FictionFan Awards 2015 – Factual

All stand please…


…for this year’s nominees and winners of the annual FictionFan Awards of 2015.

In case you missed them last week, here’s a quick résumé of the rules…



All nominees must be books I’ve read and reviewed between November 2014 and October 2015 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

Genre Fiction – click to see awards


Crime Fiction/Thrillers

Literary Fiction



Book of the Year 2015




For the winners!


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

(NB If an author is unlikely to publish another book due to being dead, I will read a book from his/her back catalogue…)

For the runners-up!






* * * * * * * * *

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



This is a Golden Age for factual writing, especially in history and science, with authors reaching out beyond the academic market to make their books accessible to the general reader. The result is that it’s almost impossible to decide which should win since each of the books mentioned below deserves an award in its own field – it’s a bit of a comparing apples and oranges situation. However, the judges have emerged from their lengthy deliberation and a winner has been chosen…



the telegraph book of the first world warThe Telegraph Book of the First World War edited by Gavin Fuller


This book brings together a selection of the news reports and articles printed in The Telegraph during the First World War, at a time when for most people their daily newspaper was their only source of information. The quality of the writing itself is astonishingly high, filled with passion and poignancy, and sometimes reaching towards poetry. There are articles from literary figures here, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling, but it’s the reports from the professional journalists that have most impact. No dry reporting of facts and figures here – these are vivid word pictures that evoked a whole range of emotions in me, sorrow, anger, horror, grief and, more unexpectedly, pride, admiration, and a fierce desire to see the Allies win. I found it fascinating, absorbing and moving, and it has given me a real feeling for what it must have been like for the people left at home, desperate for news, and totally dependent on the brave men who put themselves in danger to tell the story of the war.

Click to see the full review

* * * * * * * * *

huck finn's americaHuck Finn’s America by Andrew Levy


Bravo to Andrew Levy! Literary criticism has long been the most jargon-filled, pretentious and badly written of all the factual fields (in my opinion, of course) but Levy has broken the mould with this immensely readable criticism of Twain’s acclaimed masterpiece. Part biography and part history, Levy sets the book firmly back into his context, stripping back much of the mythology that has grown up around it since its first appearance. His contention is that one must understand the social culture at the time of writing to make sense of Twain’s portrayals of both Huck and Jim. He discusses ‘bad boy’ culture, the status of black people thirty years after emancipation, and Twain’s nostalgia for the minstrel shows of his youth, and shows how each fed into the book. A great read – well researched, clearly structured, convincingly argued and best of all written in normal language rather than lit-crit gobbledegook. A template for others in the field to follow.

Click to see the full review

* * * * * * * * *

the churchill factorThe Churchill Factor by Boris Johnson read by Simon Shepherd


In this book, Boris Johnson sets out to try to discover what made Churchill into the man who is considered to have been crucial in the British war effort. He does this with his usual panache, making the book hugely enjoyable and filled with humour, which doesn’t disguise the massive amount of research and knowledge that has clearly gone into it. He makes it crystal clear that he admires Churchill intensely and, because he’s so open about it, his bias in the great man’s favour comes over as wholly endearing. The book is nearly as revealing about Boris as Churchill and, given that he’s one of our major politicians who might well be Prime Minister one day, it’s an intriguing insight into the things he admires, and presumably would want to emulate, in a leader. And on top of all that it’s read by Simon Shepherd, owner of one of the loveliest voices in the world. I have happy memories of going to bed each night with Winston, Boris and Simon – more fun than you might think! If I had a category for audiobook of the year, this would win easily.

Click to see the full review

* * * * * * * * *

resurrection scienceResurrection Science by M. R. O’Connor


In a period called by scientists the ‘Sixth Extinction’, the question of conservation has never been more relevant or immediate. But what exactly are we conserving for? What are the moral, ethical and philosophical questions that surround the various types of conservation? In this excellent book, M.R. O’Connor highlights some of the species on the edge of extinction and uses them as jumping off points to look at some of the arguments, from the practical to the esoteric, that surround the whole question of species conservation. From Northern white rhinos and the effects of war, to the panther in the south-eastern USA and its impact on the American character and psyche, the book is stuffed to bursting point with the most current thinking on the ethics of conservation, all written in an immensely readable and accessible way. Without exception, the most interesting and wide-ranging book on the subject I have ever read and so nearly this year’s winner.

Click to see the full review

* * * * * * * * *





john knox

John Knox by Jane Dawson


In Scotland, John Knox is thought of as a misogynistic, hellfire-and-damnation preaching old killjoy, who is responsible for the fairly joyless version of Protestantism that has blighted our country for hundreds of years. Father of the Scottish Reformation, he is notorious for being the author of ‘The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women’. In this new biography, Jane Dawson sets out, not so much to overturn this impression of Knox, but to show that there was more to him than this. She sheds a great deal of light on this complex and important figure, showing in depth how his interpretation of the Bible influenced every aspect of his life. She also widens the subject out to put the Scottish Reformation into context with the Protestant movement throughout Europe, showing how, despite some internal differences, there was an attempt to unify the theology and forms of worship of the fledgling religion. And she goes on to show how local circumstances led to variations in the practices of Reformed churches in different nations.

(I just want be clear that the award is going to Jane Dawson and not in any way to that misogynistic old killjoy, Knox. 😉 )

Click to see the full review

* * * * * * * * *

In two weeks time: Best Crime Fiction/Thrillers Award

27 thoughts on “FictionFan Awards 2015 – Factual

  1. Nicely-chosen, FictionFan. As I look back over your nominees, I have to agree that this has been a good year for factual books. And what impresses me is the range of books you’ve read – on all sorts of different topics. And don’t worry; in no way do I take your post as an endorsement of Knox’s point of view… 😉

    • Yes, I’ve probably read fewer factual books this year, partly because so many of them have been huge bricks, but the quality has been consistently high. Haha! Poor old Knox! But I certainly can’t promise to be reading his next book, though I will read Jane Dawson’s… 😉

  2. So, here’s the thing: If I had to fight in the first World War, I would’ve been a pilot, I think. Rather than a chap in the trenches. Just because.

    I didn’t really know literary criticism was a thing, but I’m digging it. I should write a book of literary criticism, I’m thinking.

    I wonder what Churchill was feeling (or looking at) when he took that photo. *considers*

    • More glamorous, yes, but possibly even more dangerous! No, I don’t think I’d have let you fight at all…

      *laughs and laughs* You should!! That would be amazing! So long as you don’t even think about doing Ms Austen…

      I think somebody must have threatened to take his champagne away…

  3. Speaking of misogynistic, hellfire-and-damnation preaching old killjoy, I should read something more about Calvin, the scourge and killjoy of Geneva, whose influence can still be felt in that town.

    • Haha! Yes, you can kinda understand why Calvin and Knox were pals, can’t you? Now there’s a party I wouldn’t have wanted to crash! I should be reading one on Martin Luther soon – but I have the impression he might have been a bit more of a charmer…

  4. The main problem with Knox must have been that he was around before chocolate was freely available. If ever there was a picture of what someone with a bad case of piles might look like……… The odd spoonful of honey and access to Hotel Chocolat’s finest dark chocolate enrobing a whisky filled centre might have made him see the world quite, quite differently.

    But you are right to let Jane have the chocolate prize which I’m sure you are sending her unless of course you need to eat it yourself to ensure someone isn’t trying to poison her through jealousy – that’ll be one of the unsuccessful nominees, no doubt.

    Well judged, and deliberated upon with the other judges (Tommy and Tuppence?)

    • It’s been a great year for factual stuff! Oh, I’m glad you’re enjoying the Telegraph book. I had to read it straight through because I got a review copy, but it’s really an ideal one for dipping in and out of…

  5. Well, I haven’t read a single one of these!! Each, in its own way, sounds interesting, though — probably because you’re just such an outstanding reviewer, FF!!

  6. I’m very glad I didn’t have to pick one of these. So far, I’ve only read the Knox, which was excellent, but I’m hoping (hint! hint!) that the Telegraph might fall out of Santa’s sack in my direction! 🙂

    • Hint noted and forwarded to Santa! An excellent choice. Glad to hear the Knox is up for the Saltire prize – I haven’t read any of the other contenders, but it must be in woth a good shout, I’d think…

Please leave a comment - I'd love to know who's visiting and what you think...of the post, of the book, of the blog, of life, of chocolate...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.