The Meaning of Geese, by renowned naturalist and conservationist Nick Acheson, has been crowned Book of the Year at the East Anglian Book Awards 2023.

The announcement was made at a special celebration event hosted by awards partners Jarrolds, the Eastern Daily Press and the National Centre for Writing, at Dragon Hall in Norwich on Thursday evening. He will receive a £1,000 cash prize.

Eastern Daily Press: Nick Acheson with his East Anglian Book of the Year 2023 trophy

Nick, who writes a popular column for Norfolk magazine in his role as an ambassador for Norfolk Wildlife Trust, said: "I feel hugely honoured and humbled because the quality of all of the category winning books is so high and the authors are such visionaries. Each has spoken so lovingly about their subject, the books they have produced, and the story they had to tell.

"I am astonished that my little geese and bicycle and I have managed to tell a story that’s touched people.

"I always wanted to tell a story that’s more than geese: it’s about climate, it’s about landscape and it’s about who we are in relation to the climate and landscape.

"So, I feel tremendously honoured. And in a place like Dragon Hall that has such history, those who organise the East Anglian Book Awards are working to continue East Anglia’s history as a place of stories. For someone to have read a story that I’ve written and appreciated is just the most beautiful thing."

Eastern Daily Press: Caroline Jarrold and East Anglian Book of the Year winner Nick Acheson

Nick’s powerful debut was published by employee-owned publishing house Chelsea Green, a leading publisher of books on the politics and practice of ecologically based living.

The book began in lockdown: "Towards the end of 2020, I didn’t have work because of the lockdowns and because of decisions I’d made in my life prior to the lockdowns," he said.

"I didn’t, for all sorts of reasons, have much in the way of people around me, I didn’t have an income and I thought, how am I going to get through this coming winter?

"I said right, Nicholas, you’re going to get on your mother’s bike - 42-years-old at the time, it’s now 45 or 46 - and you will cycle all winter to stay fit, to stay motivated. You’ll follow the wild flocks of geese that visit Norfolk, and you will try to tell their story.

"You will try to honour the story of people who have lived with them, who farm alongside them, who shoot them, who count them, who conserve them, who love them. And then, when they leave, you’ll honour their journey to the Arctic. Brent geese go all the way to the Siberian Arctic and pink-footed geese go to the Icelandic Arctic. I wanted to use a long and lonely and cold winter to honour the story of the geese."

The judging panel praised The Meaning of Geese for its compelling sense of place and use of language, as they were "transported to the countryside by the author’s beautiful turn of phrase. Just a delight."

Lynne Bryan, one of the judges and 2022 winner of the Year of the Book Award, said: "It was a great privilege to help judge the East Anglian Book of The Year Award this year. The conversation between the judges was thoughtful and balanced and we have found a wonderful winner in The Meaning of Geese by Nick Acheson. We like how this book is obsessive in the best kind of way, human and informative and firmly based in East Anglia.

"I won the prize last year with my memoir Iron Man and it’s been transformational for me, has made me believe so much more in my work. I hope winning this year does the same for Nick too."

Eastern Daily Press: East Anglian Book Awards 2023 finalists Karen Li, Tim MacWilliam, Michael Nix, Kate Worsley, Nick

Caroline Jarrold, community affairs adviser at Jarrold & Sons, said: "As ever, it was an enjoyable experience to judge the Book of the Year from the excellent and worthy selection of category winning books.

"It is always a challenge to consider the outstanding merits within such a spread of titles but the judges were unanimous in choosing The Meaning of Geese as the winner.

"Although all of us came to read the book with little knowledge of geese, Nick Acheson writes so beautifully and evocatively about them that we were all absorbed by his days observing them around North Norfolk.

"It is a book born of the lockdown, when activities were so restricted, but would encourage anyone to look more closely at nature around them and reflect on the impact of climate change on habitats and habits.

"It is a book full of Norfolk autumn, winter and spring weather, landscape and geese, with a few other birds, a trusty old bicycle and fellow enthusiasts, which is a great pleasure to read."

The Exceptional Contribution Award 2023 for outstanding work within writing and publishing in the region was presented to CEO of the Forum in Norwich and champion of local arts and culture, Chris Gribble.

On accepting the award, Chris said: "I’m both delighted and astonished to be awarded the Exceptional Contribution Award as part of the EABAs this year.

"I arrived in Norwich in 2006 and have been so lucky in the years that followed to have worked with so many outstanding writers, translators, booksellers, literature professionals, librarians, publishers, academics, and many more. I’d like to thank all of those people as well as the EABA organisers."

Eastern Daily Press: Chris Gribble won the outstanding achievement award at the East Anglian Book Awards. He's pictured

To qualify for the East Anglian Book Awards, works must be set largely in East Anglia or be written by an author living in the region – which is defined as Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and area of Fenland District Council.

Founded in 2008, the East Anglian Book Awards have showcased the work of more than 150 authors, 200 titles and 100 publishers.

The awards are organised by the Eastern Daily Press, Jarrold and the National Centre for Writing, with support from UEA’s Faculty of Arts & Humanities.

Discover more about the East Anglian Book Awards at