Big US hits line up against British poetry and Irish short stories for this year's £10,000 prize
Eleven titles have been chosen for the £10,000 prize, from Mary Costello's collection of Irish short stories The China Factory, released by small publisher Stinging Fly Press, to Harbach's novel, which follows the story of baseball player Henry Skrimshander and arrives garlanded with praise from Jonathan Franzen and John Irving. For the second year running, Guardian readers nominated a title, this year choosing Sarah Jackson's "assured and mysterious" poetry collection Pelt.
Publishers submitted 94 titles for the prize, and judges, chaired by Guardian Review editor Lisa Allardice, called in many more. Army veteran Kevin Powers was chosen for The Yellow Birds, a novel about a soldier's return home after a year in Iraq, Patrick Flanery for his book about the fictional great South African writer Clare Wald, Absolution, and Charlotte Rogan for The Lifeboat, in which an ocean liner capsizes in 1914, stranding passengers in a lifeboat for three long weeks.
"In fiction we've got novels like The Art of Fielding, a popular and critical hit earlier this year, alongside lesser known titles such as The China Factory," said Allardice. "One criticism of new writing is often that it doesn't engage with contemporary events or recent history, but something like The Yellow Birds, a very raw, visceral account of the Iraq war written by a young soldier, shows this can be done.
"Judging a prize like this, you do very quickly become aware of trends and foibles. Semi-autobiographical novels seems to have given way to whimsical child narrators. The one on our longlist which might seem to fall into this category is Kerry Hudson's novel Tony Hogan Brought Me an Ice-cream Float Before He Stole My Ma, but the voice is so fresh and the writing so energetic that we felt it needed to be included."
Four non-fiction titles make this year's line-up: New Yorker journalist Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers, her account of her time living in the Annawadi slum built on rubbish dumps at the edge of Mumbai airport; Susan Cain's Quiet, about the power of introverts, Faramerz Dabhoiwala's The Origins of Sex; and Lindsey Hilsum's Sandstorm, about the Libyan revolution.
"The non-fiction we've chosen is wide-ranging both geographically, from Mumbai to Libya, and across subjects from sex to silence," said Allardice, who is joined on the judging panel by authors including Jeanette Winterson, Kate Summerscale and Ahdaf Soueif. "We've tried to put together a lively list which reflects the diversity of first books this year."
Reading groups across the country, run in partnership with Waterstones, will now help the panel pick a shortlist, which will be announced in late October. The winner will be unveiled on 29 November, joining names including Zadie Smith, Jonathan Safran Foer and last year's winner Siddhartha Mukherjee, who took the prize for his "biography" of cancer, The Emperor of All Maladies.
The China Factory by Mary Costello (Stinging Fly Press)
Absolution by Patrick Flanery (Atlantic)
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (Fourth Estate)
Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-cream Float Before He Stole My Ma by Kerry Hudson (Chatto & Windus)
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (Sceptre)
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan (Virago)
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (Portobello)
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain (Viking)
The Origins of Sex by Faramerz Dabhoiwala (Allen Lane)
Sandstorm: Libya in the Time of Revolution by Lindsey Hilsum (Faber)
Pelt by Sarah Jackson (Bloodaxe)