Book prize shortlist revealed

Four literary heavyweights and a debut novelist are some of the authors in the running for Britain’s oldest literary award.

Man Booker prize winners A.S Byatt, Anita Brookner, Kazuo Ishiguro and Hilary Mantel are on the shortlist for the James Tait Black Memorial Prizes awarded by the University of Edinburgh, along with newcomer Reif Larsen.

The authors are contenders for the £10,000 fiction prize in the only major British book awards to be judged by scholars and students of literature.

Literary figures

The shortlist for the biography prize has a strong focus on the lives of authors with four fascinating accounts of leading literary figures - John Cheever, William Golding, Muriel Spark, and Thomas De Quincey. Both Muriel Spark and William Golding are previous winners of the awards.

There is also a detailed account of the life of British ballet dancer and choreographer Kenneth MacMillan.

Annual award

The prizes are awarded annually by the University of Edinburgh for the best work of fiction and the best biography published during the previous year.

The five shortlisted works for the fiction prize are:

  • Strangers by Anita Brookner
  • The Children’s Book by A.S Byatt
  • Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Selected Works of T.S Spivet by Reif Larsen
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

The five books competing for the £10,000 biography prize are:

  • Cheever: A life by Blake Bailey
  • William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies by John Carey
  • Muriel Spark: The Biography by Martin Stannard
  • A Different Drummer: The Life of Kenneth MacMillan by Jann Parry
  • The English Opium Eater: A Biography of Thomas De Quincey by Robert Morrison

The winners will be announced at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August.

All worthy of awards

Not for the first time, we’ve left ourselves with a bit of a headache – a set of books each one of which is eminently worthy of the awards.

Professor Colin Nicholson of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Literatures, Languages and CulturesManager of the Awards and judge of the novel prize

The James Tait Black Memorial Prizes were founded in 1919 by Janet Coats, the widow of publisher James Tait Black, to commemorate her husband’s love of good books.

Past winners have included D.H.Lawrence, E.M. Forster, Graham Greene, Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith and Ian McEwan.

Judging process

Each year, more than 300 books are read by Professors of Literature and postgraduate readers prior to the conferment of the prizes.

Last year Irish writer Sebastian Barry won the fiction prize for his acclaimed novel, The Secret Scripture.

One of Britain’s foremost literary biographers Michael Holyroyd was the recipient of the biography prize for his book A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving and their Remarkable Families.