Scotland’s Highland Book Prize Names a 2023 Longlist

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Established in 2017, the Highland Book Prize is one of the United Kingdom’s younger awards programs.

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

A Shortlist Is Due in May
As the annual collision of book and publishing award news piles up with the start of a new year, the more specialized, focused award competitions begin to show their value.

One such program, Scotland’s Highland Book PrizeDuais Leabhair na Gàidhealtachd—has announced its longlist today (January 25). The prize recognizes books “books created in or about the Highlands” of Scotland, defined as the areas of “Argyll & Bute, Highland, Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands, Western Isles and Moray.”

This year’s jury comprises poet and essayist Jen Hadfield; fiction writer Cynan Jones; and poet and lecturer. Alex Ogilvie, a trustee for the Highland Society of London, is the panel’s non-voting chair. One interesting feature of this program is its use of a volunteer reading panel to reach the early nomination stages. There’s also a lot of logical attention given to various independent publishers that produce these books, along with some of the world’s most prominent houses.

Chosen from an initial submission pool of 76 eligible titles, the longlist consists of 12 titles for this honor presented by the Highland Society of London and Moniack Mhor, Scotland’s national writing center located near Inverness.

In terms of dates in this year’s competition, the program is to announce a shortlist in May and a winner on September 3.

Highland Book Prize: 2023 Longlist

Note: It is correct that this is the 2023 longlist for the program.

  • The Bone Cave: A Journey Through Myth and Memory, Dougie Strang, nonfiction, Birlinn
  • Briny, Mandy Haggith, poetry, Red Squirrel Press
  • Columba’s Bones, David Greig, fiction, Birlinn
  • Elixir: In the Valley at the End of Time, Kapka Kassabova, nonfiction, Penguin Random House UK / Jonatha Cape
  • Footprints in the Woods: The Secret Life of Forest and Riverbank, John Lister Kaye, nonfiction Canongate
  • Kitchen Music, Lesley Harrison, poetry, Carcanet Press
  • Nothing Left to Fear from Hell, Alan Warner, fiction, Birlinn
  • Sea Bean, Sally Huband, nonfiction, Penguin Random House
  • Study for Obedience, Sarah Bernstein, fiction, Granta
  • Turas, Iain D. Urchardan, pPoetry, Acair
  • Wild Air: In Search of Birdsong, James Macdonald Lockhart, nonfiction, HarperCollins UK /Fourth Estate
  • Wild History: Journeys into Lost Scotland, James Crawford, nonfiction, Birlinn

Publishing Perspectives readers will recall the work of that 12th-nominated author, James Crawford, in the 2020 Publishing Scotland documentary, Second Nature.

In a comment released with the news of the longlist, Rachel Humphries, the Moniack Mhor director, says, “I’m always excited at the longlisting stage of the Highland Book Prize: it’s the first celebration of a collective effort between our wonderful volunteer reading panel, judges, and organizers.

“A lot has happened by now, it’s a joy and an education at the submission stage to see the breadth of literature that’s being created in or about the Highlands. This year,” she notes, there’s a gratifying balance in “the geography of the longlist with the prize reaching writers living in Shetland, Orkney, Inverness-shire, Assynt, Angus, and Edinburgh.

‘Year on year, the prize never fails to surprise. This longlist explores and interrogates a broad range of themes from historical highland moments to the impact of climate change, ecology and wildlife, to the practices of the people much further afield, in the valley of the Mesta.

“I’m thankful for the eclectic nature of the prize. It teaches us and connects us more deeply with place through so many different and talented voices.”

The Highland Book Prize winner receives £2,000 (US$2,543) and a weeklong writing retreat at Moniack Mhor.

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.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson 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 International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, 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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