Although Irish authors have won in the past, the International Dublin Literary Award doesn't simply pay lip service to the international dimension of the prize, and this year readers will be brought on a journey around the world, to countries including Canada, France, India, Iran and Poland as well as Ireland, the UK and the US.  

A number of the nominated books will be very familiar to readers, in particular Milkman by Anna Burns which won the Man Booker Prize in 2018, and became an international bestseller. If you are one of the few Irish readers who hasn’t yet encountered it, its shortlisting means it will now be widely available from public libraries across the country. 

Another book that was very well known when first published is An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, which won the Women’s Prize for Fiction and was selected as an Oprah’s Book Club pick, among other accolades. It’s a timely, nuanced and very readable story of a middle-class black couple whose relationship is torn apart when the husband is accused of a crime he did not commit.

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Also on this year’s list is Pat Barker, the UK writer whose book The Silence of the Girls is a retelling of the Illiad from a woman’s perspective. Although prior knowledge of the story would help the reader to fully appreciate the book, even read as a stand-alone piece it’s an absorbing, engaging and thought-provoking read. 

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Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan is another former Booker Prize nominee. What initially appears to be a work of historical fiction about a slave on a plantation in Barbados, takes a more fantastic turn when Washington meets a scientist who enlists his help and takes him on both a figurative and literal journey towards freedom.  

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There are three novels in translation on this year’s list, including Disoriental, by Negar Djavadi, the lyrical and engaging story of an Iranian woman’s family history. History of Violence by Edouard Louis is a semi-autographical work based on his own physical and mental reaction to a violent attack, and shows why Louis has become one of the best known French writers of his generation.

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Meanwhile Drive your Plow over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk is probably the most unusual book on this year's list, combining the elements of a crime novel with an offbeat look at life and relationships in Poland.  

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The books on this year’s list are, for the most part, serious or even overtly political, so it was refreshing to read The Friend by Sigrid Nunez, my own personal favourite. The recently bereaved author inherits a large dog from her friend and mentor and the animal helps guide her through the process of grieving and indeed modern life. It might sound like a weighty topic but Nunez tells the story with humour and great flair.

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Meanwhile, although I am not going to stick my neck out and bet on a likely winner, I would not discount either All The Lives We Never Lived by renowned Indian author Anuradha Roy, which examines a son's desire to find out the truth about his mother, or There There by Tommy Orange which details individual lives at the heart of a Native American community.

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Margaret Atwood called it 'extraordinary’ and Barack Obama listed it among his favourite books of 2018, but we will have to wait until next month to find out the opinion of the Dublin jury. The winner of this year’s Dublin Literary Award will be announced by the capital’s Lord Mayor Hazel Chu on Thursday 22nd October as part of the International Literature Festival Dublin. 

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The shortlisted titles are:

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (British). Published by Hamish Hamilton Ltd. 

Milkman by Anna Burns (Irish). Published by Faber & Faber and Graywolf Press. 

Disoriental by Négar Djavadi (Iranian-French). Translated from the French by Tina Kover. Published by Europa Editions.  

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan (Canadian). Published by Serpents Tail Ltd., HarperCollins Canada and Alfred A. Knopf. 

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (American). Published by Algonquin Books. 

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History of Violence by Édouard Louis (French). Translated from the French by Lorin Stein. Published by Harvill Secker. 

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez (American). Published by Virago Press Ltd. 

There There by Tommy Orange (Native American). Published by Harvill Secker, Alfred A. Knopf and McClelland & Stewart Inc. 

All the Lives We Never Lived by Anuradha Roy (Indian). Published by MacLehose Press and Atria Books. 

Drive your Plow over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (Polish). Translated by from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones. Published by Fitzcarraldo Editions.