Sebastian Barry wins The Pleasure of Reading Prize 2023

The Pleasure of Reading Prize 2023 has been awarded to Sebastian Barry, chosen by a panel of judges including Bloomsbury authors Kevin Jared Hosein and Stephen Buoro, James Naughtie, and author Ruth Scurr.

The prize recognises an author, writing in English, who gives pleasure through their work.

Sebastian Barry is an award-winning Irish novelist, playwright and poet. Between 2018 and 2021 Barry was named Laureate for Irish Fiction. His novels A Long Long Way and The Secret Scripture were shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and was the first author to win the Costa Book of the Year twice. His works have also won the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Prize, the Irish Book Awards Novel of the Year and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. In 2019, he was elected fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has received honorary doctorates from the University of East Anglia, Galway University and the Open University. His plays have been performed in theatres and festivals across the world including the Royal National Theatre, The West End, The New Haven Festival of Arts and 59E59 Theatres in New York.

‘John McGahern said we must write for joy and we must read for joy, a truth that has only got truer as I have gone on. The Pleasure of Reading Prize perfectly celebrates this essential human imperative. And the pleasure of receiving the prize hits home with a lovely accuracy. Following Ali Smith and Edna O’Brien — what a reinvigorating delight. And the chance to play a part in honouring young readers in schools is frankly extremely moving, and a further joy. And I thank the very distinguished judges. I am extremely grateful for this heartening bolt from the blue. (Almost literally — I was halfway up a Scottish mountain when I received the happy phonecall.)’ 

Sebastian Barry

‘Mr Barry folds a dreamy blanket over a landscape of realism and human drama. The prose itself, tinctured with the experience of a poet and playwright, expresses the many spells, cadences and pleasures of language, most apt for a prize titled for the pleasure of reading. 

The pleasure of reading is a gift to be given, one that not only empowers individuals but connects cultures and customs and fates. It is one of the first forms of wealth one can attain and be introduced to.’

Kevin Jared Hosein, The Pleasure of Reading Prize 2023

‘Sebastian Barry’s writing – whether dwelling on the antinomies of war or the re-emergence of childhood/national trauma – is always delineated with the prowess of a first-rate storyteller, a shimmering introspection and psychological depth that instructs and nourishes, and a broad tonal range that offers that rare blend of aesthetic and emotional pleasure.

The ultimate purpose of reading is the special/atavistic/kaleidoscopic delight that the process affords. It is wonderful that the Pleasure of Reading Prize exists to celebrate and share this very delight.’

Stephen Buoro, The Pleasure of Reading Prize 2023

The Pleasure of Reading Prize will be shared between the winning author, Sebastian Barry and the charitable Give a Book projects he has chosen to support. Mr Barry has chosen to support the Whole School Reading Project.

© Dan White © Mark Lyndersay. © Andrew Kahumbu

The Pleasure of Reading Prize Judges 2023:

  • Lady Antonia Fraser, CH, writer and biographer (Chair)  
  • Ruth Scurr, writer, historian and literary critic
  • James Naughtie, writer and special correspondent
  • Kevin Jared Hosein, author and educator
  • Stephen Buoro, author
  • Victoria Gray, Executive Director of Give a Book (Secretary)

About The Pleasure of Reading Prize

Give a Book is a reading for pleasure charity, and this prize is a way to combine our commitment to authors with our charitable mission. 

The annual prize of £10,000 is sponsored by Bloomsbury Publishing and generously supported by the Blavatnik Family Foundation. The Pleasure of Reading Prize is shared between the winning author and a charitable Give a Book project of their choice, which could be a prison, a school, or another project where reading for pleasure can make a real difference.