The Irish Book Awards began life as The Hughes & Hughes Irish Novel of the Year; a sort of Irish Booker with one winner chosen by a tight little jury of experts who read 40-50 novels before selecting a winner. Then, one night in 2006 a group of us began to consider how we could expand the single award format into something broader and more interesting. The thought process went like something like this. Not everyone reads fiction so we need to do other genres too. The appeal needs to be broad, to include the sort of books most people are reading in huge numbers not just the sort that garner critical acclaim. Then we asked ourselves some critical questions. How do we attract more sponsors? Do we really need cash prizes? How do we involve the industry as a whole in this? Why not ask ordinary readers to vote for their favourites? And yes, how do we sell more books?
Most people thought we were stone mad. Too many competing agendas to make it work but six years on this is where we find ourselves. Each year four hundred books are submitted for consideration in ten categories, each separately sponsored. Over 30,000 readers vote to select the winners in each category. 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. Freed from the tyranny of the blank page for a few hours, authors of every kind gather together in a spirit of camaraderie and friendly competition. We now have a major corporation, Bord Gáis Energy, as our headline sponsor and our Lifetime Achievement Award has gone to literary greats like John McGahern, William Trevor, Edna O’Brien, Maeve Binchy and Seamus Heaney.
Exclusively Irish, inclusive in every other sense, the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards brings together the entire literary community – readers, authors, booksellers, publishers and librarians – like no other awards. These are your awards – join us in celebrating Irish writing.