of the past 12 months across four categories: Children’s Fiction, Debut Fiction, Fiction and Non-Fiction. Filling an important gap left by the demise of similar awards, these awards are important to help shine a light on the best books being published today.

Twelve category judges – a mix of authors, booksellers and journalists – were tasked with choosing the best books of the year from writers based in the UK and Ireland. Launched in May 2023, the Nero Book Awards are part of Caffè Nero’s programme to sponsor the arts.

A not-for-profit organisation, the Awards celebrate the craft of great writing and the joy of reading, providing readers of all tastes with a combination of high-quality writing and readability. The publishing industry has embraced the Awards since they were announced earlier in 2023.

Over 100 publishers and imprints submitted hundreds of books across the four categories. 

Debut Fiction Award Shortlist

The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa by Stephen Buoro

A dazzling, distinctive, new literary voice delivers this profound, exhilarating and highly original, this tragicomic novel is a stunning exploration of the contemporary African ‘condition’, the relentless infiltration of Western culture and, most of all, the ordinary but impossible challenges of coming of age in a turbulent world.

The New Life by Tom Crewe

London, 1894. After a lifetime navigating his desires, John has found a man who returns his feelings. Meanwhile Henry is sure that his unconventional marriage will bring freedom. A shared vision for the future brings John and Henry together to write a revolutionary book in defiance of convention and the law. Their daring book threatens to throw John and Henry, and all those around them, into danger. 

Sunburn by Chloe Michelle Howarth

An astute and tender portrayal of first love, adolescent anxiety and the realities of growing up in a small town where tradition holds people tightly in its grasp.

Close To Home by Michael Magee

Luminous and devastating, a portrait of modern masculinity as shaped by class, by trauma, and by silence, but also by the courage to love and to survive.

Fiction Award Shortlist

Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton

A gripping psychological thriller from the Booker Prize-winning author of The Luminaries, Birnam Wood is Shakespearean in its wit, drama and immersion in character. 

The Bee Sting by Paul Murray

Irresistibly funny, wise and thought-provoking, The Bee Sting is a tour de force about family, fortune, and the struggle to be a good person when the world is falling apart.

Ordinary Human Failings by Megan Nolan

Fifteen Wild Decembers by Karen Powell

Non-Fiction Award Shortlist

Strong Female Character by Fern Brady

'Witty, dry, and gimlet-eyed, Strong Female Character is a necessary corrective. Brady offers a compelling, messy, highly resonant portrait of what masked Autism feels like.' - Devon Price, author of Unmasking Autism

The Tidal Year by Freya Bromley

'Funny, sad and honest, but ultimately also hopeful, The Tidal Year is a wonderful and welcome addition to the growing canon of books exploring the restorative power of wild swimming.' - Sophie Pearce

Undercurrent by Natasha Carthew

'Charged with the power of nature, writing and little-heard rural working-class voices, this beautiful memoir is an ode to Cornwall, creativity, and resilience.' - Joanne Owen

Hags by Victoria Smith

In Hags, Victoria Smith asks why these women are treated with such active disdain. Each chapter takes a different theme - care work, beauty, violence, political organization, sex - and explores it in relation to middle-aged women's beliefs, bodies, histories and choices. Smith traces the attitudes she describes through history, and explores the very specific reasons why this type of misogyny is so very now. The result is a book that is absorbing, insightful, witty and bang on time.

Children's Fiction Award Shortlist

Gwen and Art Are Not in Love by Lex Croucher

'A LoveReading Star Book, we absolutely ARE all in love with this delightful medieval queer romcom. Croucher writes with vivid exaggeration and touching relatability the wild adventures of love and lust, yearning and horniness. We all dutifully pledge allegiance' - Lily Lindon

Bitterthorn by Kat Dunn

'This dazzling YA gem melds a thrilling high-stakes fairy tale scenario with suspenseful, slow-burn Sapphic romance. Suspenseful, atmospheric and romantic, this is an utterly enchanting tale.' - Joanne Owen

Wild Song by Candy Gourlay

'A deep dive into another culture, a shameful episode of history and one girl’s fight for self determination. This is a potent and powerful novel that is as unforgettable as it is beautifully and accessibly written. It deserves a place on every award list and to be put into the hands of as many readers of any age as you can!' - Joy Court

The Swifts by Beth Lincoln, illustrated by Claire Powell

'As country house murder mysteries go, this is top notch, with a fabulous cast of characters and perfectly placed red herrings. It’s also extremely funny, full of jokes, situation comedy and gloriously idiosyncratic narration.' - Andrea Reece

Gerry Ford, Founder and CEO of Caffè Nero commented: “The Nero Book Awards are important to Caffè Nero and to me because of our interest in bringing the arts, cultural programmes and intellectual pursuits to our coffee houses.

The response from publishers and authors to these Awards has been tremendous, and I’m excited by the quality books that the judges have shortlisted. We hope readers of all tastes will enjoy these books and recommend them to others.”

Amanda Johnson, Awards Director, adds: “The announcement of our shortlist is such an exciting milestone for the Nero Book Awards. We have here an incredible range of books that will speak to a variety of different audiences, from books based on true stories to fantasies to explorations of self, place and landscape. Huge congratulations to all the shortlisted authors and their publishers. We hope that everyone will find a new favourite book on this list.”

A winning title from each of the four categories will be announced on 16th January 2024 and, of those, one book will be selected as the overall winner – The Nero Gold Prize – by a final panel of judges and announced at a ceremony in late February 2024.

Each of the category winners receives £5,000, with the overall Nero Gold Prize - Book of the Year winner receiving an additional £30,000.

To be eligible for the 2023 Nero Book Awards, books must have been first published in English in the UK or Ireland between the 1st December 2022 and 30th November 2023. At the time of entry, authors must have been alive and resident in the UK or Ireland for the past three years. 

For additional information, visit: nerobookawards.com

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