FictionFan Awards 2013 – History/Biography/Politics

Drum roll please…


…for this year’s nominees and winners of the annual FictionFan Awards of 2013.

What, I hear you all asking breathlessly, are the FictionFan Awards? (Oh, you didn’t ask? Never mind, I’ll tell you anyway…)



All nominees must be books I’ve read and reviewed between November 2012 and October 2013 regardless of publication date, but excluding re-reads. The books must have received a 5-star rating.



There will be Honourable Mentions and a Winner in each of the following categories




Literary Fiction



Book of the Year 2013




For the winners!

I guarantee to read the authors’ next book even if I have to buy it myself!

For the runners-up!




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So, without further ado, here are this year’s runners-up and winner in




live from downing streetLive from Downing Street: The Inside Story of Politics, Power and the Media by Nick Robinson

The BBC’s own Political Editor tells the history of the symbiotic relationship between politicians and the press, from its earliest days through to the end of the Gordon Brown era. A fascinating and very readable account given added interest by Robinson’s own involvement in the media over the last couple of decades. He gives a thoughtful analysis of the BBC’s reputation for unbiased reporting and argues that bias may become unavoidable in the internet era. The later parts of the book have an introspective air about them, as Robinson seems to re-assess some of his own actions throughout his career.

Click to see the full review

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the war that ended peaceThe War that Ended Peace by Margaret MacMillan

A thoughtful, well-balanced and detailed account of the decades prior to the First World War, showing the fears and power-plays that led to a devastating war that nobody wanted. A very accessible book that focuses on the individuals involved as much as the nations, and tells us not just about the politics, but also how both military planning and public opinion impacted on the drive towards war. A salutary reminder that peace can’t be taken for granted.

Click to see the full review

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the men who lost americaThe Men Who Lost America by Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy

Scholarly but accessible, this book looks at the inevitability or otherwise of Britain’s loss in the American War of Independence. O’Shaughnessy introduces us to each of the British commanders and politicians (including George III) who were in charge of the running of the war, and argues that in most cases they don’t deserve the opprobrium heaped on their individual heads. Well written, informative and enjoyable, the book tells as much about the military and naval campaigns as it does about the politics.

Click to see the full review

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wealth and powerWealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century by Orville Schell and John Delury

An absolutely fascinating book that takes an in-depth look at the psyche of China through the words and writings of its leading thinkers. Starting from the mid-19th century and bringing us up to the present day, the authors show how the encroachment of the Western empires and defeats at the hands of enemies within and without led, not just to the fall of the empire at the beginning of the twentieth century, but to the creation of a national mind-set that has kept the aim of achieving ‘wealth and power’ at the heart of Chinese politics ever since. Illuminating and thought-provoking, this explains (without justifying) some of the excesses carried out as China sought to regain her position as a world power.

Click to see the full review

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Unfinished Empire

Unfinished Empire: The Global Expansion of Britain by John Darwin

In this immensely interesting book, Darwin covers the last 500 years of history to show how the British Empire grew to its enormous size and then gradually contracted in the late-19th and 20th centuries. He does this by breaking the huge subject down into a series of themed chapters that makes it approachable and easy to follow. He shows how similarities and differences in the approach to controlling the empire depended on local circumstances; and gives a very clear picture of the global and historical context, placing the British Empire as one of a line of empires that have risen and fallen throughout history. In fact, while obviously the book is primarily about the British Empire, its scope and clarity of presentation made me feel almost as if I were reading a history of the world over the last half-millennium.

In what has been a great year for histories, biographies and political books, this one stands out because of its sheer scope and Darwin’s ability to present a vast amount of information in a way that made it accessible and enjoyable.

Click to see the full review

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Next week: Best Literary Fiction Award

33 thoughts on “FictionFan Awards 2013 – History/Biography/Politics

  1. FictionFan – Oh, what a great idea! I love this! What fun! And you’ve chosen some great books, too. Not that my TBR list needs additions, but I will be eagerly looking forward to your next post.


      • Oh, you’ll probably just change it if the professor’s guesses correctly, or, if he guesses incorrectly, he’ll be laughed to scorn. Would I be very far off if I said it was from Tuesday Terror?


        • I wouldn’t do that – remember I have to read the author’s next book! If you mean the Castle one – hmm! It won’t be the winner, but it might be up amongst the honourable mentions. The winner’s quite likely to come from the very early days of the blog, before you were around – there was a real run of great lit-fic at the beginning of the year and then it went downhill a bit. I haven’t completely decided myself yet…


  2. What a fantastic idea and such a prestigious award! I can’t wait to see the remaining categories although I know that I’m going to end up with even more must haves! I have bought The Christmas Carol narrated by Patrick Stewart and started listening to it so you’ve also converted me to the spoken word!


    • Thank you! I’m looking forward to seeing who wins the other categories myself – they haven’t been decided yet…

      Oh, I do hope you enjoy Christmas Carol! I don’t listen to as much audio as I used to when I had a longish commute, but I still think they’re great as background – for instance, when wrapping Chrissie Pressies…


    • Thanks! I’ve picked a ‘winner’ for myself every year since I started reviewing but decided to extend it this year, since I’m blogging. I’d be most interested to see what books show up on yours… 🙂


    • I know, I felt the same. But it seemed to be an accumulation of lots of things rather than one big thing. The book is really excellent, if you do decide to go for it – it’s getting great reviews all over the place. 🙂


    • Hope it’s going well! (I’m thinking of building an Ark – much more rain and I’ll need one. Just as well I’ve only got two cats…)

      Well, even I’m not sure yet who all the winners will be, so I’m quite interested too… 😉


      • I have this image in mind of you and two cats in an ark, setting off across the open sea. Plenty of room for books. Hope it stops raining soon. Our winter rain hasn’t really started yet. It’s been lovely, but I’m sure you don’t want to hear that. 😮


  3. If Mr F isn’t the litfic winner i will eat my……….. (girls with curls can’t wear hats without getting unbecoming flat tops) Oh dear, in that case it will have to be……….eat my…………(rummages through fridge……………yoghurt past its best before?……… cabbage?…………soya milk?………….AH! chocolate. And if Mr F IS the wonner I will eat my…………………champagne truffle chocolate



    • Might be…might not! It turned out a much less good year for lit-fic than the beginning suggested it would. I might even be struggling to find five 5-stars…

      (Note to self: less history next year and more fiction…)


      • Will there be glittering champagne cocktail acceptance speeches, and a glamorous FictionFan in Versace designed dress, tiara and jewels extending a 5 figure cheque to the blushing and overcome winner?

        If so, could you please post the menu for the event so we can decide to book (or not) our places. Don’t forget the vegetarian option please (not Omelet AGAIN, surely?)


        • Sadly by the time I’ve paid for the dress, tiara and jewels there will be no money left for prizes – so the five figures will have to come after the decimal point…

          Maybe I could persuade the authors to start up a new system, whereby they give me massive cheques…?

          Something with aubergines definitely. From memory of my own brief period of vegetarianism, all veggie options include aubergines. Aubergine omelet, perhaps?


          • Ulp. That sound disgusting. Love aubergines, actually Shame about the awards ceremony then, the menu isn’t that appealing to make that long journey North for, even to see you sparkling and bejewelled. And even because (in my mind, I am pretty sure who 3 of the 5 will be and would love to fawn, mop and mow at their feet, chomping less than seductively on my no doubt rubbery and slightly greasy aubergine omelette.

            Ah well. Is there are difference in the way an omelet and an omelette are cooked do you suppose. The omelette sounds a trifle fluffier – souffle variety perhaps.


            • I think you’ll be right about the three, but the other two will be tougher – I may be forced to bring a couple of the literary crime writers over…

              An omelette must be a little omelet, surely? I assumed when you said omelet, you were looking for a six-egger at least!


  4. PS Could I also suggest there be a ‘reader’s companion chocolate of the year award’ I am more than happy to contribute to the judging panel in the coveted ‘dark chocolate liqueurs’ award section as I believe I might just be an expert in this area


    • I may have a People’s Choice Award or two (haven’t decided yet) but it won’t be chocolate-based – I know you, you’d snaffle not just the judging samples…but the prizes!


  5. Love this. I have just come back from a funeral so was in serious need of cheering up. I thoroughly enjoyed the Nick Robinson and the O’Shaughnessy, and the first world war one is on my Kindle -now I’ll have to read the Empire one as well!


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