Orwell Prize Longlists for Political Writing and Political Fiction 2020

Wednesday 08 April 2020

The longlists for The Orwell Prize for Political Writing and The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction are announced today, Wednesday 8th April 2020.

The 25 books across the two longlists tell us where we’ve come from, and where we might go. From sweeping works of history to state-of-the-nation novels, via powerful short-story collections and data-driven analyses of gender and surveillance capitalism, the wide range of subjects and concerns on the longlist remain fiercely relevant, portraying the world as it is entering the 2020s, in which a great deal is at stake. Above all, they have all been chosen because they live up to Orwell’s stated ambition: ‘to make political writing into an art’. 


The Orwell Prize for Political Writing Longlist 2020:

The twelve books on the 2020 Political Writing longlist take in surveillance, education, gender bias, the environment and political power.  A stand-out theme is the way in which 20th century history echoes through these books; as we move into an uncertain future, these books warn us to tread carefully. The full longlist is:


Appeasing Hitler: Chamberlain, Churchill and the Road to War by Tim Bouverie (Bodley Head)

Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me by Kate Clanchy (Picador)

Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez (Chatto & Windus)

The Windrush Betrayal: Exposing the Hostile Environment by Amelia Gentleman (Guardian Faber)

Follow Me,  Akhi:  The Online World of British Muslims by Hussein Kesvani (Hurst)

Maoism: A Global History by Julia Lovell (Bodley Head)

The Ministry of Truth: A Biography of George Orwell’s 1984 by Dorian Lynskey (Picador)

Underland:  A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane (Hamish Hamilton)

Guest House for Young Widows:  Among the Women of ISIS by Azadeh Moaveni (Scribe)

Margaret Thatcher – Herself Alone: The Authorized Biography Vol. 3 by Charles Moore (Allen Lane)

Kremlin Winter: Russia and the Second Coming of Vladimir Putin by Robert Service (Picador)

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff (Profile)



None of us is thinking about life in quite the same way as we were even a few weeks ago. Politics looks and feels very different too. But the books on this year’s longlist are not about ordinary politics. In fact, most aren’t about mainstream politics at all. They are, though, political in the most important sense: they cast fresh light on something that matters and perhaps inspire us to consider how things might be better. They are also – all 12 of them – a good and satisfying read.  We surely need those more than ever.

Stephanie Flanders, Chair of Judges, The Orwell Prize for Political Writing 2020


The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction Longlist 2020:

This is the second year that the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction, sponsored by the Orwell Estate’s literary agents, A. M. Heath, and George Orwell’s son, Richard Blair, has been awarded. This year’s longlist of thirteen is dominated by female writers and the settings range across four continents, taking us from plague-ridden Medieval Europe, through war-torn countries and modern-day Britain, to a not-so-distant future in which borders are tightly controlled. The full longlist is:


This Paradise by Ruby Cowling (Boiler House Press)

Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann (Galley Beggar Press)

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo (Hamish Hamilton)

The Wall by John Lanchester (Faber & Faber)

The Topeka School by Ben Lerner (Granta Books)

The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy (Hamish Hamilton)

Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke (Serpent’s Tail)

To Calais, in Ordinary Time by James Meek (Canongate Books)

Girl by Edna O’Brien (Faber & Faber)

The Travelers by Regina Porter (Jonathan Cape)

Broken Jaw by Minoli Salgado (the87press)

Spring by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton)

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (Fleet)




Our longlist for his year’s Orwell Prize for Political Fiction pays homage to the ability of the writer’s voice to absorb political power structures and return them to us in stories of personal identity, community tensions, how the long tail of history impacts on the present, and the emerging strength of women to define what ‘political’ means.

Jude Kelly, Chair of Judges, The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction 2020


The judges for the 2020 Orwell Prize for Political Writing are: head of Bloomberg Economics Stephanie Flanders (chair); Elif Shafak, novelist; Paul Laity, deputy editor, Guardian Review; and Robert Tombs, Emeritus Professor of French History at Cambridge.

The judges for the 2020 Orwell Prize for Political Fiction are: director of the WOW (Women of the World) foundation Jude Kelly (chair);  Matthew Sperling, novelist; Sarah Shaffi, literary journalist and editor; and Tom Gatti, deputy editor of the New Statesman.

The shortlists for both prizes will be announced in mid-May and the winners of the prizes, which are both worth £3,000, will be unveiled on George Orwell’s birthday, Tuesday 25th June, together with the winner of The Orwell Prize for Journalism and The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils. Longlists for both The Orwell Prize for Journalism and Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils will be announced on Thursday 9th April 2020.

For more information about this year’s prizes, and for media resources, please contact the prize administrator James Tookey at james.tookey@theorwellprize.co.uk or 07970 927 547

Notes to editors

  1. The Orwell Foundation is a registered charity (1161563) providing free cultural events and resources for the public benefit. Every year, the Foundation awards The Orwell Prizes, Britain’s most prestigious awards for political writing, to work which comes closest to George Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’. There are currently four prizes: for Political Fiction, Political Writing, Journalism and Exposing Britain’s Social Evils.
  2. A. M. Heath, co-sponsors with Richard Blair of the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction, are the literary agents of the Orwell Estate. Their clients have won innumerable literary prizes, including the Man Booker five times, the Carnegie, the Costa, the Women’s Prize, the Guardian First Book, the Somerset Maugham, the James Tait Black Memorial and the Orwell Prize.
  3. Richard Blair is George Orwell’s (Eric Blair) only son and was adopted by Orwell and his first wife, Eileen, in June 1944. After Eileen’s death in 1945, Richard spent much time on Jura with his father as he worked on his last novel, 1984.  Following his father’s death from tuberculosis at the age of 46 in January 1950, Richard went to live with his aunt, Orwell’s younger sister Avril.   Richard is a trustee of The Orwell Foundation and The Orwell Youth Prize and Patron of The Orwell Society.
  4. The Orwell Foundation uses the work of George Orwell to celebrate honest writing and reporting, uncover hidden lives and confront uncomfortable truths. The Foundation’s partners and sponsors include University College London, Political Quarterly, Richard Blair, A.M. Heath and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Since 2016, the Orwell Foundation has been based at UCL, which is also home to the world’s most comprehensive body of research material relating to Orwell, the UNESCO registered George Orwell Archive
  5. The Orwell Book Prize was founded in 1994. In 2020 The Orwell Book Prize for Political Writing received entries 219 and The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction received 135 entries.
  6. Previous winners have included Anna Burns (Political Fiction 2019) and Patrick Radden Keefe (Political Writing 2019), Darren McGarvey (2018) John Bew (2017), Alan Johnson (2014), and Andrea Gillies (2010).