James Tait Black Memorial Prize – a personal challenge

I’m sure that like me you will have noticed some books with James Tait Black Memorial Prize in brackets after the title. For a good wee while now I’ve been thinking about trying to work my way through the list of winners of this prize that was set up in 1919. You might be interested in this Edinburgh University link The prizes were founded in 1919 by Mrs Janet Coats Black in memory of her late husband James Tait Black, a partner in the publishing house of A & C Black Ltd.

1919 Hugh Walpole, The Secret City
1920 D. H. Lawrence, The Lost Girl
1921 Walter de la Mare, Memoirs of a Midget
1922 David Garnett, Lady into Fox
1923 Arnold Bennett, Riceyman Steps
1924 E. M. Forster, A Passage to India
1925 Liam O’Flaherty, The Informer
1926 Radclyffe Hall, Adam’s Breed
1927 Francis Brett Young, Portrait of Clare
1928 Siegfried Sassoon, Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man
1929 J. B. Priestley, The Good Companions
1930 E. H. Young, Miss Mole
1931 Kate O’Brien, Without My Cloak
1932 Helen de Guerry Simpson, Boomerang
1933 A. G. Macdonell, England, Their England
1934 Robert Graves, I, Claudius and Claudius the God
1935 L. H. Myers, The Root and the Flower
1936 Winifred Holtby, South Riding
1937 Neil M. Gunn, Highland River
1938 C. S. Forester, A Ship of the Line and Flying Colours
1939 Aldous Huxley, After Many a Summer Dies the Swan
1940 Charles Morgan, The Voyage
1941 Joyce Cary, A House of Children
1942 Arthur Waley, Translation of Monkey by Wu Cheng’en
1943 Mary Lavin, Tales from Bective Bridge
1944 Forrest Reid, Young Tom
1945 L. A. G. Strong, Travellers
1946 Oliver Onions, Poor Man’s Tapestry
1947 L. P. Hartley, Eustace and Hilda
1948 Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter
1949 Emma Smith, The Far Cry
1950 Robert Henriques, Through the Valley
1951 Chapman Mortimer, Father Goose
1952 Evelyn Waugh, Men at Arms
1953 Margaret Kennedy, Troy Chimneys
1954 C. P. Snow, The New Men and The Masters
1955 Ivy Compton-Burnett, Mother and Son
1956 Rose Macaulay, The Towers of Trebizond
1957 Anthony Powell, At Lady Molly’s
1958 Angus Wilson, The Middle Age of Mrs. Eliot
1959 Morris West, The Devil’s Advocate
1960 Rex Warner, Imperial Caesar
1961 Jennifer Dawson, The Ha-Ha
1962 Ronald Hardy, Act of Destruction
1963 Gerda Charles, A Slanting Light
1964 Frank Tuohy, The Ice Saints
1965 Muriel Spark, The Mandelbaum Gate
1966 Christine Brooke-Rose, Such/Aidan Higgins, Langrishe, Go Down
1967 Margaret Drabble, Jerusalem the Golden
1968 Maggie Ross, The Gasteropod
1969 Elizabeth Bowen, Eva Trout
1970 Lily Powell, The Bird of Paradise
1971 Nadine Gordimer, A Guest of Honour
1972 John Berger, G
1973 Iris Murdoch, The Black Prince
1974 Lawrence Durrell, Monsieur: or, The Prince of Darkness
1975 Brian Moore, The Great Victorian Collection
1976 John Banville, Doctor Copernicus
1977 John le Carré, The Honourable Schoolboy
1978 Maurice Gee, Plumb
1979 William Golding, Darkness Visible
1980 J. M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians
1981 Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children
Paul Theroux, The Mosquito Coast
1982 Bruce Chatwin, On The Black Hill
1983 Jonathan Keates, Allegro Postillions
1984 J. G. Ballard, Empire of the Sun/Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus
1985 Robert Edric, Winter Garden
1986 Jenny Joseph, Persephone
1987 George Mackay Brown, The Golden Bird: Two Orkney Stories
1988 Piers Paul Read, A Season in the West
1989 James Kelman, A Disaffection
1990 William Boyd, Brazzaville Beach
1991 Iain Sinclair, Downriver
1992 Rose Tremain, Sacred Country
1993 Caryl Phillips, Crossing the River
1994 Alan Hollinghurst, The Folding Star
1995 Christopher Priest, The Prestige
1996 Graham Swift, Last Orders/
Alice Thompson, Justine
1997 Andrew Miller, Ingenious Pain
1998 Beryl Bainbridge, Master Georgie
1999 Timothy Mo, Renegade, or Halo2
2000 Zadie Smith, White Teeth
2001 Sid Smith, Something Like a House
2002 Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections
2003 Andrew O’Hagan, Personality
2004 David Peace, GB84
2005 Ian McEwan, Saturday
2006 Cormac McCarthy, The Road
2007 Rosalind Belben, Our Horses in Egypt
2008 Sebastian Barry, The Secret Scripture
2009 A. S. Byatt, The Children’s Book
2010 Tatjana Soli, The Lotus Eaters
2011 Padgett Powell, You and I
2012 Alan Warner, The Deadman’s Pedal
2013 Jim Crace, Harvest
2014 Zia Haider Rahman, In the Light of What We Know
2015 Benjamin Markovits, You Don’t Have to Live Like This

I’ve only read seven of them so I have a long way to go before completing this challenge. The winner is selected by the Professor of English Literature at Edinburgh University, assisted by PhD students. The absence of critics or any so called ‘celebrity’ judges, and the fact that this is the oldest literary prize in Britain make them among the most respected awards in publishing. There is a prize each year for fiction and also biography but I’m going to be concentrating on the fiction, although I am interested in reading some of the biographies – sometime.

The books that I’ve already read are in bold but those ones were read before I started blogging. Click the blue titles to see what I thought of them. As you can see I have a lot to get stuck into, I may just have bitten off more than I can chew, especially as there are some authors there that I’ve tried before and not liked, but I’m going to have a good go at it. It’s a long term reading plan obviously!

10 thoughts on “James Tait Black Memorial Prize – a personal challenge

    • Stefanie,
      It’s a long term project that will cross over with some other things such as the Classics Club. I’m almost finished England, their England which will count towards three challenges!

  1. I am very excited about your challenge, Katrina, as it overlaps with a personal challenge of my own: to read a prize-winning book from every year since such awards have been made. I decided initially to draw from both the James Tait Black and the Hawthornden, and more recently (for reasons I can’t remember) I’ve added the Pulitzer.

    Looking at your list, I have only read 4! I have a number of the early ones on my classics club list.

    I’m looking forward to sharing thoughts on these books as we come to them. You will undoubtedly race ahead so I’ll get an inkling of what is come!

    • Sandra,
      That’s going to be interesting, I’ll look forward to your thoughts too. I only have a few of those actual books at home, if I can’t get the others out of the library I’m going to need to buy another bookcase!

  2. I think I’ve only read six or seven of these. I really liked South Riding and The Children’s Book but I absolutely hated The Corrections. I also liked The Far Cry which is a Persephone reprint. Good luck with your challenge!

  3. Hi. I am currently reading these books in order. Good to know I’m not the only one. I like to buy them as cheaply as I can.
    I’ve nearly finished Kate O’Brien’s ‘Without My Cloak’ and was just looking online to see if I could find a copy of ‘Boomerang’ by Helen de Guerry Simpson. Alas I have failed but I came across your post instead 🙂 Happy Reading !

    • Virginia,

      That’s a good idea – reading them in order, but I had already read some of them. I think quite a few of the books might be difficult to get a hold of nowadays. Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment. I hope we can compare thoughts on some of the books in the future.


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