If you’re looking for your next book club pick, why not check out one of these books? Our 2023 shortlist makes for a fantastic reading list.

There are four categories to choose from, with a range of subject matter that will appeal to every taste, from books based on true stories to fantasies to explorations of self, place and landscape.

To help you along the way, we’ve created informative reading guides for each book – just click on the links below! You can also read more about all 16 books here, along with the judges who chose them.


  • Gwen and Art are Not in Love by Lex Croucher: A heart-warming and slyly subversive tale, this is a fresh new take on teen comedy romance.
  • Bitterthorn by Kat Dunn: A story of two outsiders finding each other, this speaks to the universal human fears of loneliness and loss.
  • Wild Song by Candy Gourlay: Based on real events, this describes a dark and little-known chapter of history.
  • The Swifts by Beth Lincoln: A murder mystery full of comedy and high jinks, this is a celebration of words and individuality.


  • The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa by Stephen Buoro: Eccentric, surreal and very funny, this takes readers down unexpected paths with its superficially cheery approach to serious subjects.
  • The New Life by Tom Crewe: Set against the backdrop of Oscar Wilde’s trial and the suffragettes fight for women’s votes, this is an atmospheric and erotic read.
  • Sunburn by Chloe Michelle Howarth: A moving coming-of-age love story, this explores the claustrophobia of living under the weight of other people’s expectations.
  • Close to Home by Michael Magee: Intense and urgent, this immerses readers in Nationalist, working-class Belfast life where the generational trauma of ‘The Troubles’ still casts its shadow.


  • Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton: Intricately plotted, this is a gripping psychological thriller that holds a mirror up to some of society’s most pressing challenges.
  • The Bee Sting by Paul Murray: Hilarious and tragic in equal measure, this is the gripping saga of one highly dysfunctional family.
  • Ordinary Human Failings by Megan Nolan: A sympathetic look at the effects of poverty and alcohol abuse, society’s diminishment of working-class people, and the consequences of intergenerational trauma.
  • Fifteen Wild Decembers by Karen Powell: Poetic and melancholic, echoing Emily Brontë’s own literary voice, this is an immersive reimagining of an extraordinary life.


  • Strong Female Character by Fern Brady: A raw and sometimes outrageous memoir, this looks back on a life shaped by neurodiversity.
  • The Tidal Year by Freya Bromley: Honest and intimate, this is a thoughtful book that resists categorisation as a grief or swimming memoir.
  • Undercurrent by Natasha Carthew: Divided into four sections, each named for one of the elements, this combines nature writing with social analysis, the personal with the political.
  • Hags by Victoria Smith: An unapologetic appeal for women who have earned their stripes to be noticed, celebrated and heard.