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Diversity on British Book Awards shortlists despite ‘insular' political climate

Organisers have said the choice of nominees across categories shows an outward-looking and nuanced world view.

Shortlists for the British Books Awards are filled with international writing in a time of “insular” politics.

The shortlisted authors for the 2019 awards have been announced, with a cosmopolitan range of writers and a strong focus on women.

Award organisers have said the choice of nominees across categories shows an outward-looking and nuanced world view despite “reductive” political messages dominating headlines.

Writers from France, Ireland and the United States are represented on a list with a strong cohort of female talent.

Former US first lady Michelle Obama is among the women nominated for their books, whether memoirs or fiction, with stories from around the world being shortlisted for offering a “different perspective”.

Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller and chairman of the judges, said: “These shortlists say to me that our lens is widening, that there are these hitherto untold stories travelling further than ever before, and that, as our politics becomes ever more insular and reductive, book buyers are prepared to look outwards.

Costa Book Awards 2019
Irish author Sally Rooney is shortlisted for the fiction award for her book Normal People (Costa Book Awards/PA)

“Readers are intrigued by well-written, well-published stories that can originate from anywhere – tales that tell them a little about the global world we inhabit, or provide a different perspective on their own world.

“From Milkman to Lullaby, and from Fire And Fury to Becoming, these are books that tell us something about the world and a little about our place in it.”

Fiction, literary debuts and crime are dominated by women, and the non-fiction category features a powerful entry from Mrs Obama. Her book, Becoming, became a bestseller in 2018 – a year which saw great success for female authors.

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Irish novelist Sally Rooney has been shortlisted for her book Normal People, alongside Man Booker Prize-winning Northern Irish writer Anna Burns.

British female writers Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinene have been shortlisted for their non-fiction work for young black women, Slay In Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible.

Nigerian-American writer Tomi Adeyemi has been shortlisted for her debut Children Of Blood And Bone.

Michael Wolff’s explosive Donald Trump memoir Fire And Fury has also joined a list of highly political works.

For her curation of Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies), Scarlett Curtis has also joined a shortlist with a diverse range of stories.

Mr Jones said the political force and relevance of shortlisted works “demonstrate that today books sit at the intersection between culture and politics, and between entertainment and reality”.

Category winners and the Book of the Year will be announced at a ceremony hosted by Lauren Laverne on May 13.

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