Contenders for Scotland's most prestigious literary prize revealed

Books about a missionary who died at Auschwitz after refusing to abandon Jewish children in her care, a 17th century murderer who went on to become a world-leading economist and the Highland Clearances are in the running to win Scotland’s most prestigious literary prize.

Australian author Angela Meyer is in the running for her debut novel A Superior Spectre, which is partly set in 19th century Scotland.
Australian author Angela Meyer is in the running for her debut novel A Superior Spectre, which is partly set in 19th century Scotland.

Other contenders for the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year title will include an Australian author’s debut novel, which is set both in the near future and in 19th century Scotland and an exploration of serial killers written by a former prison guard turned criminologist.

A guide to bikepacking around Scotland, a history book about space rockets and a celebration of seabirds could also win the £5000 prize at Scotland’s national book awards event.

The National Museum of Scotland will be hosting the biggest ever ceremony in the history of the competition, which will be expanding to include a prestigious new lifetime achievement award to recognise a leading figure in Scottish literature, which will come with a £2000 prize, and a best book cover award, to recognise the latest innovations in production and design.

Angela Meyer's novel A Superior Spectre is is set in both the near future and 19th century Scotland.

The Saltire Sociey, a cultural charity which has been staging the awards since 1937, selects the book of the year title from the winners of various individual categories, including best “first book,” the fiction and non-fiction books of the year, and best history title.

Previous winners of the Scottish Book of the Year title include Neil Gunn, Alasdair Gray, Edwin Morgan, Muriel Spark, Liz Lochhead, Janice Galloway, Kelman and James Robertson.


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The Scottish Book of the Year title and the individual categories are open to authors who were either born in Scotland, are currently living and working in Scotland, or are writing about the country.

Debut authors in the running include Melbourne-based Angela Meyer, for her science-fiction time-travel novel A Superior Spectre, Fraser MacDonald’s “Secret History of the Space Rocket,” Overlander, Alan Brown’s bikepacking odyssey across the Highlands, Stephen Rutt’s birdlife book The Seafarers.

Mary Miller's book recalls how missionary Jane Haining refused to leave Hungary during the Second World War because she was committed to helping to look after Jewish children.

The best fiction book prize will be decided between Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport, Ruairidh MacIlleathain’s Còig Duilleagan na Seamraig (Five Leaves of the Shamrock), Leila Aboulela’s Bird Summons, Ewan Morrison’s Nina X, Polly Clark’s Tiger and Damian Barr’s You Will Be Safe Here.

Scottish Journalist Melanie Reid’s memoir about being paralysed from the chest down after a horse-riding accident and A Life of Love and Courage, Mary Miller’s book on Jane Haining, the Galloway woman who gave her life to help protect Jewis schoolgirls in Hungary during the Second World War, are in the running for the non-fiction title.

Also shortlisted in the same category are with Dr David Wilson’s My Life With Murderers, Kate Clanchy’s book reflecting on 30 years in teaching, Kerry Hudson’s portrait of poverty in modern-day Britain and Donald E. Meek’s Hebridean Memoir Seòl Mo Bheatha (My Life Journey).


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Contenders in the research and history book categories include Tom Devine’s new book on the Scottish Clearances, which charts 300 years of “the dispossessed,” Laura Watts’ exploration of energy-making in Orkney and James Buchan’s biography about Edinburgh-born financier and gambler John Law, who became one of the richest men in Europe in the 18th century..

Mary Miller's book on Jane Haining is billed as a celebration of "undoubtedly one of Scotland's heroines."

Sarah Mason, programme director of the Saltire Society, said: “We’re proud of the fact that the Saltire Literary Aards shortlists celebrate the diversity, quality and richness of books to come from Scotland over the past 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.”


The Saltire Society Scottish Poetry Book of the Year Award


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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)


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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))


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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)


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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)


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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

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)


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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

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)


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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)


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Bitter Melon Press, Wedding Beasts (Jay G Ying)

Polygon, Polygon New Poets: Iona Lee (Iona Lee)

The Saltire Society Publisher of the Year Award

404 Ink

BHP Comics

Canongate Books


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Charco Press

Sandstone Press

The Saltire Society Emerging Publisher of the Year Award

Pauline Cuchet, Canongate Books

Anne Glennie, Cranachan

Kay Farrell, Sandstone Press


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Jamie Norman, Canongate Books

Richard Wainman, Floris Books

Alan Windram, Little Door Books