Hamnet voted public’s top book of 2020

London. 10 November. The winners of the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards 2020 – the only book awards curated by bookshops and voted on by readers, sponsored by National Book Tokens – have been unveiled tonight in a virtual ceremony hosted by food journalist and author Grace Dent.

Readers across the UK and Ireland have crowned Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet as their book of the year, in the award’s unique open vote Readers’ Choice category. Having won this year’s Women Prize for Fiction, Hamnet has captivated thousands of readers with its story of William Shakespeare’s wife, Agnes, and their only son, who inspired one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays.

Meanwhile, 16-year-old Dara McAnulty won in the Non-Fiction category with Diary of a Yong Naturalist (which also won the 2020 Wainwright Prize For Nature Writing); former Readers Awards winner Stuart Turton took home the Fiction award with The Devil and the Dark Water, described by Val McDermid as “a glorious mash-up of William Golding and Arthur Conan Doyle”; the Poetry award went to Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright!: An Animal Poem for Every Day of the Year, selected by Fiona Waters and illustrated by Britta Teckentrup, while bestselling authors M.G. Leonard & Sam Sedgman, and illustrator Elisa Paganelli, won the Children’s Fiction award with The Highland Falcon Thief, the first stop in the major mystery series Adventures on Trains.

Debut writers Kalynn Bayron and Jean Menzies won in the Young Adult Fiction (Cinderella is Dead) and Breakthrough Author (Greek Myths) categories respectively, both with books casting a fresh light on traditional tales. Notably, over half of this year’s winning titles come from independent publishers (Bloomsbury, Little Toller Books, Nosy Crow).

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


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)