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The Rathbones Folio Prize logo. Image via Google.

The shortlist for the 2017 Rathbones Folio Prize has been announced and it’s one of a kind: it combines both fiction and nonfiction. Here are the eight shortlisted books for the 20,000-pound prize.

Priding itself as “the first major English language book prize to celebrate the best literature of our time, regardless of form,” the Rathbones Folio Prize has an interesting history. Founded as simply the Literature Prize in 2014, the prize had been conceived as an alternative to the Booker Prize after the 2011 Booker shortlist received serious criticism. That year, the Booker judges were accused of having leaned towards “readability” at the expense of literary merit. The Folio Prize gained massive support among the globe’s leading writers–including Booker winners Peter Carey, Margaret Atwood, A.S. Byatt and J.M. Coetzee; and Baileys winners Zadie Smith and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who was due to deliver the award’s inaugural lecture in 2014 until an illness ensured she could not.

While its combination of fiction and nonfiction in a single shortlist is unprecedented for a highbrow literary fiction award, the prize already set its own pace when, at its founding in 2014, it considered every English-language novel published in the UK by an author from any country worldwide. At that time, the Booker was still limited to only authors from Commonwealth countries.

In its three-year existence, the prize has undergone three name changes. From the Literature Prize, it became the Folio Prize after the London-based publisher The Folio Society picked interest, and after Rathbones Investment Management Ltd became its sponsors last December, it became the Rathbones Folio Prize.

The inaugural 2014 prize was won by the American George Saunders for his short story collection Tenth of December. In 2015, the Indian-American Akhil Sharma won for his autobiographical novel Family Life. That year, Kenya’s Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor became the first African to be shortlisted for her poetic novel Dust. The prize was not awarded in 2016.

Find out more in The Guardian UK.

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Otosirieze is deputy editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is completing a postgraduate degree in African Studies, and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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