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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.

Books Are My Bag Readers Awards logo 2021At 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 sixth 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.

Last year's winners are below!

The 2021 shortlists were curated by a panel of booksellers from bookshops across the country:

  • Nessa Urquhart (Waterstones)
  • Elaine Stabler (Blackwell)
  • Jude Brosnan (Stanfords)
  • Annie Rhodes (Norfolk Children’s Book Centre)
  • Amanda Truman (Truman Books)
  • James Firth (The Stripey Badger)
  • Tony West (The Alligator’s Mouth)


Find out more about the previous winners of the awards.

The Winners


Fiction Shortlist

The 2021 Books Are My Bag Readers Awards winners, as chosen by readers, are:

Still Life by Sarah Winman (4th Estate)

I Belong Here: A Journey Along the Backbone of Britain by Anita Sethi (Bloomsbury)

The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman (Chatto & Windus)

Children's Fiction
When the Sky Falls by Phil Earle (Andersen Press)

Young Adult Fiction
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (Usborne)

Breakthrough Author
Marcus Rashford, author of You Are A Champion written with Carl Anka (Macmillan Children's Books)

Readers' Choice
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (Penguin)

Watch the Ceremony


The winners were unveiled at an awards ceremony at Foyles on Charing Cross Road, hosted by Strictly Come Dancing co-host and BBC Radio 2 presenter Claudia Winkleman. If you'd like to see your favourite authors receive their awards, you can watch the ceremony below. 


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 Shortlist

Assembly by Natasha Brown (Hamish Hamilton) – A Black British woman is preparing to attend a lavish garden party at her boyfriend's family estate as she considers the carefully assembled pieces of herself. A story about the stories we live within - those of race and class, safety and freedom, winners and losers and about one woman daring to take control of her own story, even at the cost of her life.

Panenka by Rónán Hession (Bluemoose) – Panenka has spent 25 years living with the disastrous mistakes of his past, which have made him an exile in his hometown. Faced with losing everything, he meets Esther, a woman who has come to live in the town to escape her own disappointments. Together, they find resonance in each other's experiences and learn new ways to let love into their broken lives.

Still Life by Sarah Winman (4th Estate) – Two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening together as bombs fall around them in a ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa in 1944. Moving from the Tuscan Hills and piazzas of Florence, to the smog of London’s East End, Still Life is a sweeping, joyful novel about beauty, love, family and fate.

The Appeal by Janice Hallett (Viper Books) – It starts with the arrival of two mysterious newcomers to the small town of Lockwood and ends with a tragic death. Someone has already been convicted of this brutal murder and is currently in prison, but we suspect they are innocent. An inventive crime debut in which the reader is challenged to solve the crime … and predict the victim.

Non-Fiction Shortlist


Non-Fiction Shortlist

Ancestors: The Prehistory of Britain in Seven Burials by Alice Roberts (Simon & Schuster) – An extraordinary exploration of the ancestry of Britain through seven burial sites. By using new advances in genetics and taking us through important archaeological discoveries, Professor Alice Roberts helps us better understand life today.

I Belong Here: A Journey Along the Backbone of Britain by Anita Sethi (Bloomsbury) – Anita Sethi was on a journey through Northern England when she became the victim of a race-hate crime. A crushing sense of claustrophobia made her long for wide open spaces, to breathe deeply in the great outdoors. A journey of reclamation through the natural landscapes of the North, brilliantly exploring identity, nature, place and belonging.

The Book of Trespass: Crossing the Lines that Divide Us by Nick Hayes (Bloomsbury) – The vast majority of our country is entirely unknown to us because we are banned from setting foot on it. The Book of Trespass takes us on a journey over the walls of England, into the thousands of square miles of rivers, woodland, lakes and meadows that are blocked from public access.

The Power of Geography: Ten Maps That Reveals the Future of Our World by Tim Marshall (Elliott & Thompson) – Exploring ten regions that are set to shape global politics in a new age of great-power rivalry: Australia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the UK, Greece, Turkey, the Sahel, Ethiopia, Spain and Space and delivered with Tim Marshall’s trademark wit and insight, this is a lucid and gripping exploration of the power of geography to shape humanity’s past, present – and future.


Poetry Shortlist


Poetry Shortlist

Empty Nest: Poems for Families by Carol Ann Duffy (Picador) – Carol Ann Duffy has selected 99 classic and modern poems exploring parenting. The poems range along the tender line between parent and child, covering growing old, the deep love of a parent, the everyday of family life and leaving home to live an independent life, but also unthinkable grief, loss and estrangement.

Slug by Hollie McNish (Fleet) – The new collection of poetry and prose from the Ted Hughes Award-winner. Slug holds a mirror lovingly up to the world, past and present, through Hollie's driving, funny, hopeful poetry and prose. Slug is about the human condition: of birth and death and how we manage the possibilities in-between.

The Heeding by Rob Cowen, illustrated by Nick Hayes (Elliott & Thompson) – The world changed in 2020. The Heeding paints a picture of a year caught in the grip of history, yet filled with revelatory perspectives close at hand. Across four seasons and thirty-five poems and illustrations, Cowen and Hayes lead us on a journey that takes its markers from nature and a world filled with fear, but beauty too. Nick Hayes is also shortlisted in the Non-Fiction category for The Book of Trespass.

The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman (Chatto & Windus) – On 20th January 2021, Amanda Gorman became the youngest poet to deliver a reading at a presidential inauguration. Taking the stage after the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden, Gorman captivated the nation with her powerful and historic poem The Hill We Climb.

Children's Fiction Shortlist 


Children's Fiction ShortlistAmari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston (Farshore) – An epic middle grade supernatural adventure series, soon to be a major movie. Amari Peters knows three things. Her big brother has gone missing. No one will talk about it. His mysterious job holds the secret…

By Ash, Oak and Thorn by Melissa Harrison (Chicken House) – Three tiny, ancient beings – Moss, Burnet and Cumulus, – wake from winter hibernation in their beloved ash tree home. But when it is destroyed, they set off on an adventure to find more of their kind.

Show Us Who You Are by Elle McNicoll (Knights Of) – The second book from the author of A Kind of Spark, which won the Children's Fiction category at last year's Books Are My Bag Readers Awards. Show Us Who You Are has neurodivergent characters you'll root for and a moving friendship at its heart. Clearly a firm favourite with booksellers already, Elle McNicoll is also shortlisted for this year's Breakthrough Author award.

When the Sky Falls by Phil Earle (Andersen Press) – Inspired by a true story, When the Sky Falls is set in 1941, as war rages on. One angry boy has been sent to the city, where bombers rule the skies.

Young Adult Fiction Shortlist


Young Adult Fiction ShortlistAce of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (Usborne) – A contemporary thriller about two students and their struggles against an anonymous bully.  A heart-pounding suspense thriller with relevant social commentary from this debut author.

All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O'Donoghue (Walker Books) – An electrifying twist on the classic fairytale that will inspire girls to break out of limiting stereotypes and follow their dreams!

The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff (Bloomsbury) – The story of one family over one summer where everything changes. Set in a holiday house by the sea, this is a quintessential coming-of-age tale.  

The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne by Jonathan Stroud (Walker Books) – Set in a broken, future England, where gunfights and monsters collide, this is the exciting first title in a phenomenal fantasy teen series by the bestselling children's novelist.

Breakthrough Author Shortlist


Breakthrough Author ShortlistDara McAnulty, author of Diary of a Young Naturalist (Ebury) and Wild Child (Macmillan Children’s Books) – Dara McAnulty is a 17-year-old autistic naturalist, conservationist and activist from Northern Ireland. His debut book, Diary of a Young Naturalist, won the 2020 Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing, the Books Are My Bag Readers Award for Non-Fiction and was longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize - the youngest ever author to do so. Dara is the youngest ever winner of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Medal for services to conservation and nature. He is also the recipient of 10 Downing Street's 'Points of Light' and the winner of The Daily Mirror Young Animal Hero award.

Elle McNicoll, author of Show Us Who You Are (Knights Of) – An instant hit with booksellers, Scottish author Elle McNicoll’s first children’s novel, A Kind of Spark, was a the winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and of the Books Are My Bag Readers Award for Children’s Fiction in 2020. A Neurodivergent writer with a passion for improving inclusivity within the publishing industry, McNicoll’s second novel is Show Us Who You Are.

Marcus Rashford, author of You Are A Champion written with Carl Anka (Macmillan Children's Books) – Marcus Rashford MBE is famous worldwide for his skills both on and off the pitch – but before he was a Manchester United and England footballer, and long before he started his inspiring campaign to end child food poverty, he was just an average kid from Wythenshawe, South Manchester. 2021 saw the publication of his positive and inspiring guide for life, written with Carl Anka, showing young people how they can achieve their dreams and the launch of The Marcus Rashford Book Club, which aims to inspire children to develop a love of reading and literacy as a life skill.

Monique Roffey, author of The Mermaid of Black Conch (Vintage) – Monique Roffey was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad. She is the author of six novels and a memoir. The Mermaid of Black Conch won the Costa Book of the Year and the Costa Novel Award 2020. It was shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize 2021, the Goldsmiths Prize 2020 and the Republic of Consciousness Prize 2021, and longlisted for the Orwell Prize, the Ondaatje Prize and the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature 2021. Monique Roffey is a Senior Lecturer at the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University and a tutor for the National Writers Centre.

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 on Thursday 7th October 2021.
    Closing date:
    The public vote and prize draw close at 11:59pm on 31st October 2021.
  • 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.


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