Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding is probably the best known of the 11 books just announced as the long list for the Guardian first book award. But he’ll have a fight on his hands.
The list, which gathers together examples of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, has some proven book shop success among the slightly more unknowns.
Hottest opposition is likely to be Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo’s extraordinary account of life in a Mumbai slum.
Boo, who has won a Pulitzer Prize for her writings in the New Yorker, was a huge success when she appeared at the recent Byron Bay Writers Festival. A quiet, understated speaker, her book was a pleasure not least because rather than the expected sadness and futility it reveals a world of surprising optimism and humanity.
The full list of nominees is:
Fiction: The China Factory by Mary Costello; Absolution by Patrick Flanery; The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach; Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-cream Float Before He Stole My Ma Ma by Kerry Hudson; The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers and The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan.
Non-Fiction: Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo; Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain; The Origins of Sex by Faramerz Dabhoiwala and Sandstorm: Libya in the Time of Revolution by Lindsey Hilsum.
Judges won’t quite be going it alone in finding a worthy winner for the prize worth GBP10,000. Reading groups around Britain will contribute to discussion about the shortlist to be announced in October.
Last year’s winner was Siddhartha Mukherjee who wrote The Emperor of All Maladies, which has become known as the “biography” of cancer.