Award-winning books

It’s May and we are well into the Book Awards calendar. We’ve already had the shortlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, The Man Booker International Prize and the Wolfson History Prize, amongst many others.

This month we will see the Orwell Prizes shortlist for political fiction and non-fiction, the Jhalak Prize winner, the winners of the Nibbies (the British Book Awards for the trade to identify the best books, bookshops and publishers) and The Daggers shortlist for the best new crime writing.

Jhalak Prize shortlisted books

There are prizes for practically every category of writing from big players like the Man Booker and Costa to the very particular such as the age specific The Paul Torday Prize (authors must be 60+) or the International Dylan Thomas Prize (39 or under), the place specific Portico Prize for books that honour the strong literary heritage of the North of England or the Ondaatje Prize that best evokes the spirit of a place generally. There are even prizes for making a point such as Staunch – the international award for thrillers in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered.

2021 Longlist for the International Dylan Thomas Prize.

Are there too many prizes – do we really need them all or do the sheer number devalue the books they are set up to acknowledge?

Well, consider this. Just to get published, a book must jump through a number of hoops, not to mention getting the attention of a publisher in the first place. The publisher then has to take a risk, given the production and publicity costs set against the uncertainty of sales. The book then joins the 170,000 or so books published every year in the UK – factor in all books published in English each year and that figure jumps considerably. How will the author’s words and the publisher’s investment get recognised?

And from the reader’s side, time is finite – how to discover that sometimes elusive next great read, or even where to start looking if you want to try something different.

Book reviews, word of mouth and websites all help but what is needed is a kind of quality assurance process that covers a much wider range of genres and tastes. This is where book awards step in providing something for everyone. Awards create a media buzz encouraging conversations about books and often advocating those writers who didn’t make the cut. And lucky the author who goes on to win several awards such as Maggie O’Farrell with Hamnet – winner of both Waterstones Book of the Year and Women’s Prize for Fiction and currently shortlisted for the British Book Awards Fiction Book of the Year 2021.

More awards also mean more diversity, something that is badly needed in publishing. The heavyweight Booker now has an International version for novels in translation. The Women’s Prize for Fiction was set up to address the under-representation of women’s writing in major prizes and is now one of the most prestigious awards in the literary world.

The Jhalak Prize confronts lack of representation and seeks to identify and celebrate the finest works across all categories by British writers of colour. Now in its fifth year, it has gone from strength-to-strength and this year includes a prize for children’s and young adult books as well.

Likewise, the Polari Prize was founded 11 years ago to celebrate emerging and established UK LGBTQ+ writers and promote works that explores the LGBTQ+ experience.

Awards are also beneficial for small independent publishers enabling them to punch above their weight. Without the Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing, the wonderful Diary of a Young Naturalist by 16-year-old Dara McNulty and its publisher Little Toller, may never have got the recognition they deserved.

So whether you’re in the mood for a intellectual workout, crave escapism, or seek to engage with the issues of the day (or yesterday), or appreciate books for their aesthetics, there is a book award out there that will help.

“Writers need validation” says the author Alys Conran, herself a winner of the Wales Book of the Year Award. Publishers need sales. And we all need great writing, whatever our tastes and interests.

Look out for our BorrowBox and web promotions which often include writers nominated for awards alongside our regular features such as Author of the Month.

Jhalak Prize 2020

First awarded in March 2017, the Jhalak Prize, seeks to celebrate books by British/British resident BAME writers. 

The prize is unique in that it accepts entries published in the UK by writers of colour. These include (and not limited to) fiction, non-fiction, short stories, graphic novels, poetry, children’s books, Young Adult, teen and all other genres. The prize is also open to self-published writers. 

The winner of the Jhalak Prize 2020 will be announced on 26 May!
Why not try one of them today? We even have some of them available as eBooks, that you can download through the BorrowBox app with your Hampshire Library card!

Not sure how to download the app? Check out our helpful videos for iOS devices here, and for Android devices here!
If you prefer written instructions, you can find those here.


The Black Flamingo: Atta, Dean, Khullar, Anshika: Books

The Black Flamingo
by Dean Atta

A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen – then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers – to show ourselves to the world in bold colour. ‘I masquerade in makeup and feathers and I am applauded’.

Currently not available as an eBook

by Yvonne Battle-Felton

It is 1910 and Philadelphia is burning. The last place Spring wants to be is in the rundown, coloured section of a hospital surrounded by the groans of sick people and the bickering ghost of her dead sister. But as her son Edward lays dying, she has no other choice. There are whispers that Edward drove a streetcar into a shop window. Some people think it was an accident, others claim that it was his fault, the police are certain that he was part of a darker agenda. Is he guilty? Can they find the truth? All Spring knows is that time is running out. She has to tell him the story of how he came to be. With the help of her dead sister, newspaper clippings and reconstructed memories, she must find a way to get through to him. To shatter the silences that her governed her life, she will do everything she can to lead him home.

Currently not available as an eBook

by Candice Carty-William

Queenie Jenkins can’t cut a break. Well, apart from the one from her long term boyfriend, Tom. That’s definitely just a break though. Definitely not a break up. Then there’s her boss who doesn’t seem to see her and her Caribbean family who don’t seem to listen (if it’s not Jesus or water rates, they’re not interested). She’s trying to fit in two worlds that don’t really understand her. It’s no wonder she’s struggling. She was named to be queen of everything. So why is she finding it so hard to rule her own life?

Currently not available as an eBook

by Mary Jean Chan

Much like the fencer who must constantly read and respond to her opponent’s tactics during a fencing bout, this debut collection by Mary Jean Chan deftly examines relationships at once conflictual and tender.

Available as an eBook

by Romesh Gunesekera

1964. Ceylon is on the brink of change. But Kairo is at a loose end. School is closed, the government is in disarray, the press is under threat and the religious right are flexing their muscles. Kairo’s hard-working mother blows off steam at her cha-cha-cha classes; his Trotskyite father grumbles over the state of the nation between his secret flutters on horseraces in faraway England. All Kairo wants to do is hide in his room and flick over second-hand westerns and superhero comics, or escape on his bicycle and daydream. Then he meets the magnetic teenage Jay, and his whole world is turned inside out. A budding naturalist and a born rebel, Jay keeps fish and traps birds for an aviary he is building in the garden of his grand home. The adults in Jay’s life have no say in what he does or where he goes: he holds his beautiful, fragile mother in contempt, and his wealthy father seems fuelled by anger.

Available as an eBook

by Johny Pitts

Afropean seizes the blur of contradictions that have obscured Europe’s relationship with blackness and paints it into something new, confident and lyrical’ Afua Hirsch ‘Afropean. Here was a space where blackness was taking part in shaping European identity … A continent of Algerian flea markets, Surinamese shamanism, German Reggae and Moorish castles. Yes, all this was part of Europe too … With my brown skin and my British passport – still a ticket into mainland Europe at the time of writing – I set out in search of the Afropeans, on a cold October morning.’Afropean is an on-the-ground documentary of areas where Europeans of African descent are juggling their multiple allegiances and forging new identities. Here is an alternative map of the continent, taking the reader to places like Cova Da Moura, the Cape Verdean shantytown on the outskirts of Lisbon with its own underground economy, and Rinkeby, the area of Stockholm that is eighty per cent Muslim. Johny Pitts visits the former Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, where West African students are still making the most of Cold War ties with the USSR, and Clichy Sous Bois in Paris, which gave birth to the 2005 riots, all the while presenting Afropeans as lead actors in their own story.

Available as an eBook and an eAudiobook


As well as the above six titles, the following seven titles were longlisted for the 2020 Jhalak Prize.

Golden Child
by Claire Adam

Rural Trinidad: a brick house on stilts surrounded by bush; a family, quietly surviving, just trying to live a decent life IN A SOCIETY. Clyde, the father, works long, exhausting shifts at the petroleum plant in southern Trinidad; Joy, his wife, looks after the home. Their two sons, thirteen years old, wake early every morning to travel to the capital, Port of Spain, for school. They are twins but nothing alike: Paul has always been considered odd, while Peter is widely believed to be a genius, destined for greatness.When Paul goes walking in the bush one afternoon and doesn’t come home, Clyde is forced to go looking for him, this child who has caused him endless trouble already, and whom he has never really understood. And as the hours turn to days, and Clyde begins to understand Paul’s fate, his world shatters-leaving him faced with a decision no parent should ever have to make.

Available as an eBook and an eAudiobook

by Jay Bernard

Jay Bernard’s powerful debut is a queer exploration of the black British archive, tracing a line between two significant events in recent British history: the New Cross Massacre of 1981 in which thirteen young black people were killed in a house fire – and the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017. The collection stems from research undertaken about the New Cross Fire during a 2016 residency at the George Padmore Institute.

Available as an eBook and an eAudiobook

Asha & the Spirit Bird
by Jasbinder Bilan

In an unforgettable adventure set in contemporary India, Asha is guided by a majestic bird which she believes to be the spirit of her grandmother. Together with her best friend, Jeevan, she embarks on a journey across the Himalayas to find her missing father and save her home.

Available as an eBook

The Hostile Environment
by Maya GoodFellow

As refugees drowned in the Mediterranean, the UK Government proudly announced that the aim of its immigration policy was to create a ‘hostile environment’ for undocumented immigrants. Despite study after study confirming that immigration is not damaging the economy or putting a strain on public services, migrants continue to be blamed for all the UK’s ills. How did we get here?

Maya Goodfellow offers a compelling answer and illuminates the dark underbelly of contemporary immigration policies. Talking to politicians, immigration lawyers, and immigrants themselves, Goodfellow examines how the media and successive governments have created and fuelled anti-immigration politics over the last fifty years. Ultimately, Hostile Environment reveals the distinct forms of racism and dehumanisation that result from these policies. Goodfellow’s book is a crucial reminder of the human cost to treating immigration as a problem.

Available as an eBook

by Irenosen Okojie

This collection focuses on offbeat characters caught up in extraordinary situations – a mysterious woman of the sea in search of love arrives on an island inhabited by eunuchs; dimensional-hopping monks navigating a season of silence face a bloody reckoning in the ruins of an abbey; an aspiring journalist returning from a failed excursion in Sydney becomes what she eats and a darker, Orwellian future is imagined where oddly detached children arrive in cycles and prove to be dangerous in unfamiliar surroundings.

Currently not available as an eBook

This Brutal House
by Niven Govinden

On the steps of New York’s City Hall, five ageing Mothers sit in silent protest. They are the guardians of the vogue ball community – queer men who opened their hearts and homes to countless lost Children, providing safe spaces for them to explore their true selves. Through epochs of city nightlife, from draconian to liberal, the Children have been going missing; their absences ignored by the authorities and uninvestigated by the police. In a final act of dissent the Mothers have come to pray: to expose their personal struggle beneath our age of protest, and commemorate their loss until justice is served. Watching from City Hall’s windows is city clerk, Teddy. Raised by the Mothers, he is now charged with brokering an uneasy truce.

Currently not available as an eBook

Which one do you think will take home this year’s prize? Tell us in the comments below!

Costa Book Awards 2017 Shortlists

The 2017 shortlists for the categories of The Costa Book Awards have now been announced!

The Costa Book Awards is one of the UK’s most prestigious and popular literary prizes and recognises some of the most enjoyable books of the year, written by authors based in the UK and Ireland.

Since their launch in 1971, the awards have rewarded a wide range of excellent books and authors across all genres.

Uniquely, the prize has five categories – First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book – with one of the five winning books selected as the overall Costa Book of the Year. It is the only prize which places children’s books alongside adult books in this way.

The five Category Winners will be announced on Tuesday 2nd January.

The Costa Book Awards Book of the Year 2017 will be announced on Tuesday 30th January 2018.

Explore, reserve and read this year’s short lists:

Novel Award

2017 Shortlist:

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (4th Estate)

Under a Pole Star by Stef Penney (Quercus)

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (Bloomsbury Circus)

Tin Man by Sarah Winman (Tinder Press)


First Novel Award

2017 Shortlist:

The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times by Xan Brooks (Salt)

Montpelier Parade by Karl Geary (Harvill Secker) Also available as e-book!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (HarperCollins)

The Haunting of Henry Twist by Rebecca F John (Serpent’s Tail)


Biography Award

2017 Shortlist:

Once Upon a Time in the East: A Story of Growing Up by Xiaolu Guo (Chatto & Windus) Also available as e-book!

A Bold and Dangerous Family: The Rossellis and the Fight Against Mussolini by Caroline Moorehead (Chatto & Windus) Also available as e-book!

In the Days of Rain by Rebecca Stott (4th Estate)

Fragile Lives: A Heart Surgeon’s Stories of Life and Death on the Operating Table by Stephen Westaby (HarperCollins)

Poetry Award

2017 Shortlist:

Kumukanda by Kayo Chingonyi (Chatto & Windus) Also available as e-book!

Inside the Wave by Helen Dunmore (Bloodaxe Books) Also available as e-book!

On Balance by Sinéad Morrissey (Carcanet)

Useful Verses by Richard Osmond (Picador)


Children’s Book Award

2017 Shortlist:

Moonrise by Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans (David Fickling Books)

The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (Chicken House) – also available on eBook

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)


The five Category Winners will be announced on Tuesday 2nd January.

The Costa Book Awards Book of the Year 2017 will be announced on Tuesday 30th January 2018.

Costa Book Awards Shortlist

The Costa Book Awards shortlist was revealed on the 17th November, take a look at the 4 books in the novel category below. Don’t forget you can borrow them all for free from Hampshire Libraries, all you need is a Hampshire library card, and that’s free as well!

Click on the title to see the book in our catalogue where you can reserve for collection at your local Hampshire library.

Keep watching our blog, we’ll be putting up the other lists too.

A god in ruins, Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson’s ‘Life After Life’ explored the possibility of infinite chances, as Ursula Todd lived through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. In ‘A God in Ruins’, Atkinson turns her focus on Ursula’s beloved younger brother Teddy – would-be poet, RAF bomber pilot, husband and father – as he navigates the perils and progress of the 20th century. For all Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge will be to face living in a future he never expected to have.

The green road, Anne Enright

The children of Rosaleen Madigan leave the west of Ireland for lives they never could have imagined in Dublin, New York and various third-world towns. In her early old age their difficult, wonderful mother announces that she’s decided to sell the house and divide the proceeds. Her adult children come back for a last Christmas, with the feeling that their childhoods are being erased, their personal history bought and sold. A darkly glinting novel set on Ireland’s Atlantic coast, ‘The Green Road’ is a story of fracture and family, selfishness and compassion – a book about the gaps in the human heart and how we learn to fill them.

A place called winter, Patrick Gale

A privileged elder son, and stammeringly shy, Harry Cane has followed convention at every step. Even the beginnings of an illicit, dangerous affair do little to shake the foundations of his muted existence – until the shock of discovery and the threat of arrest cost him everything. Forced to abandon his wife and child, Harry signs up for emigration to the newly colonised Canadian prairies. Remote and unforgiving, his allotted homestead in a place called Winter is a world away from the golden suburbs of turn-of-the-century Edwardian England. And yet it is here, isolated in a seemingly harsh landscape, under the threat of war, madness and an evil man of undeniable magnetism that the fight for survival will reveal in Harry an inner strength and capacity for love beyond anything he has ever known before.

At hawthorn time, Melissa Harrison

Four-thirty on a May morning: the black fading to blue, dawn gathering somewhere below the treeline in the east. A long, straight road runs between sleeping fields to the little village of Lodeshill, and on it two cars lie wrecked and ravished, violence gathered about them in the silent air. One wheel, upturned, still spins. Howard and Kitty have recently moved to Lodeshill after a life spent in London; now, their marriage is wordlessly falling apart. Custom car enthusiast Jamie has lived in the village for all of his nineteen years and dreams of leaving it behind, while Jack, a vagrant farm-worker and mystic in flight from a bail hostel, arrives in the village on foot one spring morning, bringing change. All four of them are struggling to find a life in the modern countryside; all are trying to find ways to belong.