Booksellers unveil the shortlist of the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards 2023

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  • Booksellers’ top authors of the year include Elliot Page, Rebecca F. Kuang, Barbara Kingsolver, Katherine Rundell, Sheena Patel, Kae Tempest, Chris van Tulleken, Kay Chingonyi and more
  • Radzi Chinyanganya to host the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards ceremony on Tuesday 7 November
  • Shortlist curated by booksellers from Stanfords, Foyles, Green Heart Books, The Edinburgh Bookshop and WHSmith
  • National Book Tokens is the headline sponsor
  • Public vote for the winners opens today


London, Thursday 12 October 2023: Today, booksellers across the UK and Ireland have revealed their top books of the year, as the shortlist for the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards is announced, sponsored by National Book Tokens and many UK publishers.

Unveiled ahead of Bookshop Day (Saturday 14 October), the annual celebration of bookshops big and small, the Readers Awards are the only book awards with a shortlist curated by booksellers. The public vote is now open, with readers encouraged to cast their vote and have their say on the titles and authors they would like to win the awards.

On Tuesday 7 November, the winners will be announced at an awards ceremony at Foyles on Charing Cross Road. This will be hosted by Radzi Chinyanganya, with social media content creator Zubs Covered providing exclusive behind-the-scenes content on the night from their social channels (Instagram: @zubscovered, TikTok: @zubscovered1)

The 2023 Readers Awards shortlist includes: Sunday Times best-selling author Rebecca F. Kuang, for her satire of racial diversity in the publishing industry Yellowface; award-winning actor Elliot Page, for his searing memoir Pageboy; Impossible Creatures, a children’s fantasy book flying off the shelves from author Katherine Rundell; poet, editor and DJ Kayo Chingonyi for his anthology bringing together exceptional Black British poets More Fiya; Sonora Reyes’s The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School, a sharply funny debut YA novel about a queer Mexican American girl navigating Catholic school; Alice Vincent for Why Women Grow – a poignant tribute to gardening and the women who choose to turn their hands to plants; and Sheena Patel for her incisive breakdown of image, Instagram and desire in her bestselling I’m A Fan.

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 on Sunday 29th October, using the following link: www.nationalbooktokens.com/vote.

In addition to voting 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 2023 Books Are My Bag Readers Awards Shortlist, as chosen by bookshops:



Yellowface by Rebecca F. Kuang (HarperCollins Publishers)
Sea of Tranquillity by Emily St. John Mandel (Pan Macmillan)
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (Faber & Faber)
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (Vintage Publishing)


Ultra Processed People by Chris van Tulleken (Cornerstone)
Why Women Grow by Alice Vincent (Canongate)
Pageboy by Elliot Page (Transworld)
Strong Female Character by Fern Brady (Brazen)


Divisible By Itself and One by Kae Tempest (Pan Macmillan)
More Fiya by Kayo Chingonyi (Canongate)
Bad Diaspora Poems by Momtaza Mehri (Vintage)
The Cat Prince by Michael Pedersen (Little Brown)

Young Adult Fiction

Gwen and Art are Not in Love by Lex Croucher (Bloomsbury)
Promise Boys by Nick Brooks (Pan Macmillan)
The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School by Sonora Reyes (Faber & Faber)
Girl, Goddess, Queen by Bea Fitzgerald (Penguin)

Children’s Fiction

Jamie by L. D. Lapinski (Hachette Childrens Group)
Impossible Creatures by Katherine Rundell (Bloomsbury)
The Skull by Jon Klassen (Walker Books)
Greenwild by Pari Thomson, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli (Pan Macmillan)

Breakthrough Author

Rebecca F Kuang, author of Babel and Yellowface (HarperCollins Publishers)
Bonnie Garmus, author of Lessons in Chemistry (Transworld)
Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of Chain-Gang All-Stars (Vintage)
Sheena Patel, author of I’m A Fan (Granta Books)

Barbara Kingsolver, shortlisted for the Fiction category, said: “Of all the honors that can come to an author, nothing tops the warm feeling of being chosen by booksellers. These people are my tribe, my fellow travelers, and my guardian angels. I owe my career to the booksellers who pressed my early novels into the hands of readers. All I can say is, thanks. You’re the best.”

Chris Van Tulken, shortlisted for the Non-Fiction category, said: “This nomination means a huge amount because physical bookshops should be as much a part of every high street as a local greengrocer, baker and butcher. The same forces that have displaced independent food sellers have done the same to many booksellers- and that is primarily what my book is about. There is no group I would rather be nominated by.”

Momtaza Mehri, shortlisted for the Poetry category, said: “Being shortlisted is a welcome surprise. One that’s made even better by this prize’s focus on the appreciation and engagement of voting readers. I’m a reader first, so this means that much more, and feels more treasured.”

Katherine Rundell, shortlisted for the Children’s Fiction category, said: “It’s such a delight and honour to be shortlisted for this award – especially so because it’s curated by booksellers. Without booksellers, we’d be at sea in a cold ocean of algorithms. Booksellers are such champions, for out-of-the-way books, for the strange and the bold – they are the best friend of new ideas and of original thought. I am so grateful for this nomination: it’s a real joy.”

Lex Croucher, shortlisted for the Young Adult Fiction category, said: “I’m ridiculously thrilled to be shortlisted for this award, one I have coveted from afar for many years, and I’m especially grateful to be nominated on a list that’s curated by booksellers, who have been so kind and championed this book from the get-go.”

The Books Are My Bag Readers Awards, now in their eighth year, are the only book awards curated by booksellers, and with winners chosen by readers. The shortlist judging panel comprises: Nick Campbell (Waterstones), Kirsty Hurst (WHSmith), Peri Cimen (Green Heart Books), Juliana Ocampo (Stanfords), Richard Smartt (The Book Ends), Red Newsom (Blackwell’s Manchester) and Marie Moser (The Edinburgh Bookshops).

Marie Moser, Owner of The Edinburgh Bookshop and Readers Awards Judge, said: “It was very special to talk with colleagues from across the country about the books we felt were important this year. The range of titles shortlisted for the awards reflects both the diversity of UK publishing and the people who sell those books to the public. It was a privilege to be involved in the awards process.”

Red Newsom, Lead Bookseller at Blackwell’s, Manchester and Readers Awards Judge, said: “It’s been a delight to be on the panel to debate and decide on the Books Are My Bag shortlist this year. With such a wide range of exciting and engaging ideas on offer, it was pleasantly difficult to narrow down our final selection! There’s something for everyone in this shortlist; from literary theft to modern myths, from time-travel to Dickens. It feels contemporary, culturally relevant and a great representation of the titles booksellers have been talking about passionately all year.

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.

Everyone who votes for the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards will be entered into a prize draw to win one of five £100/€120 National Book Tokens. You can increase their chances of winning by referring other booklovers and inviting them to vote too – you’ll get a bonus entry into the draw for every referral received. Voters just need to share their unique referral link after placing their vote.

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


Notes to Editors

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

Henrietta Richardson, E: Henrietta.Richardson@midaspr.co.uk Tel: +44 (0)7500 828 340


About Radzi Chinyanganya

Radzi Chinyanganya is one of Britain’s most talented and experienced presenters, having started out his presenting career on BBC’s landmark and historic children show Blue Peter. He has since gone on to be a regular face on the screen, presenting shows for the BBC, Sky Sports and Channel 4, working among others on the 2012 London Olympics, BBC Boat Race, World Athletics Championships in Qatar, ICC Cricket World Cup and more. Radzi also filmed Your Body: Your Image – a BBC 2 Learning series focusing on body image in schools, and the BBC’s documentary series Home Front Heroes commemorating the ways in which ordinary men & women played a vital part in Britain’s Wartime victory. Radzi also continues his work hosting film premieres for some of the most iconic films to hit our screens in recent times such as The Lion King and Toy Story 4.

About Zubs

Zubs is an academic and an award-winning content creator behind the account Zubscovered on both Instagram and TikTok. A self-proclaimed bookworm she uses her platforms to uplift marginalised voices. There is a book recommendation for every reader at Zubscovered.


About the Judging Panel

Nick Campbell, Children’s Buyers Waterstones. Having trained as an academic studying the history of children’s literature, Nick fell in love with bookselling, and worked as a manager in shops big and small. He is currently a buyer for the children’s team at Waterstones, where he specialises in illustrated and non-fiction titles.

Kirsty Hurst, Firm Sale/Specials Book Buyer for WHSmith. Kirsty Hurst is the recently appointed Firm Sale/Specials Book Buyer for WHSmith, with a deep love for all things literary and 15 years of experience in the book industry, from buying at Waterstones and Foyles to working in publishing, Kirsty remains dedicated to connecting readers with the best books out there.

Peri Cimen, Assistant Manager at Green Heart Books. Peri Cimen is a bookseller, photographer and writer based in Birmingham. She graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2020 with a first-class degree in English with Philosophy, followed by a master’s degree in Creative Writing in 2022. As Assistant Manager, Peri assists with behind-the-scenes operations, events organisation, marketing and social media. Her favourite novelist is Elif Batuman.

Juliana Ocampo, Sales Advisor at Stanfords. Juliana Ocampo is a Sales Advisor working alongside the events team at Stanfords Bookshop. As a recent graduate of the University of the Arts of London with a Master’s Degree in Illustration she specializes in overseeing the children’s book section and is passionate about original storytelling and book design.

Richard Smartt, co-owner of The Book Ends. Rich is co-founder of the book-ends, a bookshop and arts space in Shropshire. Rich has a background as a consultant and producer working with a number of creative and educational organizations. Selected for the BFI’s creative producer programme in 2022, Richard’s passion for story spans literature, film and performance. He is ever on the hunt for an inventive premise!

Red Newsom, lead bookseller at Blackwell’s Manchester.  Red Newsom is lead bookseller at Blackwell’s Manchester, with a particular interest in debuts, queer lives and dystopian fiction. A few of their favourite authors are Sophie Mackintosh, Naomi Booth and Melissa Broder.

Marie Moser, owner of The Edinburgh Bookshops. Marie took over The Edinburgh Bookshop in 2012, after a 20-year career in retail marketing.  The shop was crowned UK Children’s Bookseller of the Year in 2014 and has won the Scottish Bookshop of the year five times.  Like many independent bookshops. the Edinburgh Bookshop is a local cultural and community hub, offering an environment where everyone is welcome.


About the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards

The Books Are My Bag Readers Awards are the only book awards with a shortlist curated by bookshops and winners chosen by readers. To qualify for the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards, books must have been published in hardback or paperback between 1 January 2023 and 12 October 2023. Breakthrough Authors are those who have achieved significant breakthrough in 2023. They don’t have to be debut writers, and their books don’t have to have been published in 2023.

The Books Are My Bag Readers Awards are sponsored by Hachette UK, Penguin Random House UK, HarperCollins Publishers, Pan Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, DK, Bloomsbury, Canongate, Usborne, Scholastic, Faber & Faber, Bonnier Books UK, Chicken House, Profile Books and Walker Books, Atlantic Books, David Fickling, Little Tiger and Ingram Content Group. National Book Tokens is the headline sponsor for the Readers Awards.


About The Booksellers Association (BA)

The Booksellers Association is the membership organization for booksellers in the UK & Ireland, and represents over 95% of booksellers. The BA exists to support, advise and work with its members to provide business-critical products and services for booksellers. These include National Book Tokens, our gift card which prompts increased footfall and keeps gift spending in the book trade; Batchline and Batch, our award-winning EPOS, stock management and payments service, which saves time, money and hassle when settling invoices and organising returns; a full range of money-saving affinity deals; a free Business Support Helpline; Booktime magazine; government lobbying and representation work across the nations and regions; networking opportunities and events; and Books Are My Bag, our range of consumer-facing activity and campaigns, which include Indie Book of the Month, Independent Bookshop Week, Bookshop Day, the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards, Christmas Books and Summer Books catalogues and more.


About National Book Tokens

National Book Tokens have inspired booklovers for more than 90 years, empowering readers to choose just the right books for them. National Book Tokens gift cards are accepted in hundreds of bookshops across the UK and Ireland, and online. Available to purchase in bookshops, supermarkets, or online – including personalised and e-Gift cards, and Bookily – there are designs for booklovers of all ages and for all occasions. National Book Tokens gift cards are produced on FSC-certified card have an expiry of 8 years from last use, and expired cards can be replaced. Find out more by visiting: www.nationalbooktokens.com