Rathbones Folio Prize 2017 Shortlist

The following eight books were short-listed for the Rathbones Folio Prize. The winner was announced at a ceremony in London on the 24th of May 2017.


The Vanishing Man

The Vanishing Man

Laura Cumming (Chatto & Windus)

In 1845, a bookseller attending a country house auction bought a dirt-blackened portrait and, convinced that it was a long-lost Velazquez, set out to discover its strange history – a quest that led him from fame to ruin and exile.

Fusing detection and biography, this is a passionate homage to the Spanish master and an investigation into how great works of art can affect us, even to the point of mania.

The Return

The Return

Hisham Matar (Viking)

Hisham Matar was nineteen when his father was imprisoned in Libya, never to be seen again. Twenty-two years later, the fall of Gaddafi meant he was finally able to return home.

This deeply poignant memoir is a quest for truth, a portrait of a nation subjected to absolute power, and above all, a universal tale of loss and the impossibility of living in the face of a loved one’s uncertain fate.

This Census Taker

This Census-Taker

China Miéville (Picador)

In a remote house on a hilltop, a boy witnesses a profoundly traumatic event. He tries – and fails – to flee. Alone with his increasingly deranged parent, he dreams of safety, of joining the other children in the town below, of escape.

When at last a stranger knocks at his door, the boy senses that his days of isolation might be over.

But is this man a friend? Enemy? Or something else altogether?

The Sport of Kings

The Sport of Kings

C.E. Morgan (4th Estate)

Henry Forge and his daughter, members of a great Kentucky racing dynasty, are breeding a champion. But when a young black man fresh out of prison comes to work for them, the violence of the Forges’ history and their exigencies of appetite are brought starkly into view.

A spiraling tale of wealth and poverty, racism and rage, this is an unflinching portrait of lives cast in shadow by the enduring legacy of slavery.

The Argonauts

The Argonauts

Maggie Nelson (Melville House)

An autobiographical love story between Maggie Nelson and the artist Harry Dodge, who is fluidly-gendered. As Nelson undergoes the transformations of pregnancy, she explores the challenges and complexities of mothering and queer family-making.

In a timely and genre-bending memoir that offers fresh and fierce reflections on motherhood, desire, identity and feminism, Nelson uses arresting prose even as she questions the limits of language, and voyages to the frontiers of love and family.

Golden Hill

Golden Hill

Francis Spufford (Faber & Faber)

New York, 1746.  A charming, handsome young stranger fresh off the boat from England pitches up to a counting-house in Golden Hill Street, with a suspicious yet compelling proposition – an order for a thousand pounds that he wishes to cash.  But can he be trusted?

This is New York in its infancy, a place where a clever young man can reinvent himself, fall in love, and find a world of trouble.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

Madeleine Thien (Granta)

An epic family history set during one of the most turbulent times of Chinese history, from the first days of Chairman Mao’s supremacy in the 60’s to the Beijing demonstrations of 1989.

Three brilliant musicians, linked by family and talent, struggle during the relentless cultural revolution to resist its persuasive power and to remain loyal to one another, to their art and to their personal and national identity.

Burning Country

Burning Country; Syrians in Revolution & War

Robin Yassin-Kassab & Leila Al-Shami (Pluto Press)

An urgent exploration of the reality of life in the midst of the political and humanitarian nightmare currently affecting Syria. Combining candid stories from opposition fighters, refugees, and grassroots revolutionary organisations with a thorough examination of the rise of Isis and Islamism, this vivid account sheds light not only on the Syrian confict but also the country as a whole, and helps us to understand what happened and why and how it should end.

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