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Shamsie wrote her first novel, In The City by the Sea, while still in college, and it was published in 1998 when she was 25. It was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in the UK, and Shamsie received the Prime Minister's Award for Literature in Pakistan in 1999. Her second novel, Salt and Saffron, followed in 2000, after which she was selected as one of Orange's 21 Writers of the 21st century. Her third novel, Kartography (2002), received widespread critical acclaim and was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys award in the UK. Both Kartography and her next novel, Broken Verses (2005), have won the Patras Bokhari Award from the Academy of Letters in Pakistan. Her fifth novel Burnt Shadows (2009) was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for fiction.A God in Every Stone (2014) was shortlisted for the 2015 Walter Scott Prize and the Baileys Women's Prize For Fiction. Her seventh novel, Home Fire, was longlisted for the 2017 Booker Prize, and in 2018 won the Women's Prize for Fiction.
Shamsie states that she considers herself Muslim. She moved to London in 2007 and is now a dual national of the UK and Pakistan.
In 2012, she joined the latest incarnation of the Authors XIcricket team, despite never having played the game before. She contributed a chapter, "The Women's XI", to the book The Authors XI: A Season of English Cricket from Hackney to Hambledon (2013), collectively written by members of the team to chronicle their first season together.