Book prize winners revealed

Authors AS Byatt and John Carey have joined giants such as DH Lawrence in winning Britain’s oldest book awards.

Author AS Byatt

The winners of the James Tait Black Memorial Prizes have been announced by best-selling crime writer Ian Rankin at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

The prizes are awarded annually by the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures at the University.

I am excited and delighted to win the James Tait Black Prize. It is a very distinguished and long-established award and I am happy to be amongst its list of winners. And I am also happy to have been chosen amongst such a strong and varied shortlist.

AS Byatt

Book festival announcement

Author John Carey

Man Booker prize winner AS Byatt is recipient of the fiction prize for her much-praised novel "The Children’s Book".

One of Britain’s foremost literary experts John Carey, a familiar face and voice on arts review shows, is 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.

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.

I'm enormously pleased and honoured to win a James Tait Black Prize, and not just for myself but for William Golding, the subject of my biography. He won the fiction section of the prize himself with his novel Darkness Visible in 1979, and I think he would be tickled pink to know he had made it a double.

John Carey

Distinguished award

Also shortlisted for the £10,000 fiction prize this year were Man Booker prize winners Anita Brookner, Kazuo Ishiguro and Hilary Mantel, along with newcomer Reif Larsen.

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.

Each year more than 300 books are read by professors of literature and postgraduate readers prior to conferment of the prizes.


The five novels competing for the fiction prize were:

  • Strangers by Anita Brookner
  • The Children’s Book by AS Byatt
  • Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
  • The Selected Works of TS Spivet by Reif Larsen

The five books shortlisted in £10,000 biography section were:

  • 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 literary qualities and sheer entertainment value of the work we have been sifting are convincing evidence that fiction and biography of the highest standards are thriving in an evidently buoyant sector of our culture.

Professor Colin NicholsonSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, Manager and judge of fiction prize

Photo of John Carey: Credit Matt Writtle.

Related Links

James Tait Black Memorial Prizes

School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures

English Literature – undergraduate study

English Literature - postgraduate study