Notes to Self by Emilie Pine, a bestselling collection of vivid and powerful personal essays addressing alcoholism, infertility and abuse, has been named An Post Irish Book of the Year 2018 after a public vote.
The author, a UCD academic, said: “I’m delighted and honoured to win Irish Book of the Year. I have been so moved by the generosity and support of readers over the past six months. This award is the kind of validation a writer dreams of – of my story, and also of the vision of my incredible publishers, Tramp Press.”
It is the second time in three years that a Tramp Press title has won the award, a remarkable achievement for a small publisher which only brings out two or three titles a year. Solar Bones by Mike McCormack won the 2016 award, and went on to be longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
The Book of the Year is chosen from the list of category winners announced at last November's An Post Irish Book Awards. Last year's winner was Atlas of the Irish Revolution by John Crowley, Donal Ó Drisceoil, Mike Murphy and Dr John Borgonovo.
Reviewing Notes to Self in The Irish Times, Martina Evans wrote: "I've never read anything quite like these essays. Pine's fluent intelligence flows through each question, each dilemma, in its own inimitable way. It's the kind of book you want to give to everyone, especially young women and men, so that we can learn together to take ourselves and each other more seriously."
Pine is associate professor of modern drama at University College Dublin, editor of the Irish University Review, director of the Irish Memory Studies Network , and project leader of the Irish Research Council New Horizons project Industrial Memories, a digital humanities re-reading of the Ryan Report on institutional child abuse.
Awards chairperson Maria Dickenson said “the power and honesty of Emilie’s essays have captivated readers. “Emilie Pine’s Notes to Self was one of the great stories in Irish bookselling in 2018 and I’m delighted that the voting public has chosen it as the An Post Book of the Year.
“The power and honesty of Emilie’s essays have captivated readers, and it’s truly gratifying both to see her talent rewarded and to see an Irish publisher like Tramp Press receive this well-deserved recognition,” she said
David McRedmond, CEO of An Post, described Notes to self as “deeply human”. “2018 was a huge year for Irish writing and no book illustrates better why An Post is delighted to sponsor the Irish Book Awards: Emilie Pine’s book, a challenging read, is deeply human and Irish, emotional and clever. An Post thanks all the voters for engaging with the Awards in such large numbers,” he said.
Notes to Self, which has just been published in Britain by Hamish Hamilton, was also shortlisted for the inaugural €10,000 Michel Déon Prize for Non-Fiction, which was won by historian Breandán Mac Suibhne for The End of Outrage: Post-Famine Adjustment in Rural Ireland.
Pine’s success – commercial as well as critical: it has sold 9,000 copies and is still in the bestseller lists – highlights the resurgence of the essay form in Irish literature. Tramp Press is publishing another essay collection in March, Minor Monuments by Ian Maleney; Sinéad Gleeson’s Constellations is due in April from Picador; and Faber publishes Kevin Breathnach’s Tunnel Vision in March.
Bredan Barrington, editor of the Dublin Review, wrote about the phenomenon in The Irish Times recently: "The elevation of fiction above all other literary forms is particularly pronounced in Ireland. But here, as elsewhere, things are changing. The idea of launching a writing career with a collection of essays would have been all but incomprehensible for an ambitious Irish writer until very recently; now, as writers like Emilie Pine, Kevin Breathnach and Sinéad Gleeson are demonstrating, it is a real pathway. The species 'Irish essayist', long critically endangered, is now in rude health."
Full list of An Post Book Irish Book Awards winners
Announced in November
Novel of the Year
Normal People by Sally Rooney (Faber & Faber)
Non-Fiction Book of the Year
People Like Me by Lynn Ruane (Gill Books)
Popular Fiction Book of the Year
The Importance of Being Aisling by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen (Gill Books)
Popular Non-Fiction Book of the Year
The Cow Book by John Connell (Granta Books)
Newcomer of the Year
Notes to Self by Emilie Pine (Tramp Press)
Crime Fiction Book of the Year
Skin Deep by Liz Nugent (Penguin Ireland)
Sports Book of the Year
Game Changer by Cora Staunton with Mary White (PRH Transworld Ireland)
Best Irish Published Book of the Year
Lighthouses of Ireland by Roger O'Reilly (Collins Press)
Teen / Young Adult Book of the Year
The Weight of a Thousand Feathers by Brian Conaghan (Bloomsbury)
Children's Book of the Year (Senior)
Blazing a Trail by Sarah Webb and Lauren O'Neill (The O'Brien Press)
Children's Book of the Year (Junior)
The President's Cat by Peter Donnelly (Gill Books)
Irish Language Book of the Year
Tuatha De Denann by Diarmuid Johnson (Leabhar Breac)
Cookbook of the Year
Currabinny Cookbook by James Kavanagh and William Murray (Penguin Ireland)
The Ryan Tubridy Show Listeners' Choice Award
Skin Deep by Liz Nugent (Penguin Ireland)
Irish Poem of the Year
Birthday by Brian Kirk
Short Story of the Year
How to Build a Space Rocket by Roisin O'Donnell (From The Broken Spiral ed. by RM Clarke)