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The Rathbone Folio Prize

Rathbones Folio Prize logoFollowing the 2011 Man Booker Prize, a group of representatives from across the book trade, including publishers, agents, critics and writers, set up what was at first called the Literature Prize, for which all English-language fiction would be eligible. A sponsorship with the Folio Society resulted in the name The Folio Prize being adopted and a prize fund of £40,000 for the winner.

In part it was a response to the 2011 Man Booker Prize shortlist, which was widely criticised for eschewing the more literary fiction that the Prize was set up to recognise, instead featuring more overtly populist fiction. A statement from the administrators said:

The sole criterion for judgment will be excellence: to identify works of fiction in which the story being told and the subjects being explored achieve their most perfect and thrilling expression.

The Prize also hoped to cast a wider net by allowing English-language fiction from any nationality, instead of the Booker's restriction to the writers for the UK, Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe. (This second difference was nullified when the administrators of the Man Booker Prize announced that their award would accept entries from any nationality, provided that it was published in the UK, from 2014.)

This change in the Booker criteria provoked this response from the administrators, suggesting that a certain rivalry would probably exist between the two:

Our intention was to fill a perceived gap, rather than to imply that others should adopt our model. The Man Booker's impressive reach, not least in the United States, seemed in part to be built upon its clear and distinctive parameters, so we are in some ways surprised by this decision. Still, it's important always to be open to change, and we welcome the fact that Man Booker has joined the Folio Prize in disregarding borders, just as it's also interesting to note the Man Booker International Prize has created an 'e-council' of former Man Booker winners that resembles the Folio Prize Academy.

Almost 200 eminent writers and critics from across the globe have been invited to join the Folio Prize Academy. Five of these are chosen at random each year to form the judging panel, with any chosen member for whom a conflict of interest might exist asked to step aside.

The other members choose a total of 60 books for the five judges to deliberate upon, with the panel also required to call in a further 20 books not put forward by the Academy. The panel chooses its shortlist of eight books from these 80 titles.

With the end of the Folio Society's sponsorship, there will be no award in 2016, but a statement from the organisers in September 2015 said:

As we continue our work to secure a new sponsor for the Folio Prize, we have decided not to run a prize in March 2016. Instead, we are concentrating our resources on another promising development for the spring, while at the same time exploring how the prize might best fulfil its aim of bringing great books to readers in the future. We passionately believe there remains a place for a prize that is, uniquely, run by writers, and we intend to return with a full-scale prize in 2017.

In December 2016, the prize announced that its new sponsor is Rathbone Investment Management Ltd. The prize is now to be awarded for the best work of literature, regardless of form. The first shortlist was announced 6th April and comprises four novels and four works of non-fiction. The three judges are Ahdaf Soueif (chair), Lucy Hughes-Hallett and Rachel Holmes. The winner will be announced on 24th May.

2017 Shortlist

The Vanishing Man: In Pursuit of...
(Paperback)
Laura Cumming
 
In 1845, a Reading bookseller came across the portrait of a prince at a country house auction. Suspecting that it might be a long-lost Velazquez, he bought the picture and...
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The Return: Fathers, Sons and the ...
(Paperback)
Hisham Matar
 
WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE IN BIOGRAPHY WINNER OF THE RATHBONES FOLIO PRIZE SHORTLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION SHORTLISTED FOR THE COSTA...
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This Census-Taker
(Paperback)
China Mieville
 
In a remote house on a hilltop, a lonely boy witnesses a traumatic event. He tries - and fails - to flee. Left alone with his increasingly deranged parent, he...
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The Sport of Kings
(Paperback)
C. E. Morgan
 
Shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction...
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The Argonauts
(Paperback)
Maggie Nelson
 
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Golden Hill
(Paperback)
Francis Spufford
 
New York, a small town on the tip of Manhattan Island. 1746. One rainy evening, a charming young stranger fresh off the boat from England pitches up to a counting...
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Do Not Say We Have Nothing
(Paperback)
Madeleine Thien
 
SHORTLISTED FOR THE BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2017 SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2016 WINNER OF THE SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE 2016 SHORTLISTED FOR THE...
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Burning Country: Syrians in ...
(Paperback)
Robin Yassin-Kassab; Leila Al-Shami
 
A vivid and groundbreaking look at a modern-day political and humanitarian nightmare.
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Previous winners

2015 Family Life by Akhil Sharma

2014 Tenth of December by George Saunders

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