Shortlists for Scotland’s national book awards

The Saltire Society announced the shortlists for the 2019 Saltire Literary Awards, as well as two brand new prizes, at an event in Edinburgh this evening.

This year, for the first time, the Saltire Society will be awarding a prize for Scottish Book Cover and a special Award for Lifetime Achievement. The winners of all eleven prizes, and the Saltire Book of the Year, will be announced at a ceremony in Edinburgh on Saturday 30 November.

Widely regarded as Scotland’s national book awards, The Saltire Literary Awards recognise work across six literary categories (Fiction, Non-Fiction, Research, History, Poetry and First Book) and two publishing categories (Publisher and Emerging Publisher).

An additional award, The Calum MacDonald Memorial Award for the publisher of an outstanding example of pamphlet poetry published during the previous year is presented in partnership with the Scottish Poetry Library.

The Literary Awards see the winner of each book Award receive a cash prize of £2000 and go on to be considered for the top prize of Saltire Scottish Book of the Year, receiving a further £5000.

The new Lifetime Achievement Award will be given to an individual who has made a meaningful creative contribution to the world of literature. With the very first Saltire Literary Awards taking place in 1937, the Society decided it was an appropriate time to recognise a body of work rather than one book, something that is not currently part of the publishing timeline. The Lifetime Achievement Award celebrates a writers’ work in its entirety and comes with a cash prize of £2000.

The Scottish Book Cover Award celebrates the enormous talent Scotland has in book production and design. This Award and its recipient will exemplify creativity and the relationship between the designer, the publisher and author. The shortlist for this Award will be announced in early November.

Sarah Mason, programme director at the Saltire Society, said: ‘We are proud of the fact that the Saltire Literary Awards shortlists celebrate the diversity, quality and richness of books to come from Scotland over the past year.

‘The Saltire Literary Awards have a proud history of recognising excellence and bringing this to wider attention and we congratulate the writers and publishers who have been shortlisted this year.

‘With the introduction of the Book Cover Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award we believe Scotland’s national book awards truly celebrate Scotland’s literary landscape. We look forward to welcoming our shortlistees and winners on St Andrew’s Day at our largest Awards Ceremony ever.’

The Saltire Literary Awards have had an eye for early talent with internationally renowned writers including Ali Smith, AL Kennedy, Kate Clanchy, Louise Welsh and Michel Faber being some who have been celebrated by the Saltire Society for their debut books in previous years.

404 Ink, winners of the Emerging Publisher Award in 2017 are shortlisted for Publisher of the Year Award this year. Submissions for the 2019 Awards have come from publishers across Scotland and the UK and as far afield as MIT in the USA. All entrants must be born in Scotland, live in Scotland or their books must be about Scotland.

Shortlisted books for 2019 include Threads of Life (Sceptre) by Claire Hunter in the First Book Category and Dr David Wilson’s My Life with Murderers (Little Brown) in Non-Fiction, seemingly disparate topics but both relevant to current Scottish culture. Three Gaelic books have made the shortlist – Còig Duilleagan na Seamraig (Five Leaves of the Shamrock) by Ruairidh MacIlleathain (published by CLÀR) in the Fiction category and Seòl Mo Bheatha (My Life Journey) by Dòmhnall Eachann Meek (also published by CLÀR) in the Non-Fiction category and Ceum air Cheum by Christopher Whyte (published by Acair), a collection in both English and Gaelic in the Poetry category. Also on the Poetry Award shortlist is Roseanne Watt’s Shetlandic/English collection Moder Dy (published by Polygon).

The Saltire Literary Awards are supported by Creative Scotland. Mairi Kidd, Creative Scotland’s Head of Literature, Languages and Publishing said: ‘From Melanie Reid, Kate Clanchy and Damian Barr to Lucy Ellman, Polly Clark and Kerry Hudson, the 2019 Saltire Literary Awards shortlists again demonstrate the wealth of established writing talent in Scotland across all genres and the Saltire Society’s ongoing commitment to uncovering the major voices of the future.

‘The new awards for cover design and poetry pamphlets will be welcomed by Scotland’s industrious publishers and the Lifetime Achievement Award offers a great opportunity to mark the body of work of a very significant writer.’

The shortlisted finalists are –

The Saltire Society Scottish Poetry Book of the Year Award: Christopher Whyte, Ceum air Cheum (Acair); Janette Ayachi, Hand Over Mouth Music (Pavilion Poetry); Iain Morrison, I’m a Pretty Circler (Vagabond Voices); Ross Wilson, Line Drawings (Smokestack Books); Roseanne Watt, Moder Dy (Polygon); Harry Josephine Giles, The Games (Out-Spoken Press).

The Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award: Angela Meyer, A Superior Spectre (Saraband); Fraser MacDonald, Escape from Earth: A Secret History of the Space Rocket (Profile Books); Alan Brown, Overlander (Saraband); Stephen Rutt, The Seafarers: A Journey Among Birds (Elliott & Thompson); Clare Hunter, Threads of Life (Sceptre (Hodder & Stoughton)). Special Commendation: Tracy Patrick, Blushing is for Sinners (Clochoderick Press).

The Saltire Society Scottish Fiction Book of the Year Award: Lucy Ellmann, Ducks, Newburyport (Galley Beggar Press); Ruairidh MacIlleathain (Roddy MacLean), Còig Duilleagan na Seamraig (Five Leaves of the Shamrock)( CLÀR); Leila Aboulela, Bird Summons (Weidenfeld & Nicolson); Ewan Morrison, Nina X (Little, Brown Book Group/Fleet imprint); Polly Clark, Tiger (Riverrun Books); Damian Barr, You Will Be Safe Here (Bloomsbury Publishing).

The Saltire Society Scottish Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award: Dòmhnall Eachann Meek (Donald E. Meek), Seòl Mo Bheatha (My Life Journey) (CLÀR); Mary Miller, Jane Haining: A Life of Love and Courage (Birlinn Ltd); Dr David Wilson, My Life with Murderers (Little, Brown Book Group/Sphere imprint); Kate Clanchy, Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me (Pan Macmillan / Picador imprint); Melanie Reid, The World I Fell Out Of (4th Estate, HarperCollins Publishers); Kerry Hudson, Lowborn: Growing up, getting away and returning to Britain’s poorest towns (Chatto & Windus).

The Saltire Scottish Research Book of the Year Award supported by the National Library of Scotland: Kirstie Blair, Working Verse in Victorian Scotland: Poetry, Press, Community (Oxford University Press); Thomas Devine, The Scottish Clearances: A History of the Dispossessed, 1600-1900 (Penguin RandomHouse); Laura Watts, Energy at the End of the World: An Orkney Islands Saga (The MIT Press).

The Saltire Scottish History Book of the Year Award supported by the Scottish Historical Review Trust: Norman H Reid, Alexander III: 1249-1286, First Among Equals (Birlinn Ltd); Alasdair Pettinger, Frederick Douglass and Scotland, 1846: Living an Antislavery Life (Edinburgh University Press); James Buchan, John Law A Scottish Adventurer of the eighteenth Century (MacLehose Press); Malcolm Macdonald and Donald John MacLeod, The Darkest Dawn (Acair); R A McDonald, The Sea Kings: The Late Norse Kingdoms of Man and the Isles c.1066–1275 (John Campbell). Special Mention: Alex Maxwell Findlater, The Armorial of Sir David Lyndsay of the Mount (Heraldry Society of Scotland).

Calum Macdonald Memorial Award Shortlist: Red Squirrel, Juke Box Jeopardy (Brian Johnstone); Tapsalteerie, Glisk (Sarah Stewart) and An Offering (Stewart Sanderson); Essence Press, zenscotlit (Alan Spence); Bitter Melon Press, Wedding Beasts (Jay G Ying); Polygon, Polygon New Poets: Iona Lee (Iona Lee).

Publishing Awards – The Saltire Society Publisher of the Year Award in partnership with Publishing Scotland: 404 Ink; BHP Comics; Canongate Books; Charco Press; Sandstone Press.

The Saltire Society Emerging Publisher of the Year Award in partnership with Publishing Scotland: Pauline Cuchet, Canongate Books; Anne Glennie, Cranachan; Kay Farrell, Sandstone Press; Jamie Norman, Canongate Books; Richard Wainman, Floris Books; Alan Windram, Little Door Books.

The winners of each category will receive a bespoke Award created by Inverness based-artist Simon Baker of Evergreen Studios. Winners of all the Awards will be announced at a ceremony at the National Museum of Scotland on Saturday 30 November. Tickets to the event are available from Friday 1 November. Full details can be found at