The inaugural Catholic Herald Book Awards

(Joanne Davidson/Catholic Herald)

The inaugural Catholic Herald book awards were launched last week at Browns Hotel with Mark Lawson acting as a master of ceremonies.

Some last minute juggling of the order in which the awards were presented was necessary when it was noted that Adam Dant, the winner of the ‘Best Ilustrated’ book category was not in his seat as the ‘Brown’s Endive Salad’ was passed around the tables. There was an absent place next to the biographer Leanda de Lisle.

After it was discovered that Dant had been so inspired by a commission he was working on that he had “forgotten the time,” he rushed to Mayfair, and then struggled to find the hotel – arriving only just in time for the award presentation.

Dant apologised to the gathered literati saying that he was “only too aware of the irony of winning an award for a book that is a collection of London maps, and then to get lost on the way.”

Such wit set the tone for the rest of the award acceptance speeches.

Travel and Illustrated


Current Affairs


Religion and Theology.

Dant was the winner of the Travel and Illustrated section with Maps of London and Beyond which Nicky Haslam described as a “work of genius.” One map reimagines Shoreditch as New York City, complete with the Statue of Liberty and Central Park. The other nominees were T.J. Clarke, Tom Harper and Helen Hoffner.

Lady Antonia Fraser’s The King and the Catholics took the award for History. This “erudite work,” in the word of one judge, tells the story of the fight for Catholic Emancipation in parliament in the 1820s.

Anyone needing a reminder of its relevance needed merely to look out the window, to see the National Heritage Plaque commemorating Daniel O’Connell over the road. An Irish political leader responsible for the Roman Catholic Relief Act and much discussed in Frasers’s book, he lived in Albemarle Street, opposite the hotel. In her acceptance speech, Lady Antonia said that she would have loved to see the look on the face of her old history teacher on being awarded this prize.

Sir Roger Scruton won the Current Affairs prize with Where we are: The state of Britain Now. Always controversial and often brilliant, Roger Scruton’s offering is certainly a book for our tumultuous times and the award was collected by his publisher and friend Robin Baird-Smith of Bloomsbury.

James Stourton won the Biography prize with Kenneth Clark: Art, Life, and Civilisation. The award was presented by William Cash who described how Stourton revealed the “human man” who often regarded himself as a fraud or failure behind the guarded aesthetic façade. “Stourton presents an immaculately made case for a reappraisal of Clark as a serious art scholar and public servant.”

Jane Glover, Leanda de Lisle and Andrew Roberts were also singled out for their shortlisted books with Roberts’s biography being regarded as a book that stood up for the values of Western Civilization fighting against the forces of evil.

Leanda de Lisle presented Charles’s Catholic wife, Queen Henrietta Maria, as a fully rounded woman that stepped away from the stereotype, while Handel was considered a genius for rarely taking more than a month on a work. He may have prospered even better, however, in his own lifetime had he stuck to working in Catholic countries it was noted.

John Gray, an atheist, was a controversial winner of the religion and theology category with Seven Types of Atheism. Gray administers a shot of intellectual stimulant to a debate which has been for too long dominated by Richard Dawkins.

Cristina Odone, former editor and board member, gave a special thank you to Sir Rocco Forte for providing the use of Brown’s Hotel as a venue. The elegant surroundings elevated the proceedings, and the delicious lunch of Brown’s endive salad, roast chicken and salted caramel tart ensured the event was a foodie triumph (with wines from Tanners) as well as spiritually nourishing. Mark Lawson commiserated the losers by turning to Mark 10:31 – “Many that are first shall be last, and the last first…”

Winners and Shortlists below:

Travel and Illustrated 

Judges: Lady Forte, Elizabeth Hurley, Nicky Haslam, Peter Sheppard


         Heaven on Earth: Painting and the Life to Come , T.J Clark, (Pub: Sophia Institute Press)

         Maps of London and Beyond , Adam Dant, (Pub: Batsford and Spitalfields Life Books)

         Atlas: A World of Maps from the British Library , Tom Harper, (Pub: British Library Publishing)

         Catholic Traditions and Treasures: An Illustrated Encyclopedia , Helen Hoffner, (Pub: Batsford)

Presented by: Nicky Haslam

Winner: Adam Dant, Maps of London and Beyond 


Judges: Harry Mount, Tom Holland, Ed West, Francis Phillips Nominees:

         The King and the Catholics: The Fight for Rights 1829 , Antonia Fraser, (Pub: Orion Books)

         Soho in the Eighties, Christopher Howse, ( Pub: Bloomsbury)

         Dictator Literature: A History of Bad Books by Terrible People , Daniel Kalder, (Pub: Oneworld)

         Christianity in the Twentieth Century: A World History , Brian Stanley, (Pub: Princeton 
University Press)

Presented by: Harry Mount

Winner: Antonia Fraser, The King and the Catholics 

Current Affairs

Judges: Colin Brazier, Professor John Charmley, Simon Caldwell, Melanie McDonagh Nominees:

●  Oil, Power and War: A Dark History, Matthieu Auzanneau (Pub: Chelsea Green)

●  Death of the Gods: The New Global Power Grab , Carl Miller, (Pub: Penguin Random House)

●  Where we are: The state of Britain Now, Roger Scruton, (Pub: Bloomsbury)

●  The Fragility of Order: Catholic Reflections on Turbulent Times , George Wiegel, (Pub: Ignatius)

Presented by: Colin Brazier

Winner: Roger Scruton, Where we are: The state of Britain Now


Judges: William Cash, Hugo Vickers, Dan Hitchens, Mick Duggan Nominees:

         Handel in London: The Making of a Genius, Jane Glover, (Pub: Macmillan)

         White King: Charles I, Traitor, Murderer, Martyr, Leanda de Lisle, (Pub: Chatto & Windus)

         Churchill: Walking with Destiny, Andrew Roberts, (Pub: Allen Lane)

         Kenneth Clark: Life, Art and Civilisation , James Stourton, (Pub: William Collins) 
Presented by: William Cash

Winner: James Stourton, Kenneth Clark: Life, Art and Civilisation 

Religion and Theology

Judges: Mary Kenny, Cristina Odone, Father Christopher Colven, Father Alexander Lucie-Smith 

         Seven Types of Atheism, John Gray (Pub: Penguin Random House)

●  Skymeadow: Notes from an English Gardener , Charlie Hart, (Pub: Little Brown)

         The Radiance of Her Face: A Triptych in Honor of Mary Immaculate, Dom Xavier Perrin, (Pub: 
Angelico Press)

●  Francis: A Life in Songs, Ann Wroe, (Pub: Penguin Random House) 
Presented by: Cristina Odone

Winner: John Gray, Seven Types of Atheism 


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