Founded in 1959 to "encourage and bring international esteem to authors of the British Commonwealth," the WH Smith Award is for an author whose book "makes, in the opinion of the judges, the most significant contribution to literature." Authors from the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and the Irish Republic are eligible. Judging is done by an independent panel of three judges who call in books from publishers. After they have chosen a shortlist a guest judge joins them for the selection of the winner.


2003 Donna Tartt The Little Friend
2002 Ian McEwan Atonement
2001 Philip Roth The Human Stain
2000 Melvyn Bragg The Soldier's Return
1999 Beryl Bainbridge Master Georgie
1998 Ted Hughes Tales from Ovid
1997 Orlando Figes A People's Tragedy - The Russian Revolution
1996 Simon Schama Landscape and Memory
1995 Alice Munro Open Secrets
1994 Vikram Seth A Suitable Boy
1993 Michele Roberts Daughters of the House
1992 Thomas Pakenham The Scramble for Africa
1991 Derek Walcott Omeros
1990 V.S. Pritchett A Careless Widow an Other Stories
1989 Christopher Hill A Turbulent, Seditious and factious People: John Bunyan and His Church
1988 Robert Hughes The Fatal Shore
1987 Elizabeth Jennings Collected Poems, 1953-1985
1986 Doris Lessing The Good Terrorist
1985 David Hughes The Pork Butcher
1984 Philip Larkin Required Writing
1983 A.N. Wilson Wise Virgin
1982 George Clare Last Waltz in Vienna
1981 Isabel Colegate The Shooting Party
1980 Thom Gunn Selected Poems, 1959-1975
1979 Mark Girouard Life in the English Country House
1978 Patrick Leigh Fermor A Time for Gifts
1977 Ronald Lewin Slim: The Standardbearer
1976 Seamus Heaney North
1975 Jon Stallworthy Wilfred Owen
1974 Anthony Powell Temporary Kings
1973 Brian Moore Catholics
1972 Kathleen raine The Lost Country
1971 Nan Fairbrother New Lives, New Landscapes
1970 John Fowles The French Lieutenant's Woman
1969 Robert Gittings John Keats
1968 V.S. Naipaul The Mimic Men
1967 Jean Rhys Wide Sargasso Sea
1966 R.C. Hutchinson A Child Possessed
1965 Leonard Woolf Beginning Again
1964 Ernst H. Gombrich Meditations on a Hobby-Horse
1963 Gabriel Fielding The Birthday King
1962 J.R. Ackerley We Think the World of You
1961 Nadine Gordimer Friday's Footprint
1960 Laurie Lee Cider With Rosie
1959 Patrick White Voss