Bookshops Unveil Their Top Books of 2019

  • Greta Thunberg, Michelle Obama, Katherine Rundell, Tayari Jones, Chris Riddell, Candice Carty-Williams and Kerry Hudson among Shortlist
  • 77 per cent of Writers Shortlisted are Women
  • Books on Environment and Identity Resonate with Booksellers
  • Rizzle Kicks’ Jordan Stephens to Host 2019 Awards

London. 3 October.
Bookshops across the UK & Ireland have revealed their favourite books and authors of 2019, as the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards shortlist is announced today, sponsored by National Book Tokens.

Announced on Super Thursday – the biggest day of new book releases of the year – this year’s shortlist reflects many of the most topical issues of our time, including: nature and the environment (Great Thunberg’s No One is Too Small to Make a Difference; Isabella Tree’s Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm; and The Salt Path by Raynor Winn); racial, gender, social and sexual identity (“I Will Not Be Erased”: Our Stories About Growing Up As People Of Colour by gal-dem; Caroline Criado Pérez’s Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men; An American Marriage by Tayari Jones; Circe by Madeline Miller; Candice Carty-Williams; Kerry Hudson); and the refugee crisis (Catherine Bruton’s No Ballet Shoes In Syria and Migrations: Open Hearts, Open Borders, with a foreword by Shaun Tan).

Other shortlisted authors include previous Books Are My Bag Readers Awards winner Max Porter for Lanny; Michelle Obama, for her award-winning memoir Becoming; and Katherine Rundell for The Good Thieves, who was previously shortlisted for the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards.

This year’s shortlist is dominated by women writers, as over 77 per cent of the shortlisted authors are female.

The public vote opens today, ahead of Bookshop Day (Saturday 5 October), to decide the winners across the seven categories. The public is invited to vote for a winning title from each shortlist from Thursday 3 October until 11pm of Sunday 3 November, with the winners being announced on Tuesday 12 November at an awards ceremony at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, in London. The ceremony will be hosted by Rizzle Kicks’ Jordan Stephens.

The 2019 Books Are My Bag Readers Awards Shortlist, as chosen by bookshops:


  • Lanny – Max Porter (Faber & Faber)
  • Circe – Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • The Binding – Bridget Collins (HarperCollins)
  • Leonard and Hungry Paul – Ronan Hession (Bluemoose Books Ltd)
  • An American Marriage – Tayari Jones (Oneworld Publications)
  • Washington Black – Esi Edugyan (Profile Books Ltd)


  • Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm – Isabella Tree (Pan Macmillan)
  • The Salt Path – Raynor Winn (Penguin Books Ltd)
  • No One is Too Small to Make a Difference – Greta Thunberg (Penguin Books Ltd)
  • Becoming – Michelle Obama (Penguin Books Ltd)
  • Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men – Caroline Criado Pérez (Vintage Publishing)
  • A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings – Helen Jukes (Simon & Schuster Ltd)


  • The Flame – Leonard Cohen (Canongate Books Ltd)
  • Poems to Fall in Love With – Chris Riddell (Pan Macmillan)
  • The Poetry Pharmacy Returns – William Sieghart (Penguin Books Ltd)
  • The Black Flamingo – Dean Atta (Hachette Children’s Group)
  • The Girl Aquarium – Jen Campbell (Bloodaxe Books Ltd)
  • A Year of Nature Poems – Joseph Coelho and Kelly Louise Judd (Wide Eyed Editions, Quarto)

Young Adult

  • “I Will Not Be Erased”: Our stories about growing up as people of colour – gal-dem (Walker Books)
  • Proud – Various Authors (Foreword by Juno Dawson) (Little Tiger Press Group)
  • Toffee – Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury)
  • Becoming Dinah – Kit de Waal (Hachette Children’s Group)
  • Heartstopper Volume 1 – Alice Oseman (Hachette Children’s Group)
  • On The Come Up – Angie Thomas (Walker Books)

Children’s Fiction

  • Malamander – Thomas Taylor (Walker Books)
  • Julian is a Mermaid – Jessica Love (Walker Books)
  • Pages and Co.: Tilly and the Bookwanderers – Anna James (HarperCollins)
  • The Good Thieves – Katherine Rundell (Bloomsbury)
  • No Ballet Shoes In Syria – Catherine Bruton (Nosy Crow)
  • Rumblestar – Abi Elphinstone (Simon & Schuster Ltd)

Breakthrough Author

  • Candice Carty-Williams
  • Raynor Winn
  • Ocean Vuong
  • Onjali Q. Rauf
  • Greta Thunberg
  • Kerry Hudson

Beautiful Book

  • Circe – Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • The Binding – Bridget Collins (HarperCollins)
  • The Lost Words: Spell Songs – Various inc. Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (Folk by the Oak)
  • How To Eat a Peach – Diana Henry (Octopus Publishing Group)
  • Migrations: Open Hearts, Open Borders – Various (Foreword by Shaun Tan) (Otter-Barry Books Ltd)
  • All the Ways to be Smart – Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys (Scribble)

Emma Bradshaw, Head of Campaigns at the Booksellers Association, commented: “Curated by booksellers, the book experts par excellence, the Books Are My Bags Readers Awards are a truly special award. The shortlist is always a fascinating insight into the books of the year, and this year is no exception. We’re looking forward to seeing which of the shortlisted titles will become this year’s Christmas best-sellers.”

The book award, now in their fourth year, is the only book awards curated by bookshops, chosen by booklovers, with booksellers selecting the shortlists. The shortlist categories open for public vote are: Fiction, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Young Adults, Children’s Fiction and Breakthrough Author. In addition, the public can nominate any book they’ve read in the past year as this year’s Readers’ Choice winner. The Beautiful Book category is voted for exclusively by booksellers, who will now be choosing a winner from the shortlist of six titles.

The public can vote online at the following link:

The Books Are My Bag Readers Awards are sponsored by National Book Tokens and are part of Books Are My Bag – the annual campaign celebrating the vital importance of bookshops.

 For more information visit / @BooksAreMyBag / #BAMBReadersAwards

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