Books from Granta, Hodder & Stoughton and Pan Macmillan have been unveiled as Foyles’ Books of the Year with Convenience Store Woman by Japanese author Sayaka Murata taking the fiction crown.
Murata’s English-language debut novel is translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori and was published in July by Portabello Books, the Granta imprint due to close in January. The book follows a 36-year-old supermarket worker Keiko who has worked in the same shop for half her life and struggles to fit into the wider world around her.
British rapper, activist and author Akala scooped the retailer’s Non-Fiction Book of the Year accolade for his polemic on race and class, Natives Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire, published under Hodder & Stoughton’s imprint Two Roads.
Meanwhile the children’s prize has gone to the West African-inspired fantasy debut Children of Blood and Bone by Nigerian-American author Tomi Adeyemi (Pan Macmillan), which features a world of dark magic and danger, divided by warring clans.
The selection process for the books incorporated shortlisting from relevant category buyers and a company-wide staff vote, Foyles said. Now the titles will receive “significant focus instore and online throughout the festive period across windows, table displays, instore screens, and online on the Foyles website, where a bundle of all three titles is also available”. Foyles is also in conversation with the three publishers to discuss further ways to highlight the winning books, the company said.
Gavin Read, marketing manager at Foyles, said the judging process considered not only commercial success but also how the titles represented the ethos of the historic chain, which was acquired by Waterstones in September.
“Sales are important—both sales so far and how a book might go on to perform as a Book of the Year—but we also wanted three books which, across their breadth, represented who we are and what we strive to be as a company," he said. "That’s not easy when you’re seven different shops and a website, 115 years old but having transformed yourself quite radically in recent years, and are made up of 187 informed and passionate readers.”
Ben Morgan, fiction category buyer at Foyles, said of Japan-based Murata's Convenience Store Woman: “We’ve been with the book from the start, with an exclusive early release back in June, and it’s been an important part of a wave of Japanese hits that have reshaped our promotional landscape. Sales have been phenomenal, and it’s beloved by both our customers and our booksellers—and we hope crowning it our Fiction Book of the Year will help us share it with even more new readers.”
Gary Powell, non-fiction category buyer at Foyles, describes Natives as “an incredible, urgent, profound and accessible book that should be pressed into everyone’s hands: a personal story, compellingly told, and a devastating cross-section of race and class prejudice in our society”.
Meanwhile Foyles’ children’s category buyer Kirsty Hurst called Children of Blood and Bone the “absolute stand-out favourite in the staff vote”. She added: “It’s a real bookseller and customer favourite, for both YA and adult fiction readers, and with the film adaptation and the sequel novel due for next year it’s clearer than ever that this is really just the beginning of an incredible journey.”
Children of Blood and Bone has shifted the highest number of copies according to Nielsen BookScan, selling 37,263. Natives has sold 21,290 and Convenience Store Woman has sold 15,371.
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