J K Rowling, Zadie Smith and Jamie Oliver have made the shortlist for the British Book Awards "30 from 30" trophy that will crown one book the most influential of the past three decades.
A one-off prize, the award celebrates 30 years of publishing excellence since the British Book Awards, or Nibbies, were launched in 1990.
The shortlist, selected by reader and trade votes, is made up of past winners and one wildcard – a major title that just missed out on a Nibbie. That wildcard book is Adam Kay’s diary as a junior doctor, This is Going to Hurt (Picador). The memoir sat in number one position on the Sunday Times bestseller charts for more than eight months and but narrowly missed out on a Nibbie in 2018.
The shortlist also includes three previous Book of the Year winners – Dan Brown’s 2003 page-turner The Da Vinci Code (Transworld), Helen Fielding’s 1996 novel Bridget Jones’s Diary (Picador), and the century-spanning Chinese family history Wild Swans by Jung Chang (William Collins) from 1991.
Previous Children’s Book of the Year winners also feature prominently, with Rowling’s debut 1997 novel that sparked a global phenomenon, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Bloomsbury), leading the charge.
Up against it are Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights (Scholastic), published in 1995 as the first instalment of the His Dark Materials trilogy, The Gruffalo’s Child by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Macmillan), and illustrated poetry collection celebrating nature The Lost Words by Jackie Morris and Robert MacFarlane (Hamish Hamilton).
Celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver also appears with his ubiquitous cookbook 5 Ingredients (Michael Joseph), which topped the Lifestyle category in 2018.
Zadie Smith is in the running with her turn-of-the-century debut novel White Teeth (Penguin). Hilary Mantel, who won the now-retired Author of the Year award in 2010 for Wolf Hall (Fourth Esate), has made the shortlist with that book 10 years later, just days after her trilogy-concluding novel The Mirror & the Light (Fourth Estate) was released.
Editor of The Bookseller Philip Jones is chairing the judging committee along with The Bookseller’s books editor Alice O’Keeffe; Andrew Holgate, literary editor of the Sunday Times; Cathy Rentzenbrink, author and host of The Bookseller’s podcast; the agent Elise Dillsworth; and John Mitchinson and Andy Miller, co-hosts of the book podcast Backlisted.
Jones said: “This is a wonderful list of past-winners complemented by our wildcard. The shortlist showcases the enduring power of books and the importance of those who write them, publish them, and sell them. As the book sector faces one of its most difficult periods, this history of the trade through the Nibbies should act like a beacon, reminding us of the power and influence of the written word.”
The winning author will be invited to the British Book Awards, now rescheduled to the 29th June.
The original list of 30 past winners was compiled by The Bookseller based on research by book trade historian Maria Vassilopoulos.
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