Summer Shortlisting 2019: Best First Books!

It’s time to start revealing the short-listed titles for the 2019 “The Very Best!” Book Awards!

This year, I thought I would streamline the entire process for selecting books for “The Very Best!” Book Awards. While maintaining a running longlist throughout my reading year, I thought it best to pare that huge list down to two or three books in each category (Best First Book, Short Fiction, Fiction and Non-Fiction). I decided that this would do this in stages over July and August with the final winners being announced in September. (The Short Fiction category has already been declared a tie since there were only two nominees this year.)

The first stage is shortlisting the nine books in the First Book (fiction or non-fiction) category. Here are the nine nominees in the Best First Book category on the 2019 longlist:

Now, it wouldn’t be fair to pit a fiction title and author against non-fiction ones. A non-fiction author may never publish another book, while a fiction author could produce many titles in a lifetime. Therefore, from the following First Book nominees, I will select two from each genre to get shortlisted. Note: Some of the selections are also nominated in another category as well and it should be noted they can only win in one. However, if books nominated in the Fiction category as well as the First Book category do not get shortlisted for Best First Book, they still qualify for the Best Fiction shortlist.

Now for the Best First Book 2019 Shortlist:


  • In the Wake by Nicola Davison (Vagrant Press)
  • Deli Meat by Tom Halford (Crooked Cat Books)


  • Cops in Kabul: A Newfoundland Peacekeeper in Afghanistan by William C. Malone (Flanker Press)
  • Airborne: Finding Foxtrot Alpha Mike by Jonathan Rotondo (Goose Lane Editions)
The four finalists for Best First Book.

There’s no question that Nicola Davison’s In the Wake is one of the best fiction books to come out of Atlantic Canada this past year. As for Deli Meat, Tom Halford’s novel is cleverly humorous with quirky characters and the excellent choice of using Plattsburgh, NY for the story’s setting. Cops in Kabul is a well-written, engrossing memoir about a year in the life of a high-level Canadian peace officer in Afghanistan. Airborne is superb as well, not only as a memoir but as an introduction to the joys of flying and in particular, a small open-cockpit plane.

There were so many good first books this year! All of you are “authors to watch”, in my opinion. Congratulations to all those who made the longlist; I truly enjoyed reading your books, and I certainly look forward to reading your next book!

I must also acknowledge the generosity of the publishers and authors for supplying me with review copies throughout the year. They do this in exchange for a fair and independent review; other than a free copy of the book, I receive no other monetary compensation from either authors or publishers.

In the coming weeks, I will announce the Non-Fiction and Fiction shortlists!