Books by J K Rowling, E L James, Peter Kay, Stephenie Meyer, Philip Pullman and Zadie Smith will battle it out to be crowned the overall book of the past 30 years at this year’s British Book Awards (a.k.a. the Nibbies), as part of a unique celebration of the three decades of publishing championed at the annual awards, which were founded in 1990.
The longlist of titles—from Brick Lane to Longitude to Dreams From My Father—is made up of past winners at the British Book Awards, the book and trade awards founded in 1990 by Publishing News, and run since 2017 by The Bookseller. The longlist makes for a compelling history of the book trade and 30 years of successful publishing, with books such as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by Rowling, The Gruffalo’s Child by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, Northern Lights by Pullman, and The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown going on to become huge backlist bestsellers, and spawning many imitators.
The initiative celebrates the earliest winners, such as Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence and Delia Smith’s Christmas, as well as the trade’s newest superstars such as Sally Rooney (Normal People) and Gail Honeyman (Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine). It too highlights innovative publishing, from Phaidon’s popularising illustrated title The Art Book to The Lost Words by artist Jackie Morris and writer Robert Macfarlane, which has been donated to schools following a crowdfunding scheme.
The award acknowledges those titles that got away as well; the big books that never picked up a Nibbie—a "wildcard" entry will be announced at the shortlist stage in mid-March. Other key titles on the longlist include: Wild Swans by Jung Chang; Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding; The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson and Nick Sharratt; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon; Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel; How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran; and 5 Ingredients by Jamie Oliver.
The Bookseller now invites readers and the trade to share their memories of these books, make the case for titles to be shortlisted, and suggest wildcard entries. The full list can be viewed at thebookseller.com/awards/30from30. Twitter users can use #30from30 to have their say, or readers can email email@example.com to share their memories. The winning author will be invited to the British Book Awards on 18th May to pick up their prize.
Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller and chair of the judges at the British Book Awards, said: "For 30 years the British Book Awards have celebrated and rewarded everything that is good about British publishing through its big, successful and prize-winning books. This is an opportunity to relive a few memories of these past three decades, to cherish the books, authors, illustrators, agents and publishers that brought them to market, and the booksellers and librarians that sought out readers for them. This is our way of acknowledging the wider import of these titles, many of which launched careers, defined genres, or simply enabled their publishers to breathe again.
"I’m also delighted to be calling out for a wildcard: a book that ought to have won that we want to bring in from the cold because, of course, we didn’t always get it right. Mostly though, I look forward to hearing from readers and the trade as both share their memories of the longlist, and pitch for their favourites."
Alongside Jones and The Bookseller’s books editor Alice O’Keeffe, the judges of the award will be: Andrew Holgate, literary editor of the Sunday Times; Cathy Rentzenbrink, author and host of The Bookseller’s podcast; agent Elise Dillsworth; and John Mitchinson and Andy Miller, co-hosts of podcast "Backlisted". The list was compiled by The Bookseller, in consultation with publishers, from research conducted by Maria Vassilopoulos.