The James Tait Black Prizes
The James Tait Black Prizes logo

Book prizes

The James Tait Black Prizes recognise the best fiction and biography books of the year.

Prestigious awards

The James Tait Black Prizes are awarded by the University of Edinburgh’s School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures – the oldest centre for the study of English Literature in the world, established in 1762. The prizes are Britain's longest-running literary awards.

Two awards, each of £10,000, are presented annually for books published during the previous year – one for the best work of fiction and the other for the best biography. 

Student involvement 

Student reading book

The James Tait Black Prizes are the only major book awards judged by scholars and students. The prizes are judged by senior staff from within the English Literature department at the University, assisted by a group of postgraduate students. 

Edinburgh academics and postgraduate students, who nominate books for the shortlist, read more than 400 books. 

Literary talent

Founded in 1919 by Janet Coats, the widow of publisher James Tait Black, the Prizes commemorate her husband's love of good books. 

The legacy of Janet Coats Black

Each year the prizewinners join the distinguished gallery of past winners including figures of global literary distinction such as, Angela Carter, Graham Greene, DH Lawrence, Cormac McCarthy, Ian McEwan, Muriel Spark and Evelyn Waugh.  

Equally distinguished names appear on the list of biography winners, including Peter Ackroyd, Martin Amis, Quentin Bell, John Buchan, Richard Ellmann, Hermione Lee and Lytton Strachey. 

In 2012, a third prize category was announced for drama, with the first winner of this award announced in August 2013. 

Annual prizes

Online course

Student using digital tablet

The fiction shortlist features in a free online course to help book lovers get the best out of their reading. 

How to Read a Novel was launched in 2017 by The University and Edinburgh International Book Festival

The Massive Open Online Course – or MOOC – draws on an array of texts, from the classics to contemporary works.  

The course takes readers on an insightful journey giving them the tools to appreciate works of fiction, and examine what makes a good novel. 

How to Read a Novel

Related links

School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures

Postgraduate study: English Literature

Edinburgh International Book Festival