This year’s shortlist offered a diverse range of titles, each of which would have made a very good Big Read. Having been determined by a specially developed selection algorithm – we think this is the first time that a literary prize has been chosen by a computer.
The final book for 2016 was chosen by committee in April but our shortlist of six titles included books from; Canongate, Eyewear Publishing, Pan Macmillan, Penguin and Sceptre
The Other Hand by Chris Cleave
Known also as Little Bee in the US, The Other Hand is a dual narrative story about a Nigerian asylum-seeker and a British magazine editor, who meet during the oil conflict in the Niger Delta. The novel examines the treatment of refugees by the asylum system, as well as issues of British colonialism, globalization, political violence and personal accountability.
About Chris Cleave
Chris is an English novelist and columnist for The Guardian who has been nominated for several awards over the years. One of his novels is to be made into a movie adaptation by BBC Films.
The Humans by Matt Haig
Set in Cambridge, The Humans is a love story, a murder story and a ‘what-are-we-here-for?’ story. It looks at the fundamentals of human existence from an alien perspective: as this story develops, so the narrator and his narration change. Much of the first half of the novel is taken up by his puzzled analyses of primitive human ways but as his emotional attachment grows so too do his reflections on the odd appeal of our short and brutish lives, and especially on our gift for love.
About Matt Haig
Matt is an English novelist most well-known for his young-adult and speculative fiction titles. Over the last year, his autobiographical title Reasons to Stay Alive has received much critical acclaim and drawn much-needed attention to the issue of mental health in men and boys.
Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay
Red Dust Road is a heart-warming memoir full of unexpected twists and deep emotions in which adopted Jackie Kay lays out her journey of tracing and finding her Scottish birth mother and Nigerian birth father.
About Jackie Kay
Jackie Kay MBE is a much loved poet and author of mixed Scottish and Nigerian descent. Jackie has won numerous awards for her work whilst holding academic positions at Newcastle University and Glasgow Caledonian University. She is currently Chancellor of the University of Salford.
Feral by George Monbiot
A non-fiction title, Feral is part journal and part natural history, stemming from the rigorous research for which George Monbiot is well known. A gripping story of Monbiot's efforts to re-engage with nature and discover a new way of living. He shows how, by restoring and rewilding our damaged ecosystems on land and at sea, we can bring wonder back into our lives.
About George Monbiot
George is a well-known British writer and journalist for The Guardian with a passion for environmental and political activism. In 1995, Nelson Mandela presented him with a United Nations Global 500 Award for outstanding environmental achievement. He holds honorary doctorates from the University of St Andrews and the University of Essex, as well as an honorary fellowship from Cardiff University.
Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith
A modern-day reimaging of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Boy Meets Girl is about girls and boys, girls and girls, love and transformation, a story of puns and doubles, reversals and revelations.
About Ali Smith
Ali Smith CBE is a full-time Scottish, author of numerous short story collections and novels. She regularly contributes to The Guardian, The Scotsman, and the Times Literary Supplement.
The Boy from Aleppo Who Painted the War by Sumia Sukkar
Written from the perspective of a young boy with Asperger’s Syndrome witnessing and trying to make sense of the events of the Syrian conflict, The Boy from Aleppo is a raw and gripping tale which chronicles the intimate sufferings of a family in the midst of civil war.
About Sumia Sukkar
Sumia is a former Creative Writing student of Kingston University. Of Syrian and Algerian descent, her first novel was published at the age of only 22 when her tutor was so impressed by her work that he secured a publishing deal for her.