Gordon Burn prize announces ‘blazing’ shortlist | Books

Gordon Burn prize announces ‘blazing’ shortlist | Books

Booker-shortlisted author Jonathan Escoffery and Guardian Ireland correspondent Rory Carroll and are among those shortlisted for this year’s Gordon Burn prize, which aims to champion the year’s “boldest and most innovative” books.

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The Gordon Burn prize 2023-24


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Novels, short stories, memoirs and history books appear on the list, with stories that range from the IRA’s efforts to kill Margaret Thatcher to an Inuk girl growing up in the Arctic.

The shortlist features seven titles for the first time – in previous years, there have been five or six finalists. “Seven books on the shortlist? Yes, yes, we were greedy this year,” said judging chair and journalist Terri White. “But after hours of discussion and debate, it was clear we’d need to take through all seven brilliant, blazing, eclectic books to fully represent the prize, and the legacy of Gordon’s writing, today.”

Founded in 2012, the prize celebrates books that push boundaries, cross genres or otherwise challenge readers’ expectations in honour of the writer Gordon Burn, who died of cancer in 2009.

Carroll was shortlisted for Killing Thatcher, an account of the 1984 Brighton bombing, while Escoffery was nominated for his Booker-shortlisted If I Survive You, a collection of eight linked short stories about a Jamaican family in Miami navigating a recession and racism.

Megan Nolan also made this year’s shortlist for her second novel Ordinary Human Failings, about a family implicated in a crime, which is also shortlisted for the inaugural Nero book awards.

White said that the judges often found themselves “struggling for the word to define” the shortlisted books – “novel, memoir, true crime, biography, all shown up as wildly insufficient for books that wrangled, blended, mashed, incinerated and reinvented. That made us ask, what the bloody hell are we reading.”

Also on the shortlist was Wifedom: Mrs Orwell’s Invisible Life by Anna Funder, about the life of Eileen O’Shaughnessy; O Brother by John Niven, a memoir about his brother’s suicide; Kick the Latch by Kathryn Scanlan, based on interviews with a horse trainer in the American midwest; and Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq, a novel about an Inuk girl growing up in Nunavut, Canada, in the 1970s.

Prize judge and author Sheena Patel said that the books “reflect Gordon Burn’s ethos of form-pushing, well-told stories with strong writing at their core.”

The winner will be announced on 7 March at an event in Burn’s home city of Newcastle. They will receive £10,000 and the opportunity to undertake a writing retreat at Burn’s cottage in Berwickshire.

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“We’ve ended up with a shortlist of books which, as a writer, make you want to raise your game,” said prize judge and journalist Andrew Hankinson. “They provide a broad range of stories, as well as of voices and approaches to writing. Every book on there is exceptional.”

Joining White, Hankinson and Patel on the judging panel is the author Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff. Previous winners of the prize include Benjamin Myers, Peter Pomerantsev and Hanif Abdurraqib. Last year, Preti Taneja won for her examination of the 2019 London Bridge terror attack, Aftermath.

This article was amended on 25 January 2024. The headline of an earlier version referred to an “electric” shortlist, when the actual quote was “eclectic”. It also incorrectly said that Gordon Burn was Scottish.

To browse the books shortlisted for the Gordon Burn prize 2024 visit guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.

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