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Foyles Books of the Year 2019


We’re all pretty keen to put 2020 behind us, but before we do: introducing the Foyles Books of the Year 2020—our three most essential books across three categories from a year of fabulous writing, publishing, reading, and bookselling.

 

 

Real Life by Brandon TalyorFiction Book of the Year 2020
Real Life by Brandon Taylor

Desire and detachment, possibility and prejudice: A quietly devastating, brilliantly written debut novel of a science student cut off from his past, his present, and his potential.

Real Life follows Wallace, a young gay Black man at a predominantly white university, over a short period one summer, as he contends with his own flaws and those of his peers—as he embarks on an unexpected relationship, faces gaslighting and racism from his colleagues, and struggles against the expectations of his friends.

The realism, the observation, the strength of writing, of character, of tension between desire and distance—Brandon Taylor’s novel is a knockout creation, the more so for being his first. The protagonist’s biochemistry PhD—and Taylor’s own background in science—manifests through a distance, as Wallace keeps himself and is kept at arm’s length from the people around him; and as a methodical, microscopic scrutiny of character, of gesture, of minutiae—the minutiae through which people grapple with understanding, and misunderstanding, one another’s desires, of the casual and institutional ways racism is perpetrated, of the tumultuous inner life of a man apart from his past and his potential. And it’s this rigour, sustained over the length of the novel, that keeps you gripped as it circles its violent, open-ended, real life conclusion.
 

“The air was heavy with their good times as the white people scattered across the tiered patios, pried their mouths apart and beamed their laughter into each other’s faces. Overhead, gulls drifted easy as anything.” 

Read an extract from Real Life.

 

 

A Ghost in the ThroatNon-Fiction Book of the Year 2020
A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

Every sentence is a feast: Life writing intertwines with literary history as a poet and mother recovers a great female poet from patriarchal history.

There’s nothing quite like A Ghost in the Throat, the first prose book from Irish poet Doireann Ní Ghríofa. It’s a domestic autobiography of a mother and wife; it’s the story of the forgotten female author of a famed 18th century mourning poem; it’s the mutual haunting of the two women across centuries; it’s the restoration of female texts to a history otherwise told by men.

Ní Ghríofa’s one-of-a-kind literary quest, the unflinching intimacy of her life writing, and the stunningly lush, sumptuous sentences through which she tells her story made us fall in love with this book. If you’re anything like us you’ll read it, and recommend it, fervently, and when someone turns around and says I read A Ghost in the Throat you’ll recognise that look in their eye, and you’ll know you’re part of the same community of book lovers who have experienced something truly special.


“Although I don’t understand it yet, something ricochets in me whenever I return to this image of a woman kneeling to drink from the body of a lover, something that reminds me of the inner glint I feel whenever a boyfriend presses his teenage hips to mine and his lips to my throat.”

Read an extract from A Ghost in the Throat.

 

 

 

The Wolf's SecretChildren’s Book of the Year 2020
The Wolf’s Secret
Written by Myriam Dahman & Nicolas Digard
Illustrated by Júlia Sardà

Remember there is magic in the world: A darkly atmospheric and sophisticated folk tale of a wolf and a woman in a forest, with simply stunning illustration.

The Wolf’s Secret is a treasure of a picture book that creates an immersive world for readers young and old, telling the story of a wolf that finds a woman, singing in the heart of the forest—and then one day she’s gone. It’s a rich and utterly beguiling marriage of words and pictures that feels timeless, but is in fact the work of a young and fabulously talented contemporary trio. 

Open The Wolf’s Secret on any page and straight away you’ll see why we adore it. The first thing that’ll hit you is Júlia Sardà’s immaculate, eerily atmospheric illustration—conjuring up the dark, dank thicket of trees, the savagery of the wolf, the ornate textiles of the woman’s forest home. And then, as you turn the pages, you’ll be enchanted by Myriam Dahman and Nicolas Digard’s story, steeped in the dream-logic of folk and fairy tales, of magic and metamorphosis, and hinting at the darkness that lays beneath—yet ultimately a tale of support and togetherness.

“His fur was dark like tree bark after the rain. His eyes were golden like the rising moon. He was the biggest wolf ever born and all the animals of the forest feared him. But this Wolf had a secret.”

Take a closer look at our Children’s Book of the Year

 

 

Previous Winners

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
(Paperback)
Ocean Vuong
 
Brilliant, heartbreaking and highly original, Ocean Vuong's debut novel is a shattering portrait of a family, and a testament to the redemptive power of storytelling.
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Three Women
(Paperback)
Lisa Taddeo
 
​Three Women, which was nearly a decade in the making, is a staggering work of non-fiction for our times.
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The Good Thieves
(Paperback)
Katherine Rundell
 
​Katherine Rundell's fifth novel is a heist as never seen before - the story of a group of children who will do anything to right a wrong.
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Convenience Store Woman
(Paperback)
Sayaka Murata; Ginny Tapley Takemori;...
 
Meet Keiko. Keiko is 36 years old. She's never had a boyfriend, and she's been working in the same supermarket for eighteen years.
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Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins...
(Paperback)
Akala
 
Natives speaks directly to British denial and squeamishness when it comes to confronting issues of race and class that are at the heart of the legacy of Britain's racialised empire.
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Children of Blood and Bone
(Paperback)
Tomi Adeyemi
Magic can burn, turn tides, light the darkness and bring back the dead. But magic is gone. So one girl must bring it back in the first in a gripping...
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The Power
(Paperback)
Naomi Alderman
Winner of the 2017 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, ​The Power is an ingenious and masterfully crafted piece of feminist science fiction as well as a searing indictment of our...
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Why I'm No Longer Talking to White...
(Paperback)
Reni Eddo-Lodge
The book that sparked a national conversation. Exploring everything from eradicated black history to the inextricable link between class and race, Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About...
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Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls
(Hardback)
Elena Favilli; Francesca Cavallo
Foyles Children's Book of the Year 2017. Vibrantly illustrated and truly inspirational, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls tells the stories of 100 heroic women from Elizabeth I to Serena...
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The Sellout
(Paperback)
Paul Beatty
Winner of The Man Booker Prize 2016, The Sellout is a biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court...
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