Irish authors lead shortlist for new Nero Book Awards

Irish authors lead shortlist for new Nero Book Awards

FOUR Irish authors have been shortlisted in the new Nero Book Awards.

Announced today, the 16-strong list of potential winners for the inaugural event are found in four categories: Children’s Fiction, Debut Fiction, Fiction and Non-Fiction.

In the Fiction category Dubliner Paul Murray is shortlisted for The Bee Sting.

Author Paul Murray, is nominated for his book The Bee Sting (Pic: Lee Pelligrini)

His tragicomic tale of the life of one Irish family is also shortlisted for the Booker Prize, which is due to be announced next week.

It follows his critically acclaimed 2010 novel Skippy Dies, which also made the Booker Prize Longlist, and The Mark and the Void in 2015, which won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize the following year.

Author Megan Nolan (Pic: Sophie Davidson)

He goes up against fellow Irish author Megan Nolan, whose second novel Ordinary Human Failings, a story of family secrets, is one of the four shortlisted for the award.

The Waterford-born author and journalist won critical acclaim for her debut Acts of Desperation in 2021, which was longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize and shortlisted for the Betty Trask Award for debut novels.

Michael Magee has been shortlisted for his debut novel Close to Home

In the Debut Fiction category, two of the four shortlisted authors are also Irish.

Michael Magee’s debut Close to Home tells the story of two working-class brothers in post-Troubles Northern Ireland,

It won the Rooney Prize for Literature 2023 and was shortlisted for the Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize 2023.

Close to Home by Michael Magee

It is set in Belfast, where Magee is the fiction editor of literary magazine The Tangerine.

Brighton-based Chloe Michelle Howarth’s coming of age novel Sunburn is inspired by her childhood spent growing up in Cork.

The author was listed as an Evening Standard One To Watch 2023.

Cork-born author Chloe Michelle Howarth (Pic: Demi Exhezona)

The pair go up against Stephen Buoro with The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa, and Tom Crewe whose debut The New Life is also shortlisrted in the category.

Twelve category judges – a mix of authors, booksellers and journalists – were tasked with creating the shortlist.

Launched in May 2023, the Nero Book Awards are part of Caffè Nero’s programme to sponsor the arts.

Sunburn by Chloe Michelle Howarth

Gerry Ford, Founder and CEO of Caffè Nero explained: “The Nero Book Awards are important to Caffè Nero and to me because of our interest in bringing the arts, cultural programmes and intellectual pursuits to our coffee houses.

“The response from publishers and authors to these Awards has been tremendous, and I’m excited by the quality books that the judges have shortlisted. We hope readers of all tastes will enjoy these books and recommend them to others.”

Paul Murray's The Bee Sting

The Awards are being run in partnership with Right to Dream, Brunel University London and The Booksellers Association.

The judges include novelist and screenwriter Sara Collins; the journalist, screenwriter and author Sarfraz Manzoor; and the novelists Anthony Quinn and Dave Rudden.

Ordinary Human Failings by Megan Nolan

A winning title from each of the four categories will be announced on January 16, 2024.

Of those, one book will be selected as the overall winner, receiving The Nero Gold Prize, by a final panel of judges and announced at a ceremony in late February 2024.

Each of the category winners receives £5,000, with the overall Nero Gold Prize - Book of the Year winner receiving an additional £30,000.

The Nero Book Awards 2023 shortlist in full:


The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa by Stephen Buoro (Bloomsbury Circus)

The New Life by Tom Crewe (Chatto & Windus)

Sunburn by Chloe Michelle Howarth (VERVE Books)

Close To Home by Michael Magee (Hamish Hamilton)


Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton (Granta)

The Bee Sting by Paul Murray (Hamish Hamilton)

Ordinary Human Failings by Megan Nolan (Jonathan Cape)

Fifteen Wild Decembers by Karen Powell (Europa Editions)


Gwen and Art Are Not in Love by Lex Croucher (Bloomsbury YA)

Bitterthorn by Kat Dunn (Andersen Press)

Wild Song by Candy Gourlay (David Fickling)

The Swifts by Beth Lincoln (Puffin). Illustrated by Claire Powell


Strong Female Character by Fern Brady (Brazen)

The Tidal Year by Freya Bromley (Coronet)

Undercurrent by Natasha Carthew (Coronet)

Hags by Victoria Smith (Fleet)