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The Books Are My Bag Readers Awards are one of a kind. They're the only book awards curated by bookshops and chosen by readers.

At National Book Tokens, we're proud to have helped create these awards and continue to sponsor them every year. This year's awards, now in their fifth year, included six shortlists chosen by booksellers across the UK and Ireland, while the Readers' Choice Award – nominated and chosen entirely by readers – completes the set. Booksellers nominated their favourite books of 2020, and the shortlisted books were chosen by a judging panel made up of Katharine Fry, Blackwell's; Meera Ghanshamdas, Moon Lane Books; James Routledge, Forum Books; Mog Harris, Warwick Books; Amy Vale, Book-ish, and Joe Hedinger, The Book Hive.  

This year, thousands of readers (that's you!) voted in the awards and we're delighted to announce the winners below. 

Find out more about the previous winners of the awards.

The Winners


Fiction Shortlist

The 2020 Books Are My Bag Readers Awards winners, as chosen by readers:

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton (Raven Books, Bloomsbury)

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty (Little Toller Books)

Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright: An Animal Poem for Every Day of the Year by Britta Teckentrup and Fiona Waters (Nosy Crow)

Young Adult Fiction
Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron (Bloomsbury)

Children's Fiction
The Highland Falcon Thief by M.G. Leonard & Sam Sedgman, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli (Macmillan Children's Books)

Breakthrough Author
Jean Menzies author of Greek Myths (DK)

Readers' Choice
Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell (Tinder Press)

Win one of five sets of the winners over on Caboodle!

Watch the Ceremony


The winners were unveiled at a virtual ceremony, hosted by food journalist and author Grace Dent. If you'd like to see your favourite authors receive their awards, you can watch the ceremony below. Download free cocktail recipes here and here.


Readers' Choice Award

Chosen exclusively by you, the reader.


Every year, thousands of booklovers discover brilliant new books in their local bookshop. This is your chance to nominate your book of the year; the book which most captivated, entertained or inspired you over the last 12 months, whether it was a newly-published novel or non-fiction title, or a classic you finally picked up and enjoyed.


Fiction Shortlist


Fiction ShortlistBoy Parts by Eliza Clark (Influx Press) – A pitch-black comedy both shocking and hilarious, fearlessly exploring the taboo regions of sexuality and gender roles in the twenty-first century.

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton (Bloomsbury) – A murder on the high seas. A remarkable detective duo. A demon who may or may not exist. An extraordinary new novel from a previous Books Are My Bag Readers Awards winner.

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-joo (Scribner) – A South Korean sensation that has got the whole world talking. The life story of a young woman raises questions about endemic misogyny and institutional oppression that are relevant to us all.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (Dialogue Books) – Weaving together multiple strands and generations, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s. An exploration on why some people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

Weather by Jenny Offill (Granta Books) – A darkly funny and important novel about Lizzie Benson; librarian, unofficial therapist and podcaster who is anxious about climate change. If she can't save others, then what, or who, might save her?

Non-Fiction Shortlist


Non-Fiction ShortlistThe Dance Cure by Dr Peter Lovatt (Short Books) – A book to inspire even those who think they "can’t dance" to turn the music on, get up on the floor and dance themselves happy.

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty (Little Toller Books) – From spring and through a year in his home patch in Northern Ireland, 15-year-old Dara spent the seasons writing diary entries about his connection to wildlife and the way he sees the world. 

Humankind by Rutger Bregman (Bloomsbury) – Taking some of the world's most famous studies and events and reframing them, this book provides a new perspective on the last 200,000 years of human history and a new argument that human beings are in fact good. 

Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent by Priyamvada Gopal (Verso Books) – An examination of a century of dissent on the question of empire showing how Britain's enslaved and colonial subjects were active agents in their own liberation.

Poetry Shortlist


Poetry ShortlistHomie by Danez Smith (Vintage) – A mighty anthem about the saving grace of friendship and what it means to live in a body defined by race, queerness, and diagnosis in a country overrun by violence, xenophobia and disparity. 

Seagull Seagull by James K Baxter, illustrated by Kieran Rynhart (Gecko Press) – A playful and funny collection of children’s poems from one of New Zealand’s preeminent poets.

Sylvanian Family by Summer Young (Bad Betty Press) – This arresting debut is like folding yourself into a deceptively miniature world, a cat’s eye view of a dystopian Wonderland. 

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright!: An Animal Poem for Every Day of the Year by Britta Teckentrup, illustrated by Fiona Waters (Nosy Crow) – From William Shakespeare to Ftoun Abou Kerech, a teenage refugee from Syria – these poems draw on the extraordinary landscapes and the entire animal kingdom.

Children's Fiction Shortlist 


Children's Fiction ShortlistA Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll (Knights Of) – A story about friendship, courage and self-belief born from the author’s own experiences of neurodiversity and her commitment to seeing greater representation in children’s books. 

Blended by Sharon M. Draper (Simon & Schuster) – Eleven-year-old Isabella's parents are divorced, so she has to switch lives every week and feels pulled between two worlds. 

Gargantis by Thomas Taylor (Walker) – When an ancient bottle is found washed up on the beach after a ferocious electrical storm, all the residents of Eerie-on-Sea seem to want it ... but should they in fact fear it? 

The Highland Falcon Thief by M.G. Leonard & Sam Sedgman, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli (Macmillan Children's Books) – Hear whispers in the dining car, find notes in the library, and unknown passengers among the luggage as you help Harrison to solve the mystery aboard one of the world's grandest trains.

Young Adult Fiction Shortlist


Young Adult Fiction ShortlistChildren of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi (Macmillan Children's Books) – A thrilling West African-inspired fantasy, full of adventure and cinematic action sequences covering themes of oppression and racism in today's political climate. 

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron (Bloomsbury) – An electrifying twist on the classic fairytale that will inspire girls to break out of limiting stereotypes and follow their dreams!

The Crossover: Graphic Novel by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile (Andersen Press) – An award-winning tale about identical twins and basketball legends is brought to life in graphic novel form and told in different forms including rap, haiku and free verse.  

Heartstopper Vol 3 by Alice Oseman (Hachette Children's) – An LGBTQ+ graphic novel about life, love, and everything that happens in between. 

Breakthrough Author Shortlist


Breakthrough Author ShortlistBrit Bennett, author of The Vanishing Half (Dialogue Books) – Born and raised in Southern California, Brit Bennett graduated from Stanford University and later earned her MFA in fiction at the University of Michigan, where she won a Hopwood Award in Graduate Short Fiction as well as the 2014 Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers. Her work is featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, and Jezebel. She is one of the National Book Foundation's 2016 5 Under 35 honourees.

Jean Menzies, author of Greek Myths, illustrated by Katie Ponder (DK) – Jean Menzies is an Edinburgh born and based author and currently conducting her PhD research in ancient history at The University of Roehampton, where she also teaches undergraduate students. She has completed both an undergraduate and postgraduate degree in classics at the University of Edinburgh specialising in Greek literature, Athenian law, Greek Mythology, and the history of women in Classical Greece. In addition to this, Jean produces the podcast 'That's Ancient History', which explores antiquity from its history to its place in today’s world. You may also know Jean from her YouTube channel BookishThoughts where she reviews books, provides study tips, discusses sustainable living and more. 

Kiley Reid, author of Such a Fun Age (Bloomsbury) – Kiley Reid earned her MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she was awarded the Truman Capote Fellowship and taught creative writing with a focus on race and class. Such a Fun Age, her first book, was both a Sunday Times and a New York Times bestseller and was longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. She lives in Philadelphia.

Douglas Stuart, author of Shuggie Bain (Pan Macmillan) – Douglas Stuart was born and raised in Glasgow. After graduating from the Royal College of Art, he moved to New York, where he began his design career. He has led design teams for Calvin Klein, Banana Republic and Jack Spade.

Vote in the Readers Awards 2020

Get your votes in before 25th October, 11pm!


Voting has now closed and the winners have been announced at the top of the page. 

Congratulations to Cerrie B, Lynn B, Rosie T, Nastassja R, & Ezzie C, who each won a £100/€120 National Book Token!

Vote & Competition - Terms and Conditions

5 x winners will receive a £100 or €120 National Book Tokens gift card

  • By entering into this public vote and prize draw, you agree to be bound by these terms and conditions.
  • Opening date: The public vote and prize draw will open Thursday 1st October 2020.
    Closing date:
    The public vote and prize draw close at 11:00pm on 25th October 2020.
  • To be entered into the prize draw, entrants must vote in at least one category. Only one entry per person will be accepted. Entrants may not win more than one prize.
  • No purchase necessary.
  • The prizes are non-transferable and there are no cash alternatives, and subject to availability. The Promoter reserves the right to amend the specification of the prize or offer an alternative prize. In exceptional circumstances, the Promoter reserves the right to foreclose the competition without notice.
  • Entrants must be aged 16 or over.
  • Winners will be drawn at random from all valid votes received. 
  • Entrants are allowed one vote per category; the book and/or author with the most valid votes will determine the winner of each category.
  • The public vote and prize draw is open to UK and Republic of Ireland residents except employees of the Booksellers Association and Book Tokens Ltd., their families, employees of participating bookshops, and anyone else connected with this promotion.
  • Entrants agree to the Promoter using their details in post-competition publicity. Your details will not be used for any other purpose, or passed onto any third parties, unless specified. Winners’ details may be shared securely with a third-party in order to fulfil the dispatch of competition prizes.
  • We will contact winners by email. In the event of a winner not responding after 14 days, we reserve the right to allocate the prize to another winner, or foreclose the prize. Unsuccessful entrants will not be contacted.
  • The Promoter accepts no responsibility for entries that are incomplete, illegible, incorrect, corrupted or fail to reach the Promoter by the closing date for any reason. Automatically generated entries or entries via third parties are invalid and shall not be considered.
    The Promoter’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  • Book Tokens Ltd. will only use your email address and other personal information as outlined in our privacy policy.
  • Promoter: Book Tokens Ltd, 6 Bell Yard, London, WC2A 2JR.


Bonus Material

Other ways you can get involved with this year's Readers Awards


Win all 7 brilliant books!

We're giving away a set of all the winners of this year's award over on Caboodle! 

Enter now


20 recommended reads from the Readers Awards shortlisted authors

We invited this year's brilliant nominated authors and illustrators to chat to us about the books they love best. 

Read now


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