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scottish mortgage investment trust book awards

2010 Shortlist | 2010 Judges | 2010 Winners


A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir is Scottish Book of the Year 2010

Leading American academic and historian Donald Worster has been awarded the Book of the Year Award for his biography A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir at the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Awards. At the awards ceremony held at the Brewin Dolphin Borders Book Festival, Donald Worster received a total of £30,000 in recognition of his literary talent, and the significance of his biography, which positions John Muir as a national icon for Scotland and a figure of global significance for concern about the environment. 

Donald Worster said: "John Muir, a native of Scotland and an immigrant to the United States, was one of the founders of modern environmentalism.  This generous book award will, I hope, help introduce his life and achievements to modern Scots and inspire everywhere a deeper concern for saving the planet's ecology."

Restoring Scotland’s prophet of green politics and conservation to the world at a time when, arguably, it needs him most, Donald Worster has been praised for his “subtle understanding of Scottish sensibilities” by the panel of judges.  Panel chair Dr Gavin Wallace, Head of Literature, Scottish Arts Council added: “A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir is beautifully written, deeply accessible and should be in every Scottish home and classroom, next to the poetry of Robert Burns. 

John Muir is one of history's greatest evangelists for the natural world, and his life and achievements as an architect of conservation should be understood and valued by every Scot. The revelations triggered by the book’s huge insight and relevance for today’s global society inspired intense debate amongst the judges, and its sheer ‘worldliness’ solidly secured its selection as Book of the Year.”  The judging panel comprised Catherine Lockerbie, Kirsty Gunn and Pat Kane.

Minister for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said:
“The Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Awards is a highlight in the literary calendar, showcasing the wealth of writing talent Scotland has to offer.  Since 1972 the awards have successfully captured the quality and scope of literature produced in Scotland and this year is no exception.  Each of the winning books offers a unique perspective of Scotland and will remain a rich and rewarding element of our cultural landscape.”

John Scott, Chairman of Scottish Mortgage said:
“Scottish Mortgage - as one of Scotland's leading investment trusts - is again very pleased to be supporting one of the UK’s most important book awards. The Book of the Year award plays an important part in encouraging talent and excellence across the spectrum of Scottish writing”

Book Awards 2010 Category Winners

Four Scottish authors have been shortlisted for the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book of the Year. Selected from 16 category finalists, the winner of each of the fiction, non-fiction, poetry and first book categories receives £5000 and the chance to receive a further £25,000 and overall book of the year accolade.

The category winners comprise:


John Aberdein, Strip the Willow (Polygon)


Dark political satire meets wry, salty love story. For years council officer Lucy has felt alone, but as predatory LeopCorp twists the city to its global will, her instinct to resist - along with colleagues, fishermen, immigrants, anarchists - becomes tangled with a deep call from the past. A wounded, ragged stranger comes to town - but can Lucy's heart reopen in time to save herself and her city?

Author Biography

John Aberdein was born and educated in Aberdeen. After some time herring-fishing and scallop-diving on the West Coast, he taught English and outdoor education in Fife, Hampshire and Orkney.

He was the first person to kayak round mainland Scotland; a member of the Kirkland Five who campaigned for more democratic schools; and a main organiser of Labour’s move to ditch nuclear power in 1985-86 – a policy since reversed by ‘the divine fiat of Tony Blair’. His short story Moving was runner-up in the inaugural Scotsman/ Orange short story competition in 2004, and his novel Amande’s Bed (Thirsty/Argyll) won the Saltire First Book of the Year Award in 2005. John Aberdein is based in Hoy and divides his time between writing, gardening and travelling.


Donald Worster, A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir (Oxford university Press)


A Passion for Nature is the most complete account of the great conservationist and founder of the Sierra Club ever written. It is the first to be based on Muir's full private correspondence and to meet modern scholarly standards. Yet it is also full of rich detail and personal anecdote, uncovering the complex inner life behind the legend of the solitary mountain man.

It traces Muir from his boyhood in Scotland and frontier Wisconsin to his adult life in California right after the Civil War up to his death on the eve of World War I. It explores his marriage and family life, his relationship with his abusive father, his many friendships with the humble and famous (including Theodore Roosevelt and Ralph Waldo Emerson), and his role in founding the modern American conservation movement.

Inspired by Muir's passion for the wilderness, Americans created a long and stunning list of national parks and wilderness areas, Yosemite most prominent among them. Yet the book also describes a Muir who was a successful fruit-grower, a talented scientist and world-traveller, a doting father and husband, a self-made man of wealth and political influence; a man for whom mountaineering was "a pathway to revelation and worship."
For anyone wishing to more fully understand America's first great environmentalist, and the enormous influence he still exerts today, Donald Worster's biography offers a wealth of insight into the passionate nature of a man whose passion for nature remains unsurpassed.

Author Biography

Donald Worster is Hall Distinguished Professor of American History, University of Kansas and the author of many books, including A River Running West (OUP 2000); The Wealth of Nature: Environmental History and the Ecological Imagination (OUP 1993); and Under Western Skies: Nature and History in the American West (OUP 1993)


Tom Leonard. Outside the Narrative (Word Power/Etruscan Books)


Outside the Narrative publishes the great majority of Tom Leonard's poetry to date with prose pieces such as Honest and A Night at the Pictures. Amongst previously uncollected new work is the sequence An Ayrshire Mother in memory of the poet’s mother: Tom Leonard describes this as "ordinary everyday flowers from her own mouth laid before a final constructed metaphor of a tombstone."

Author Biography

Born in Glasgow in 1944, Tom Leonard has made the city’s voices heard throughout Scotland, and beyond. Leonard’s political, aesthetic and linguistic concerns are inextricable. His poetry contrasts different voices, social classes, emotional registers, philosophies. It is often funny but fiercely so.

He has been writer-in-residence in libraries and universities, and in the anthology Radical Renfrew, he trawled the Paisley archives to reconstruct the region’s literary past from the French Revolution to the First World War. His own work has been collected in Intimate Voices (1984), Reports from the Present (1995) and access to the silence: poems 1984-2004. He retired last September from being Professor of Creative Writing at Glasgow University.

First Book

Sarah Gabriel, Eating Pomegranates (Jonathan Cape)


Full of passion, hope, and despair, this is an extraordinary book about the journey through a devastatingly common disease.

Sarah Gabriel intended to write a novel about relationships. After a troubled, unhappy upbringing that saw the deaths of her mother and aunt, she now had a loving partner and two beautiful children, and finally felt secure in her world. Then, at 43, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and she realized that while you can turn your back on your past, you can never escape your genetic legacy.

This is not an account of how to accept the inevitable. It is a fight; a fight to survive, to stay sane, to protect her children from sharing the terrors that kept her awake at night and to stop BRCA1 - the rare and deadly genetic mutation that had caused her cancer - from claiming another victim. It is a book about mothers, and about motherless daughters; and about love and fear. It is a book that is both beautiful and brutal, revealing how small moments of tenderness can illuminate a day, while a thoughtless action — a friend turning away for fear misery can be contagious — can almost break you. But it is also a memoir of breast cancer itself, from its first identification in the nineteenth century through to the founding of a hospital to help sufferers, and the treatments developed to fight it.

Sarah Gabriel’s memoir exposes what it means to live in a world where medicine is sophisticated enough to identify the dangers that lie within our genes but not always powerful enough to defuse that danger. Laced with black humour, and full of passion, hope, and despair, this is an extraordinary book about a devastatingly common disease.

Author Biography

Sarah Gabriel is an author and journalist who has written for such British publications as The Independent, The Guardian, and The Sunday Times. Married with two daughters, she lives in Oxford, England.

The Book of the Year will be announced at the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Awards ceremony, as part of the Borders Book Festival in Melrose on 18 June 2010.

See also
* Book Awards 2008
* Book Awards 2009
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