Shortlist announced for Gordon Burn Prize 2023-24

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The shortlist for the Gordon Burn Prize 2023–24, which recognises and celebrates fiction and non-fiction books that are fearless in their ambition and execution, is announced today (Thursday 25 January).

The seven books on the Gordon Burn Prize 2023-24 shortlist are:

  • Killing Thatcher by Rory Carroll (Mudlark)
  • If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery (4th Estate)
  • Wifedom: Mrs Orwell’s Invisible Life by Anna Funder (Viking)
  • O Brother by John Niven (Canongate Books)
  • Ordinary Human Failings by Megan Nolan (Jonathan Cape)
  • Kick the Latch by Kathryn Scanlan (Daunt Originals)
  • Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq (And Other Stories)

Founded in 2012 by New Writing North, Faber & Faber and the Gordon Burn Trust, the Gordon Burn Prize has built a reputation for identifying and celebrating brilliant books that often find their readers outside the mainstream. With new sponsorship from Newcastle University and NCLA, the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts, the prize fund for 2023–24 has doubled to £10,000.

The prize remembers the writer Gordon Burn, who died in 2009, and seeks to celebrate those who follow in his footsteps. A journalist and author of ten books, his work includes the novels Alma Cogan and Fullalove and non-fiction titles Pocket Money and Happy Like Murderers. Like Burn’s own work, the books recognised by the Gordon Burn Prize often push boundaries, cross genres or otherwise challenge readers’ expectations.

The shortlist was selected by the Gordon Burn Prize 2023-24 judges Terri White (chair), Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, Andrew Hankinson and Sheena Patel.

Terri White, chair of judges, said:

‘Seven books on the shortlist? Yes, yes, we were greedy this year. But after hours of discussion and debate, it was clear we’d need to take through all seven brilliant, blazing, eclectic books to fully represent the prize, and the legacy of Gordon’s writing, today.

We often found ourselves struggling for the word to define them – novel, memoir, true crime, biography, all shown up as wildly insufficient for books that wrangled, blended, mashed, incinerated and reinvented. That made us ask, what the bloody hell are we reading. 

Whether it’s the story of a horse trainer in the American midwest; of the IRA’s efforts to kill Thatcher in Brighton; or of an Inuik girl growing up in the Arctic, these books all summon Gordon’s spirit.

Collectively, they interrogate history, perspective, form, genre and the line between fact and fiction. They take insane risks. And they do so with fresh voice and fascinations rooted in today.’

Andrew Hankinson said: ‘We’ve ended up with a shortlist of books which, as a writer, make you want to raise your game. They provide a broad range of stories, as well as of voices and approaches to writing. Every book on there is exceptional.’

Sheena Patel said: ‘These books reflect Gordon Burn’s ethos of form-pushing, well-told stories with strong writing at their core.’

Professor Jo Robinson, Head of the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, Newcastle University, said: ‘The shortlisted titles evidence challenging and innovative approaches to important, vital stories. Newcastle University, and NCLA, are delighted to be working with New Writing North to support the Gordon Burn Prize in 2023-24 and beyond.’

The Gordon Burn Prize 2023–24 winner will be announced on 7 March 2024 at an event at Northern Stage in Gordon Burn’s home city of Newcastle upon Tyne. The event will include readings from the shortlisted books and will be hosted by the BBC’s Nick Ahad. The winning writer will receive £10,000 and the chance to undertake a writing retreat at Gordon Burn’s cottage in Berwickshire.

Read more about the Gordon Burn Prize

Discover the 2023-24 shortlist