The Guardian First Book Award
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The Guardian First Book Award

The Guardian newspaper's literary award was set up in 1965 with a prize of 200 guineas and began simply as the Guardian Fiction Award. In 1999, it was relaunched as the Guardian First Book Award in order to reward new talent in both fiction and non-fiction. The winner currently receives £10,000, plus a guarantee of advertising space in The Guardian and The Observer.

Books are nominated by reviewers for The Guardian and the longlist, announced in late autumn, features the ten most popular titles. These ten are then discussed by a series of reading groups made up of members of the general public, and reduced to a shortlist of five.

Winners in the first incarnation of the award include Eva Figes, Beryl Bainbridge, John Banville, Peter Ackroyd, Graham Swift, J G Ballard, Pat Barker and Jackie Kay. No writer has won more than once. Four winners have won other major awards for the same book: John Berger's G also won the Booker Prize, Jim Crace also took the Whitbread First Novel Award with Continent, Alasdair Gray's Poor Things went on to win the Whitbread Novel Award and Anne Michaels' Fugitive Pieces won the second ever Orange Prize.

Since the switch to the new format, winners have been evenly split between fiction and non-fiction. The prize has avoided much in the way of controversy, although some critics were doubtful about 2001's winner, Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Boy in the World, which was the first graphic novel to win a major British literary award; it has since gone on to be considered a masterpiece of the form. In 2010, the decision to levy entry fees of £150 per book came under criticism by those who felt that it would deter small publishers, especially those of more specialist books such as poetry, from entering.

Nine of the ten books on the longlist are selected by the judges from publishers' entries, with a tenth book chosen from suggestions by readers of the Guardian.

The 2015 judges are Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis, Forward Prize-winning poet Kei Miller, historian Tom Holland, Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner, Claire Armitstead and Justine Jordan from the Guardian, journalist Alex Clark, Catherine Taylor from English PEN and Foyles' web editor Jonathan Ruppin.

The 2015 winner, announced on 14th August, was Physical by Andrew McMillan, the first collection of poetry to win (and only the second ever to make the shortlist).

Claire Armiststead commented, 'It is wonderful that a collection so tightly focused on masculinity and gay love could have such a wide appeal, across age and gender,” she continued. “It surprised us all with the best sort of ambush, emerging from an extremely strong and vibrant shortlist as the unanimously agreed winner.'

In 2016 The Guardian announced their decision to bring the prize to a close citing the proliferartion of first novel prizes now available.






Previous winners

2014 Young Skins by Colin Barrett

2013 The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan

2012 The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

2011 The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee

2010 Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper by Alexandra Harris

2009 An Elegy for Easterly by Petina Gappah

2008 The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the 20th Century by Alex Ross

2007 Children of the Revolution by Dinaw Mengestu

2006 A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li

2005 Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters

2004 Mutants: On the Form, Varieties and Errors of the Human Body by Armand Leroi

2003 Mountains of the Mind by Robert Macfarlane

2002 Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

2001 Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware

2000 White Teeth by Zadie Smith

1999 We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families by Philip Gourevitch


Guardian First Fiction Award

1998 Trumpet by Jackie Kay

1997Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels

1996 Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane

1995 Heart’s Journey in Winter by James Buchan (currently out of print)

1994 Debatable Land by Candia McWilliam

1993 The Eye in the Door by Pat Barker

1992 Poor Things by Alasdair Gray

1991 The Devil’s Own Work by Alan Judd

1990 Shape-Shifter by Pauline Melville (currently out of print)

1989 Rosehill: Portrait from a Midlands City by Carol Lake (currently out of print)

1988 Sweet Desserts by Lucy Ellmann

1987 The Levels by Peter Benson

1986 Continent by Jim Crace

1985 Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd

1984 Empire of the Sun by J G Ballard

1983 Waterland by Graham Swift

1982 Where I Used to Play on the Green by Glyn Hughes (currently out of print)

1981 Kepler by John Banville

1980 A Month in the Country by J L Carr

1979 The House of Hunger by Dambudzo Marechera

1978 Night in Tunisia by Neil Jordan (currently out of print)

1977 The Condition of Muzak by Michael Moorcock (currently out of print)

1976 Falstaff by Robert Nye

1975: Friends and Romans by Sylvia Clayton (currently out of print)

1974 The Bottle Factory Outing by Beryl Bainbridge

1973 In the Country of the Skin by Peter Redgrove

1972 G by John Berger

1971 The Big Chapel by Thomas Kilroy

1970 When Did You Last See Your Father? by Margaret Blount (currently out of print)

1969 Poor Lazarus by Maurice Leitch (currently out of print)

1968 A Song and a Dance by P J Kavanagh (currently out of print)

1967 Winter Journey by Eva Figes (currently out of print)

1966 The Dear Green Place by Archie Hind

1965 Crumb Borne by Clive Barry (currently out of print)

© W&G Foyle Ltd