Ex-Blackwell's bookseller scoops its Book of the Year

Ex-Blackwell's bookseller scoops its Book of the Year

Former Blackwell’s bookseller Daisy Johnson has won the retailer’s Book of the Year for her "outstanding" Man Booker-shortlisted novel Everything Under (Jonathan Cape).

Johnson, the youngest author ever to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, scooped the Blackwell’s Book of the Year on Monday (3rd December), three years after working for the company’s flagship Oxford store. The award is voted for by all the company's shop and online booksellers from a shortlist of four category winners, with voting going “overwhelmingly” in favour of Everything Under, Blackwell's said. The book follows an isolated lexicographer who spent her teens in foster care, turning classical myth on its head.

Johnson worked in Blackwell’s Oxford store in Broad Street from 2012 and 2015, when she landed a two-book deal with Cape which included a collection of short stories, Fen, published in 2017.

Johnson told The Bookseller: "I started working at Blackwells when I moved to Oxford and it was the first place that felt like home in the city. There is no better place. Their support for Everything Under really has blown me away and this win means everything."

The store's senior bookseller Harriet Ware revealed the team is delighted with their ex-colleague's win.

“Daisy was here for a couple of years and was great, a really friendly bookseller, she loved her job," Ware told The Bookseller. "She worked Saturday, Sunday and Monday and she was our best weekender, very reliable and very happy. We knew she was writing on the side of her job, it was something she talked about.

"It’s been wonderful to see her success this year, and see someone you know do so well. It’s a really good book and it's really great to see her do so well. Often booksellers make good writers – they have wider knowledge of how books sell and what customers want.

"We’re looking forward to championing it over the next few months, when the paperback comes out [on 7th February] that will be great. Daisy was explaining it because we’re hoping they might do a special edition for us."

Johnson said: “Blackwell’s are champions for the books they love and it means everything that one of those is Everything Under. I’ve always loved Blackwell’s and the support they’ve given me over the years has blown me away.”

The title will be heavily promoted in Blackwell’s shops and online as a key title for Christmas and throughout 2019, already having sold 8,644 copies for £114,029 according to Nielsen BookScan.

Already the fiction winner, Johnson scooped the overall Book of the Year crown from fellow Jonathan Cape author Afua Hirsch, whose Brit(ish) won the Non-Fiction category, as well as Children’s winner Kiran Millwood Hargrave for The Way Past Winter (Chicken House) and Asymmetry (Granta) by Lisa Halliday who had won the Debut section. The shortlisted authors were revealed last month.

Katharine Fry, trade buying manager at Blackwell’s, who organises the Book of the Year award, said: “We had a record number of booksellers voting this year and from all over the country. It’s not just a great feeling to be able to bestow this honour on ‘one of their own’. It’s also deserved recognition of an outstanding new book”.

David Prescott c.e.o. added “The Blackwell’s Book of the Year is of growing importance in the Blackwell’s calendar because of the light it shines on our booksellers, who remain at the beating heart of our growing brand. It’s also been great commercially as last year’s winner Rebel Girls testifies.”   

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo (Particular Books) experienced a significant boost as a result of the overall win last year. According to Nielsen BookScan, the book increased 13% in volume that week to 18,686 copies sold, but jumped a further 59% the week after.