Premium coffee house, Caffè Nero today has announced the 16-strong shortlist for the inaugural Nero Book Awards, recognising the outstanding books of the past 12 months across four categories: Children’s Fiction, Debut Fiction, Fiction and Non-Fiction. Twelve category judges – a mix of authors, booksellers and journalists – were tasked with choosing the best books of the year from writers based in the UK and Ireland.

Launched in May 2023, the Nero Book Awards are part of Caffè Nero’s programme to sponsor the arts. Caffè Nero is an independent, family-owned business. It has embraced many cultural and intellectual endeavours since its start in 1997, supporting outstanding new singer-songwriters, exceptional writers, quality designers and excellent photography. The Nero Book Awards are run in partnership with Right to Dream, Brunel University London and The Booksellers Association. A not-for-profit organisation, the Awards celebrate the craft of great writing and the joy of reading, providing readers of all tastes with a combination of high-quality writing and readability.

The publishing industry has embraced the Awards since they were announced earlier in 2023. Over 100 publishers and imprints have submitted hundreds of books across the four categories to the judges. Judges include: the novelist and screenwriter Sara Collins; the journalist, screenwriter and author Sarfraz Manzoor; and the novelists Anthony Quinn and Dave Rudden. The full list of judges can be found here.

CHILDREN’S FICTION AWARD SHORTLIST (listed alphabetically by author surname)

  1. Gwen and Art Are Not in Love by Lex Croucher (Bloomsbury YA)
  2. Bitterthorn by Kat Dunn (Andersen Press)
  3. Wild Song by Candy Gourlay (David Fickling)
  4. The Swifts by Beth Lincoln (Puffin). Illustrated by Claire Powell


  1. The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa by Stephen Buoro (Bloomsbury Circus)
  2. The New Life by Tom Crewe (Chatto & Windus)
  3. Sunburn by Chloe Michelle Howarth (VERVE Books)
  4. Close To Home by Michael Magee (Hamish Hamilton)


  1. Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton (Granta)
  2. The Bee Sting by Paul Murray (Hamish Hamilton)
  3. Ordinary Human Failings by Megan Nolan (Jonathan Cape)
  4. Fifteen Wild Decembers by Karen Powell (Europa Editions)


  1. Strong Female Character by Fern Brady (Brazen)
  2. The Tidal Year by Freya Bromley (Coronet)
  3. Undercurrent by Natasha Carthew (Coronet)
  4. Hags by Victoria Smith (Fleet)

Gerry Ford, Founder and CEO of Caffè Nero commented: “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.”

Amanda Johnson, Awards Director, adds: “The announcement of our shortlist is such an exciting milestone for the Nero Book Awards. We have here an incredible range of books that will speak to a variety of different audiences, from books based on true stories to fantasies to explorations of self, place and landscape. Huge congratulations to all the shortlisted authors and their publishers. We hope that everyone will find a new favourite book on this list.”

A winning title from each of the four categories will be announced on 16th January 2024 and, of those, one book will be selected as the overall winner – 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.

To be eligible for the 2023 Nero Book Awards, books must have been first published in English in the UK or Ireland between the 1st of December 2022 and 30th of November 2023. At the time of entry, authors must have been alive and resident in the UK or Ireland for the past three years.