Book of the Year


Shuggie Bain

Douglas Stuart


The final panel of judges crowned the winner of Fiction: Debut Book of the Year, Shuggie Bain, as The British Book Awards’ Overall Book of the Year. They felt that Douglas Stuart’s novel was a “masterpiece” that would stand the test of time. Judges described the novel as “immensely powerful: haunting, traumatic and yet tender at the same time”, and commended Stuart’s “unapologetic and vivid” depictions of alcoholism, poverty and pain against the backdrop of 1980s Glasgow and Margaret Thatcher’s prime ministership. What also swung it Shuggie Bain’s way was the publisher’s unwavering enthusiasm and passion for the novel, with the panel praising Picador’s ability to recognise the potential and importance of this book after it was rejected by a dozen other British publishers.

The judges for the overall winner were Peter Frankopan, author and professor; Robbie Millen, literary editor of the Times; Ella Risbridger, author; Kate Skipper, chief operating officer, Waterstones; and Rhys Stephenson, CBBC presenter. The discussion was chaired by The Bookseller’s books editor, Alice O’Keeffe. Ultimately, the panel felt Shuggie Bain is a “exceptionally powerful work of fiction... without a doubt a future classic”

Douglas Stuart in conversation with Fleur Sinclair


  • The Highland Falcon Thief by The Highland Falcon Thief by M G Leonard, Sam Sedgman & Elisa Paganelli (illus)
    Macmillan Children's Books
    Macmillan Children’s Books acquired M G Leonard and Sam Sedgman’s Adventures on Trains series at auction in July 2018. This first book is a murder mystery which takes readers to exciting places on real-life train models and routes, in a bid to entertain and educate young readers. It was a Waterstones Book of the Month in February 2020.
  • Black and British: A short, essential history by David Olusoga
    Macmillan Children's Books
    David Olusoga’s book is an essential introduction to 1,800 years of Black British history: from the Roman Africans, right up to the present day. Since he published Black and British: A Forgotten History in 2016 (Macmillan), parents have been asking Olusoga for a kids’ title. Leveraging the author’s profile, Macmillan Children’s secured broadcast, radio, print and online media marketing.
  • Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell
    Tinder Press
    Maggie O’Farrell took readers back to the 16th century with Hamnet, which focuses on the story of Shakespeare’s wife and son. Tinder Press published the novel almost 20 years to the day after O’Farrell’s début, and when lockdown hit it remained steadfast with its schedule, moving the campaign online. The novel has sold 82,000 copies through Nielsen’s TCM.
  • Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith
    The fifth book in J K Rowling pseudonym Robert Galbraith’s crime series saw Cormoran Strike and sidekick Robin Ellacott head to the Cornish coast. The dynamic pair were called “one of crime fiction’s most engaging duos” by the Guardian, and their return was highly anticipated by fans of the series: according to the Sphere, the title garnered more than 90,000 pre-orders.
  • Skincare by Caroline Hirons
    Beauty and skincare guru Caroline Hirons shares how to get great skin on any budget, at any age. HQ won the title in a six-way auction and approached the book as a “publishing event”, aiming to appeal beyond the author’s online audience. It succeeded: the book has sold 133,327 copies through Nielsen’s TCM to date, with lockdown-era sales excluded.
  • Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty
    Little Toller
    Dara McAnulty was 14 when he penned his diary, following a year in his life as a young naturalist as he juggled home, school, nature and activism. Little Toller put everything it had behind the book, and it won the Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing and the Hay Festival Book of the Year, among a splattering of other award nods.
  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
    A début author at the age of 71, Delia Owens’ novel is in equal parts coming-of age story, murder mystery and romance. Lockdown presented exciting opportunities for Corsair as the author, who lives on a remote ranch in Idaho, was able to give interviews via video call. The title has been optioned for film by Fox 2000, with Reese Witherspoon to direct.
  • Think Like a Monk written & narrated by Jay Shetty
    In a tough year, Jay Shetty showed readers how to clear roadblocks to power, drawing on his time as a monk in the Vedic tradition. Shetty narrates the audiobook himself and HarperCollins added audio-exclusive content, from meditations to an author Q&A. The result satisfied the author’s podcast listeners and significant online following, as well as drawing in new fans.