Awards: Scotland’s Highland Book Prize Names Its 2021 Shortlist

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The five-year-old Highland Book Prize Names four titles to its shortlist from university, independent, and major publishers.

Kilchurn Castle, in Argyll and Bute’s Loch Awe. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Abhishek Banik

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

A Winner is Named May 26 in Inverness
Some of our readers may not be familiar with the Highland Book Prize, or Duais Leabhair na Gàidhealtachd. It was founded in 2017, a co-presentation of the Highland Society of London and Moniack Mhor, Scotland’s creative writing center.

The intent of this award is to honor fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that “recognizes the rich talent, landscape, and cultural diversity of the Highlands.” And one benefit of visiting its site is a look at some of the spectacular photography contributed to it by Iain Sarjeant.

The program goes all the way up to Inverness for its winner’s ceremony, this year on May 26. The award carries a £1,000 cash prize (US$1,307) and a writing retreat at Moniack Mhor.

To be eligible, a book has to have met at least one criterion from this list:

  • The book must promote or concern itself with Highland culture, heritage, or landscape
  • The book must have a significant amount of activity set in the Highlands
  • The author(s) must have been born and/or brought up in the Highlands
  • The author(s) must have lived in the Highlands for the last six years or more

This year, the sensibly compact four-book shortlist has been drawn from an initial 71 submissions published between January and December of 2021. More than 180 volunteer readers were engaged in assessing that starting cohort, to create an 11-title longlist.

Jurors who chose the four shortlisted books from the longlist are:

  • Kapka Kassabova, a writer whose book Border (Granta) won the 2017 Highland Book Prize
  • Jenny Niven, chair of Literature Alliance Scotland
  • Mark Wringe, senior lecturer in Gaelic language and culture at the University of the Highlands and Islands

A novelist, Kevin MacNeil, provided an additional Gaelic perspective as a “shadow juror, and the selection process was chaired by Alex Ogilvie, a trustee for the Highland Society.

One of the four shortlisted books, Cal Flyn’s Islands of Abandonment, won the Sunday Times Charlotte Aitken Trust Young Writer of the Year award early this month, as we reported.

Highland Book Prize 2021 Shortlist

In a prepared statement from the non-voting jury chair, Alex Ogilvie, we read, “Judging a longlist of such high quality was never going to be easy. However the judges had a hugely enjoyable and constructive discussion around each of the titles, which ultimately led to a unanimous decision on the titles that will now go through to the final round.”

Moniack Mhor is supported as a registered charity by Creative Scotland and offers courses, mentoring, and a leadership program for young people.

This is Publishing Perspectives’ 61st awards report published in the 61 days since our 2022 operations began on January 3.

Springtime hiking in the Highlands’ Beinn nan Eachan. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Duncan Andison


More from us on publishing and book awards in international markets is here, more on Scotland is here, and more on the UK market is here.

More on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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