There must be a constant party atmosphere at the office of Coach House Books in Toronto: they’re celebrating their 50th anniversary, and one of their titles, Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis, won the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize! The Giller Prize is the Canadian equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in the U.S., so obviously everyone at Coach House Books is over the moon. Alexis received $100,000 at a black-tie ceremony on November 10th, as well as the opportunity to attend a two-week residency program at Leighton Artists’ Colony in Banff, Alberta, courtesy of the Banff Centre.
Both the shortlist (which included two titles from Biblioasis, Martin John and Arvida) and the winner were chosen by a five-member jury panel. Their statement about Fifteen Dogs makes it clear why it was chosen: “it’s a novel filled with balancing acts: humor juxtaposed with savagery, solitude with the desperate need to be part of a pack, perceptive prose interspersed with playful poetry. A wonderful and original piece of writing that challenges the reader to examine their own existence and recall the age-old question, what’s the meaning of life?”
In addition to the 2015 Giller Prize, Fifteen Dogs won the 2015 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and was a finalist for the 2015 Toronto Book Awards. Though the Giller Prize marks the most prestigious award a Coach House Books author has received, the press has also received numerous awards and nominations.
It all began in 1965, when typesetter Stan Bevington rented an old coach house and joined forces with Dennis Reid to print a book of poetry by Wayne Clifford. Since then, Coach House Books has remained one of the few presses that still prints their books in-house. This allows them to put just as much focus and attention on the quality and construction of the physical books as they do on the stories themselves. They have a diverse collection of titles, featuring innovative fiction, poetry, film and drama, and non-fiction. Check out this radio documentary they put together to hear the “voices behind the books.”
Congratulations to André Alexis and Coach House Books on their win, and here’s to the next 50 years!