Book prize shortlist revealed

Three debut novelists have been nominated for Britain’s oldest literary award.

First novels by American authors Julie Orringer and Tatjana Soli, and English university lecturer Michael Nath, join the latest book by acclaimed novelist David Mitchell on the shortlist for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction.

Two prizes are awarded annually by the University for books published during the previous year -one for the best work of fiction and the other for the best biography.

Fascinating accounts

Contenders for the £10,000 biography prize include fascinating accounts of American industrialist Henry Ford, renowned Scottish author Alisdair Gray and Nobel Prize winning author Pearl Buck.

Also listed is a revealing new life of literary giant E. M. Forster, who won a James Tait Black Memorial prize in 1924.

The four novels competing for the £10,000 fiction prize are:

  • The Thousand Autumns of Jacon De Zoet by David Mitchell
  • La Rochelle by Michael Nath
  • The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
  • The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

The shortlisted works for the biography section are:

  • Fordlandia: the Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin
  • A Life in Pictures by Alasdair Gray
  • EM Forster : a new life by Wendy Moffat
  • Burying the Bones: Pearl Buck in China by Hilary Spurling

Respected writers

The shortlist was announced at Dover House, London. The winners will be announced at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August.

We have a very exciting line-up this year. The James Tait Black Awards represent the very best in fiction and biographies and this year we have an excellent mix of respected writers and emerging talent.

Dr James LoxleyHead of English Literature at the University

Judged by scholars and students

The James Tait Black Awards, awarded annually by the University of Edinburgh’s School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures were founded in 1919 by Janet Coats, the widow of publisher James Tait Black, to commemorate her husband’s love of good books.

The prizes are for the best work of fiction and the best biography published during the previous 12 months. They are the only major British book awards judged by scholars and students.

Each year more than 300 books are read by literary scholars and postgraduate students, who nominate books for the shortlist.

Global literary distinction

Past winners of the awards include figures of global literary distinction, such as DH Lawrence, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Muriel Spark, Angela Carter, Cormac McCarthy, Martin Amis and Ian McEwan.

Last year, Man Booker prize winner AS Byatt was recipient of the fiction prize for her much-praised novel The Children’s Book.

John Carey, a familiar face and voice on arts review shows, was the recipient of the biography prize for his book William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies.

William Golding was himself a James Tait Black prizewinner in 1979.

Image credit: Angus Blackburn - ab images scotland.

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Related Links

James Tait Black Prizes

School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures

English Literature - undergraduate study

English Literature - postgraduate study