Sixteen Books Shortlisted for Scotland

Sixteen Scottish authors are in the running to receive £30,000 and Scotland’s Book of the Year accolade as part of the Scottish Arts Council’s Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust 2010 Book Awards.

Exploring themes of love, vanity, loyalty, hope and despair, the Scottish authors have been recognized for their literary excellence by judges Pat Kane, Kirsty Gunn, Catherine Lockerbie and Dr Gavin Wallace, across four categories; fiction, non-fiction, poetry and first book.

Four category winners will be chosen in April, one of whom will go on to win Scotland’s largest literary prize, the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust/Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year, which will be announced as part of the Borders Books Festival on 18 June 2010, in Melrose.

The books capture the width and breadth of Scotland’s literary talent both residing in and outwith Scotland as they exploring beauty, nature, disaster, religion, history, politics, both in Scotland and far beyond.  

Details of the category shortlists can be found below.


John Aberdein, Strip the Willow (Polygon)
Alan Bissett, Death of a Ladies’ Man (Hachette Scotland)
A L Kennedy, What Becomes (Jonathan Cape)
Liam McIlvanney, All the Colours of the Town (Faber)

Dark, shocking and dramatic, the four shortlisted fiction books cover themes of betrayal, male vanity, love, human frailty, and division John Aberdein’s Strip the Willow has been described as a ‘dark political satire meets salty, funny love story’ while Alan Bissett’s intense portrait of male vanity is written with an emotional rawness as it tackles the modern phenomenon of sex addiction. All the Colours of the Town, Liam McIlvanney’s first novel, is not only the story of an individual and his community, but a complex and thrilling enquiry into sectarianism, loyalty, betrayal and duty while A L Kennedy’s What Becomes offers twelve astonishingly poised, profound and intimate observations of men and women whose lives ache with both pain and possibility.

Commenting on the Fiction shortlist, Dr Gavin Wallace, Head of Literature, Scottish Arts Council and Chair of the Judges’ Panel said:
“'From a dark dystopia on corporate corruption, leavened by love; to a contemporary twist on the classroom as the locus classicus of the obsessively divided Scottish self; to a supremely original master of fiction, short and long, at the very peak of her powers; to an unnerving fictional debut daring to probe the running sore of sectarianism:  here is the whole forcefield of contemporary Scottish fiction, pulsing with irresistible energy, stylistic exuberance, originality, wit, anger, and compassion.  This is writing familiarly ours, yet infinitely and resonantly, everyone's.”


Robert Crawford, The Bard: Robert Burns, a biography (Pimlico)
William Dalrymple, Nine Lives: In Search of the Modern India (Bloomsbury)
Donald Worster, A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir (Oxford university Press)

Re-discovery is the theme that runs throughout the Non-Fiction category shortlist for 2010, with three books that delve deeply into their respective topics and uncover remarkable personalities, facts and emotions within them. Drawing on a surprising variety of untapped sources, from re-discovered poetry to manuscripts and journals and correspondence, Robert Crawford’s new biography presents the remarkable life, love and struggles of the great poet Robert Burns. Donald Worster’s A Passion for Nature is the most complete account of the great conservationist John Muir ever written. William Dalrymple explores nine people, nine lives in cotemporary India – each one taking a different religious path, each one an unforgettable story – in his first travel book in over a decade, Nine Lives.

Commenting on the non-fiction shortlist, writer Pat Kane, said
“Scottish literary non-fiction this year was distinguished by some major biographies of significant national icons, written by substantial figures themselves. Robert Crawford on Robert Burns is almost a dream pairing of two scholar-poets, wrestling across the centuries; Donald Worster's political reading of the life of John Muir places him as equal to Carnegie, but as a harbinger of sustainability rather than industry. And out of the usual list of wandering Scots writing non-fiction, William Dalrymple's Nine Lives stood out as an open-souled account of India's extraordinary spiritual diversity.”


John Burnside, The Hunt in the Forest (Jonathan Cape)
Thomas A Clark, The Hundred Thousand Places (Carcanet Press)
Don Paterson, Rain (Faber)
Tom Leonard. Outside the Narrative (Word Power/Etruscan Books)
Richard Price, Rays (Carcanet Press)

Five books have been shortlisted in the poetry category for 2010, ranging from collections of short poems both old and new, to Thomas Clark’s book-length poem, The Hundred Thousand Places, which draws the reader into a shared journey through seasons and across the Scottish Highlands and Islands. John Burnside’s The Hunt of the Forest explores romantic love, memory, selfhood and grief. Outside the Narrative publishes the great majority of Tom Leonard’s poetry and his political, aesthetic and linguistic concerns are inextricable, despite contrasting different voices, social classes, emotional registers and philosophies. Rays, by Richard Price, is a profound yet mercurial exploration of love and desire by one of Scotland’s foremost contemporary poets. Don Paterson’s most intimate and manifest collection to date, Rain, makes up the five shortlisted books and his first volume of original verse since the award-winning Landing Light. Rain conjures a series of fables and charms that both expose us to the unsettling forces within the world and simultaneously offer protection against them.

Commenting on the poetry shortlist, Catherine Lockerbie, writer, editor, former festival director and critic said:
“It was an exceptionally strong year for poetry – as can be seen from the number of poetry volumes we selected. These ranged from titans at the top of their compelling form to fresh new voices, from energetic and humorous jeux d'esprit to meditations of mesmerising beauty. It seems yet again proof that Scotland punches far above its weight in the quality and range of contemporary poetic work.”

First Book

Nick Currie (Momus), Solution 11-167: The Book of Scotlands (Sternberg Press)
Sarah Gabriel, Eating Pomegranates (Jonathan Cape)
JO Morgan, Natural Mechanical (CB Editions)
Andrew Philip, The Ambulance Box (Salt Publishing)

The 2010 first book category comprises a poetry collection, a miniature-epic prose-poem, a memoir, and a work of speculative, surreal fiction. Momus’ The Book of Scotlands outlines, in a numerical sequence, one hundred and fifty-six Scotlands which currently do not exist anywhere and provides one answer—and a few more—to this appeal for focused dreaming about potential parallel world Scotlands. Sarah Gabriel’s overwhelming memoir Eating Pomegranates, about one, excoriating journey through a devastatingly common disease, is brimful of passion, hope, and despair. In his book-length poem, Natural Mechanical, J O Morgan charts the self-education of “Rocky”, who, handicapped at school by his dyslexia and facing the strap at home, seeks out his own education from the fields and streams around him on the Isle of Skye. Andrew Philip’s collection of poems of unsentimental and unsettling beauty – in both plangently beautiful English and Scots – in The Ambulance Box, examine the sudden transformations of grief.

Commenting on the First Book shortlist, author Kirsty Gunn, said
“It was exciting to read such a diverse range of material – and from that to forge a shortlist, in which certain books stood out with clarity and spirit. We have poetry and poetic writing on display here in the final selection, texts that in many ways extend and defy their genres to give us a reading experience that is vivid and new.”

Notes to editors

  1. Full details of the awards and shortlist are available of the Scottish Arts Council website
  2. Four category winners will be announced in tandem with the launch of the Borders Book Festival in Melrose on the Wednesday 7 April.
  3. The overall Book of the Year award will be announced on Friday 18 June at the Borders Book Festival, Melrose.
  4. Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust PLC is one of the largest investment trusts listed on the London Stock Exchange. The trust was launched as The Straits Mortgage and Trust Company Ltd in 1909. Today Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust invests on a global basis and has net assets of over £1.6bn*. Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust PLC is managed by the Edinburgh based investment management firm Baillie Gifford. Baillie Gifford is one of the UK’s leading investment managers, and has more than £55 billion* of funds under management and advice in active equity and bond portfolios for clients in the UK and throughout the world. Further information about the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Awards can be found at . Further information about the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust PLC can be found at *as at 31 December 2009
  5. The Scottish Arts Council is a Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB) which was established by Royal Charter in 1994 and is also a Lottery distributor. The organisation serves the people of Scotland by fostering arts of excellence through investment, development, research and advocacy. Our corporate aims are: to support artists to fulfil their creative and business potential; to increase participation in the arts; and to place the arts, culture and creativity at the heart of learning. We invest £60m each year, including £15 million of National Lottery funding.

Contact: Charlotte Rowland
Phone: 0131 420 2498