Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet (Tinder Press) has been named the public’s favourite book of the year in the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards.
It was named the Readers' Choice winner at a virtual ceremony on 10th November hosted by journalist and author Grace Dent. The book award, now in its fifth year, is the only book award with a shortlist curated by bookshops and winners chosen by readers. The public can also nominate any book they’ve read in the past year as this year’s Readers’ Choice winner.
O'Farrell's tale of Shakespeare's wife Agnes and their only son was published during lockdown and went on to win the Women's Prize for Fiction.
The author said: “The Books Are My Bag Readers Awards are very special awards, and ones that consistently yield excellent reading recommendations. I am thrilled that Hamnet has been elected for this year's Readers’ Choice: what a joy and an honour. Huge thanks to everyone who voted for it.”
Meanwhile, teen conservationist Dara McAnulty won in the Non-Fiction category with Diary of a Yong Naturalist (Little Toller), which also won the Wainwright Prize For Nature Writing earlier this year.
He said: “That it was nominated by booksellers made my heart so happy, booksellers are the superheroes of authors. Books finding the right home, is like an act of trust between bookseller and reader. When the book lands with the reader and they are captivated enough to then give it their vote in an award category—it really is a dream come true.”
Stuart Turton took home the Fiction award with The Devil and the Dark Water (Raven Books), described by Val McDermid as “a glorious mash-up of William Golding and Arthur Conan Doyle”.
Turton commented: "I can't tell you how much this award means to me. Bookshops, and the people who work in them, are the best people in the entire world — especially at the moment, when the world seems entirely bleak. Knowing I can walk into a bookstore, talk to a nice person about something we both love, and walk away with some guaranteed happiness is such a wonderful comfort. I'm thrilled booksellers love my books as much as I love booksellers.”
The Poetry award went to Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright!: An Animal Poem for Every Day of the Year, selected by Fiona Waters and illustrated by Britta Teckentrup (Nosy Crow).
Elsewhere, authors M G Leonard and Sam Sedgman, and illustrator Elisa Paganelli, won the Children’s Fiction award with The Highland Falcon Thief (Macmillan Children’s Books), the first stop in the mystery series Adventures on Trains.
Debut writer Kalynn Bayron's Cinderella is Dead (Bloomsbury) took the Young Adult Fiction prize while Greek Myths (DK) writer Jean Menzies scooped the Breakthrough Author title.
The Books Are My Bag Readers Awards were created in partnership with and are sponsored by National Book Tokens and are part of Books Are My Bag, the annual campaign celebrating the importance of bookshops in the UK and Ireland.
Alex de Berry, m.d. of National Book Tokens, said: “We’re immensely proud of the Readers Awards. Each year the shortlist has included a truly diverse range of titles and the unique and completely open Readers’ Choice Award is enough to restore your faith in democracy.”