Books from Brandon Taylor, Doireann Ní Ghríofa and Myriam Dahman with Nicolas Digard, whose title is illustrated by Júlia Sardà, have been named Foyles Books of the Year.
The annual prize, now in its fifth year, seeks to celebrate the most essential books across fiction, non-fiction and children's publishing. The winners are chosen from bookseller recommendations and bestsellers before final selection by the senior team.
Taylor's Booker-shortlisted Real Life (Daunt) picked up Fiction Book of the Year. Taking place over a long summer weekend, Real Life follows gay Black PhD student Wallace as he navigates his romantic and academic life at a predominantly white midwestern university, after the death of his father.
Taylor said: “I’m immensely honored and moved that Foyles selected Real Life as its Fiction Book of the Year. Booksellers and bookstores have been at the heart of many important conversations this year. It’s been a difficult and strange time, but it’s also been a year for reaffirming the power of books and reading. And it’s a thrill to be selected by Foyles, which has picked some truly stellar books for this honor. I’m on cloud nine and consider myself lucky to join such company."
Non-Fiction Book of the Year went to poet Ní Ghríofa's A Ghost in the Throat (Tramp Press). It combines essay with autofiction, in which Ní Ghríofa's memoir as a mother and wife intertwines with her quest to find out more about the life of 18th-century poet Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill, and to restore to a patriarchal history the lives and work of women.
The author said winning was a “joy”, adding: “I know that I’m far from alone in my admiration for Foyles—an institution that holds a very special place in my heart. Thank you to these mighty booksellers for championing this book!”
Finally, The Wolf's Secret by Dahman, Digard and illustrator Júlia Sardà (Orchard Books) picked up Children's Book of the Year. The magical fairytale is set in a dark forest, in which a wild wolf visits a clearing each day to listen to a woman sing, until one day the woman stops coming.
Dahman said: "This is such an amazing honour for us, especially as this is our first book written in English. Nicolas and I wrote this story back in 2014, and it has been a long and bumpy road before getting it published. But we were lucky enough to meet incredible people along the way—our agent Helen Boyle, the passionate Orchard team, and of course Júlia, who created spellbinding illustrations for our story. This book is a tribute to traditional folk tales – dark, ambivalent, somewhat mysterious—but we also wanted to add a touch of modernity, in the rhythm, the musicality of the text and the message. I hope readers of all ages will enjoy it.”
Heather Baker, campaigns manager at Foyles, said of the winners: “Before we put 2020 behind us, we celebrate three essential books from a great year for literature. Each of our winners is in some way a struggle with darkness—with loss, prejudice, erasure, violence—yet each reworks that into something exquisite and, in that way, at least in part, redemptive.”