Winning the Guardian First Book Award longlist

They’re here! At the beginning of September I won a competition in the Guardian for the ten-book longlist of the newspaper’s First Book Award (henceforth the GFBA). I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for weeks, but thought I would wait until they were actually in hand before I did so – I don’t know if it was a logistical hold-up, but it took ages to get the books out to me. (Everyone I contacted at the paper was very helpful about it.) £150 worth of books for free – bliss.

These are the titles, in no particular order:

Boxer Beetle, by Ned Beauman (Sceptre)

Your Presence is Required at Suvanto, by Maile Chapman (Jonathan Cape)

Things We Didn’t See Coming, by Steven Amsterdam (Harvill Secker)

Bomber Country, by Daniel Swift (Hamish Hamilton)

Mr Chartwell, by Rebecca Hunt (Penguin/Fig Tree)

Being Wrong, by Kathryn Schulz (Portobello)

Curfewed Night, by Basharat Peer (Harper Press)

The Floating Man, by Katharine Towers (Picador)

Black Mamba Boy, Nadifa Mohamed (Harper)

Romantic Moderns, by Alexandra Harris (Thames and Hudson)

I’ve alway liked the GFBA because of its mix of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, and for its international scope. Most of the longlist is fiction (the poetry entry always feels a little token to me), but there are some great-looking non-fiction titles in there too. Bomber Country in particular is something I have wanted to read since I read the first reviews.

I’ve started by reading Boxer Beetle, a novel by an English writer that on first glance has everything going against it – the worst and “zaniest” aspects of American postmodernism, an ill-judged fixation on Nazi memorabilia, and the fact that the author is only 25. (Here’s a recent short interview with him in the Guardian – go on, you really want to keep punching that face until all the bones in your hand have shattered, don’t you?) Dismayingly, from what I’ve read so far, Ned Beauman has talent to burn. It’s very well written, very funny, idiosyncratic, and encouragingly unusual in style and theme. Its the one book off the list I thought I would hate, which is perhaps why I wanted to read it first. I hope everything else prove equally surprising. The shortlist has already been announced, and my money is on Beauman to win.

I’ll write a short review of each book as I finish it. Keep watching this space.

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