The Shortlist for the Irish Book Awards was announced this afternoon and there are some great books and authors on this year’s list, which was announced virtually on Twitter.
The over-riding motivation behind the awards is to celebrate the extraordinary quality of Irish writing, to help bring the best books to a wider readership annually, and to promote an industry under severe competitive pressures.
From a small base of three initial categories, the awards now include fifteen categories spanning the literary genres. Thousands of ordinary readers vote to select the winners every year. Libraries and bookshops showcase the best books of the year in the critical sales period of the fourth quarter. The Awards Dinner has become the major event in the literary calendar with Taoisigh and Presidents as guests of honour. This obviously won’t be happening this year, but as with previous years, highlights of the awards have been shown on RTÉ television.
The An Post Irish Book Awards brings together the entire literary community – readers, authors, booksellers, publishers and librarians – to recognise and celebrate the very best of Irish literary talent across fifteen categories, including Novel of the Year, Popular Fiction, Non-fiction, Crime, Children’s, Sports, Short Stories and Cookery.
Here are a few of the categories that I am particularly interested in:
EASONS BOOK CLUB NOVEL OF THE YEAR
Who I Would Like To Win: This is a tough one as the quality of this category is extremely high this year and the inclusion of the Women’s Prize Winner Hamnet makes it seem like the obvious choice. My heart says As You Were by Elaine Feeney though. It’s a funny, heart-breaking and timely book and deserves some awards attention.
Who Will Win: I would put my money on either Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell but she could have some competition with Strange Flowers by Donal Ryan.
SUNDAY INDEPENDENT NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Who I Would Like To Win: The calibre of this line-up shows just how much great talent is coming through in Irish Writing. I would love to see sixteen-year old Dara McNulty win for his heart-warming book Diary of a Young Naturalist, although I also love Patrick Freyne’s journalism and am very much looking forward to reading his collection of essays Ok, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea.
Who Will Win: I think this one is a toss-up between Dara McNulty and critics’ favourite, Naoise Dolan
THE IRISH INDEPENDENT CRIME FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR
Who I Would Like To Win: That is some shelf of books and I’m delighted to see both Liz Nugent and Catherine Ryan Howard on the shortlist, as I reviewed both these books just last month. I thought The Nothing Man was very clever, but I’m also a big fan of Jane Casey so am a bit torn on this one.
Who Will Win: I would say that Steve Cavanagh and Jane Casey are the ones to beat here.
POPULAR FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR
Who I Would Like to Win: This is a bit of a random choice as I haven’t read any of these, but I’ve been meaning to read Sarah Crossan’s new book Here is the Beehive for a while now and have been hearing great things about it.
Who Will Win: The double might of Marian Keyes or Graham Norton is going to be hard to beat in this category!
WRITING.IE SHORT STORY OF THE YEAR
Who I Would Like to Win: I’m delighted to see two of my favourite Irish writers – Caoilinn Hughes and Louise Kennedy – in this category. I’d love to see Louise win as I’ve read a few of her stories and they are really masterful and her new collection due out in April 2021 is one of my most anticipated reads of next year.
Who Will Win: This is a very open race I think, but there is a lot of love out there for Dermot Bolger.
NON-FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR
Who I Would Like to Win: Without a doubt I would love to see Doireann Ni Ghriofa win this prize. I have just started A Ghost in the Throat and it is a stunning achievement and quite unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It might be a little hard to categorise to be a winner here though.
Who Will Win: I don’t know enough about these books to call this one, or even hazard a guess, but Mark O’Connell’s Notes on an Apocalypse couldn’t be more timely if it tried and might well take the prize.
What’s most fantastic about the Irish Book Awards is that from here on in, the voting is down to the reading public. Voting is now open online, with the ceremony taking place on 25 November in a virtual awards ceremony. On December 10th, a brand new TV programme – An Post Irish Book of the Year will be shown on RTE One and will feature interviews with some of the winning authors and the announcement of the overall An Post Book of the Year.
Have you read any of the shortlisted books? Who would you cast your vote for?
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!