Shortlist announced for Gordon Burn Prize 2021

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The shortlist for the Gordon Burn Prize 2021 (announced Friday 13 August) reveals the year’s most dazzlingly bold and forward-thinking books.

The six-strong shortlist of fiction and non-fiction titles, published between July 2020 and July 2021, was selected by chair of the judges, author Denise Mina; writer and poet Derek Owusu; novelist and short story writer Irenosen Okojie; and literary journalist and editor Sian Cain.

The prize is run in partnership by the Gordon Burn Trust, New Writing North, Faber & Faber and Durham Book Festival, a Durham County Council festival.


The Gordon Burn Prize 2021 shortlist is:

Come Join Our Disease (Faber), Sam Byers

A Ghost in the Throat (Tramp Press), Doireann Ní Ghríofa

A Little Devil in America (Allen Lane), Hanif Abdurraqib

Luckenbooth (William Heinemann), Jenni Fagan

Mrs Death Misses Death (Canongate), Salena Godden

Sea State (HarperCollins), Tabitha Lasley


The Gordon Burn Prize, founded in 2012, remembers the late author of novels including Fullalove and Born Yesterday: The News as a Novel, and non-fiction including Happy Like Murderers: The Story of Fred and Rosemary West and Best and Edwards: Football, Fame and Oblivion. 

Now in its ninth year, the prize seeks to celebrate those who follow in Gordon Burn’s footsteps by recognising literature that is fearless in both ambition and execution. The works recognised often make the reader think again, playing with style or genre, pushing boundaries or diverging from the mainstream literary culture.

Peter Pomerantsev won the Gordon Burn Prize in 2020 for This is Not Propaganda, his study on the war against reality. Previous winners have included David Keenan’s novel For the Good Times, set during the height of the Troubles in 1970s Belfast (2019); Census (2018), Jesse Ball’s fable inspired by his late brother; and Denise Mina’s true crime novel The Long Drop (2017).

The winner of the Gordon Burn Prize 2021 will receive £5000 and a writing retreat at Gordon Burn’s cottage in the Scottish Borders. They will be announced at Durham Book Festival on Thursday 14 October 2021.