Every year, the Irish Book Awards celebrate “the extraordinary quality of Irish writing” and help bring those books judged to be the best to a wider readership. These annual awards are also intended to promote the Irish publishing and book-selling industries.
The awards include an inspiring array of 18 categories within a variety of literary genres. Celebrated equally with the best novel and non-fiction book are the best sports book, cookbook, crime book and Irish language book. In addition, the awards also celebrate the best short story of the year and the best poem.
The awards are unique in that they involve an entire literary community: publishers, booksellers, librarians, authors, and perhaps most uniquely, readers.
The process begins with the creation of shortlists in every category by a panel of leading booksellers and librarians, with input from a secondary group of literary critics, reviewers, editors and bloggers. The winners are then determined by the combination of an online public vote and an “academy vote.” The voting academy is comprised of roughly 300 booksellers, librarians, non-shortlisted authors, reviewers, and journalists. Both the public and academy votes are weighted equally, and winning titles need to score heavily with both groups.
Libraries and bookshops showcase the best books of the year, and a televised Awards Dinner has become the major event in the literary calendar with both An Taoiseach and the President of Ireland as guests of honor.
The following are a few of the books selected as the best in Irish writing this year. For a full list of the categories, the winners and those shortlisted, please visit The Irish Book Awards website.
EASON NOVEL OF THE YEAR
Strange Flowers, by Donal Ryan
In 1973, twenty-year-old Moll Gladney takes a morning bus from her rural home and disappears.
Bewildered and distraught, Paddy and Kit must confront an unbearable prospect: that they will never see their daughter again.
Five years later, Moll returns. What – and who – she brings with her will change the course of her family’s life forever.
ODGERS BERNDTSON NON-FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR
A Ghost in the Throat, by Doireann Ní Ghríofa
A hybrid of essay and autofiction, A Ghost in the Throat explores the ways in which a life can be changed in response to the discovery of another’s – in this case, Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill’s Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire, famously referred to by Peter Levi as ‘the greatest poem written in either Ireland or Britain during the eighteenth century.
A devastating and timeless tale about finding your voice by freeing another’s.
IRISH INDEPENDENT CRIME FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR
After the Silence, by Louise O’Neill
Nessa Crowley’s murderer has been protected by silence for ten years.
On the day of Henry and Keelin Kinsella’s wild party at their big house a violent storm engulfed the island of Inisrún, cutting it off from the mainland. When morning broke Nessa Crowley’s lifeless body lay in the garden, her last breath silenced by the music and the thunder.
It was impossible to get off the island that night. The killer couldn’t have escaped Inisrún, but no-one was charged with the murder. The mystery that surrounded the death of Nessa remained hidden. But the islanders knew who to blame for the crime that changed them forever.
Ten years later a documentary crew arrives, determined to find evidence that will prove Henry’s guilt and Keelin’s complicity in the murder of beautiful Nessa.
SUNDAY INDEPENDENT NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Diary of a Young Naturalist, by Dara McAnulty
Diary of a Young Naturalist chronicles the turning of 15-year-old Dara McAnulty’s world. From spring and through a year in his home patch in Northern Ireland, Dara spent the seasons writing. These vivid, evocative and moving diary entries about his connection to wildlife and the way he sees the world are raw in their telling.
CHILDREN’S BOOK OF THE YEAR (JUNIOR)
The Great Irish Farm Book, by Darragh McCullough & illustrated by Sally Caulwell
Did you know that there are almost 2,000,000 pigs in Ireland? Would you believe only 10 per cent of the milk produced in Ireland is consumed here? And that hens are pregnant for 21 days, but a horse can be pregnant for up to 345 days? The Great Irish Farm Book will take you on a fascinating journey through an Irish farm
CHILDREN’S BOOK OF THE YEAR (SENIOR)
Break the Mould by Sinéad Burke, illustrated by Natalie Byrne
Sometimes we can feel like we are not good enough. That we don’t belong. Or that we want to be more like our friends. In this empowering guide, Sinéad Burke – teacher, activist, author and little person – draws on her own experiences and encourages young readers to believe in themselves, have pride in who they are and use their voice to make the world a fairer, more inclusive place.
From the power of being different, to celebrating the things you love about yourself and helping others do the same, this is a brilliantly inspirational handbook for breaking the mould and finding your place in the world.
TEEN AND YOUNG ADULT BOOK OF THE YEAR
Savage Her Reply, by Deirdre Sullivan & illustrated by Karen Vaughan
Aífe marries Lir, a chieftain with four children by his previous wife. Jealous of his affection for his children, the witch Aífe turns them into swans for 900 years. Retold through the voice of Aífe, Savage Her Reply is unsettling and dark, feminist and fierce, giving voice to a woman from fairytale whose story has never before been told. Voiced in Sullivan’s trademark rich, lyrical prose as developed in Tangleweed and Brine – the multiple award-winner which established Sullivan as the queen of witchy YA.
All book summaries are from ‘An Post’ Irish Book Awards.