BAMB Readers Awards 2021

Booksellers Pick Their Top Books of 2021


  • Claudia Winkleman to host the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards ceremony on Tuesday 9th November
  • Amanda Gorman, Marcus Rashford, Rónán Hession, Dara McAnulty, Hollie McNish & Meg Rossoff among booksellers’ top authors of the year
  • The headline sponsor of the awards is National Book Tokens


Public vote on the shortlist now open: www.nationalbooktokens.com/vote

Bookshops across the UK & Ireland have revealed their favourite books and authors of 2021, as the shortlist for the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards, sponsored by National Book Tokens and a number of UK publishers, is announced today.


Unveiled ahead of Bookshop Day (Saturday 9th October), the annual celebration of bookshops big and small, the Readers Awards are the only book awards with a shortlist curated by booksellers and winners chosen exclusively by readers.


The public vote opens today, and the winners will be announced on Tuesday 9th November at an awards ceremony at Foyles on Charing Cross Road, hosted by Strictly Come Dancing co-host and BBC Radio 2 presenter Claudia Winkleman. Industry influencer Simon Savidge and his mother Louise Savidge will be providing exclusive behind-the-seen content on the night from his social channels.


The 2021 Readers Awards Shortlist includes: The Hill We Climb, the poem written by American poet Amanda Gorman and recited by her at the inauguration of US President Joe Biden; the stunning historical fiction novel set in WWII Italy Still Life by Sarah Winman; Anita Sethi’s lyrical memoir I Belong Here; Panenka by Rónán Hession, the best-selling author of  Leonard and Hungry Paul; popular footballer Marcus Rashford MBE, author of You Are A Champion, co-written with journalist Carl Anka; the instant New York Times best-seller Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé; Empty Nest edited by the first female Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy; and more.


The shortlist categories open for public vote are: Fiction, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Young Adult Fiction, Children’s Fiction and Breakthrough Author. The public is invited to vote for a winning title from each shortlist until 11pm of Sunday 31st October, using the following link: www.nationalbooktokens.com/vote


In addition to voting on the shortlisted titles in the categories above, the public is invited to nominate their favourite book of the year – any book they’ve read in the past year – as the Readers’ Choice winner.

The 2021 Books Are My Bag Readers Awards Shortlist, as chosen by bookshops:



Still Life by Sarah Winman (4th Estate)

Assembly by Natasha Brown (Hamish Hamilton)

Panenka by Rónán Hession (Bluemoose Books)

The Appeal by Janice Hallett (Viper Books)



The Power of Geography by Tim Marshall (Elliott & Thompson)

Ancestors by Alice Roberts (Simon & Schuster)

The Book of Trespass by Nick Hayes (Bloomsbury)

I Belong Here by Anita Sethi (Bloomsbury)



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

Slug by Hollie McNish (Fleet)

Empty Nest by Carol Ann Duffy (Picador)

The Heeding by Rob Cowen & Nick Hayes (Elliott & Thompson)


Young Adult Fiction

The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff (Bloomsbury)

The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne by Jonathan Stroud (Walker Books)

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (Usborne)

All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O’Donoghue (Walker Books)


Children’s Fiction

Amari and the Night Brothers by BB Alston (Farshore)

Show Us Who You Are by Elle McNicoll (Knights Of)

By Ash, Oak and Thorn by Melissa Harrison (Chicken House)

When the Sky Falls by Phil Earle (Andersen Press)


Breakthrough Author

Dara McAnulty, author of Diary of a Young Naturalist (Ebury) and Wild Child (Macmillan Children’s Books)

Elle McNicoll, author of Show Us Who You Are (Knights Of)

Monique Roffey, author of The Mermaid of Black Conch (Vintage)

Marcus Rashford, author of You Are A Champion with journalist Carl Anka (Macmillan Children’s Books)

Claudia Winkleman, host of the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards, said: “I’m completely honoured to be hosting the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards this year, celebrating the shortlist of books that have been curated by booksellers and will be voted on by readers. Bookshops have been more important than ever before this past year, and I can’t wait to raise a glass to them face to face and celebrate a fantastic year for books.”


Ronan Hession, shorlisted for the Fiction category, said:“I am so honoured to have been shortlisted for a Books Are My Bag Readers Award. It means a lot that the nomination has come from booksellers, who have been such champions of my writing from day one. It has been a difficult time for booksellers but every day I hear back from readers who have come into contact with my writing because of the enthusiasm of booksellers – thank you!”


Hollie McNish, shortlisted for the Poetry category, said: “It is an absolute joy to be shortlisted for the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards. Bookshops have filled mine and my kid’s life with such a lot of love and adventure and peace and to be shortlisted for an award chosen by actual booksellers and bookshops and readers is the dream! I couldn’t be happier, thank you so much.”


Elle McNicoll, shortlisted for the Children’s Fiction category, said: “The BAMB Readers Awards are unbelievably special to me because of their focus on bookshops and readers, so to receive these two nominations – it is completely incredible. I could not have survived releasing two lockdown books without the wonderful work of booksellers and physical bookshops. These nominations are emotional and overwhelming.”


Marcus Rashford MBE, footballer for Manchester United and shortlisted for Breakthrough Author, said: “I’m thrilled to have been nominated for Breakthrough Author in this year’s Books Are My Bag’s Readers Awards. Whilst it’s my name on the nomination, I share this great accolade with my partner in crime, Carl Anka, who did an incredible job of pulling my vision for this book together with me. This was a team effort, and everyone involved, particularly Carl and Macmillan Children’s Books deserve the recognition. The objective behind this book was to create something that would have benefitted myself as a child in very difficult circumstances, offering tools to guide children through adversity and, at times, to simply escape and find joy in reading. It was important to me that all children felt that this book was for them, and I have been overwhelmed by the response. To have these awards voted for by booksellers and readers is special, and I’m just grateful to be in the running alongside other fantastic authors.”

The Books Are My Bag Readers Awards, now in their sixth year, are the only book awards curated by booksellers, and voted for by readers. The shortlist panel comprises: Nessa Urquhart (Waterstones), Elaine Stabler (Blackwell’s), Jude Brosnan (Stanfords), Annie Rhodes (Norfolk Children’s Book Centre) Amanda Truman (Truman Books), James Firth (The Stripey Badger) and Tony West (The Alligator’s Mouth).


National Book Tokens is the headline sponsor of the Books Are My Bag Readers and are part of Books Are My Bag – the annual campaign celebrating the vital importance of bookshops.


For more information visit www.booksaremybag.com and follow the latest developments on social media @BooksAreMyBag / #BAMBReadersAwards

For all enquiries, and to request interviews, images or quotes please contact Midas:


Anna Zanetti, E: Anna.Zanetti@midaspr.co.uk Tel: +44 (0)758 312 7515

Amelia Knight, E: Amelia.Knight@midaspr.co.uk Tel: +44 (0)7771 791 210