Book Prize Trends 2020

Undoubtedly which books are proving popular at any given time is of interest to authors and may also be so for many readers. Authors, because they like to know if their own books fall into any of the categories. Readers, simply to see if they may be able to find their next read among the lists.

Where an author finds their book falls into a popular genre that popularity provides them with a further avenue for publicity and marketing. It is only natural to take advantage of such an opportunity. However, before any author reading this gets carried away they should note there is general advice not to seek to write in a different genre to their usual simply to profit from it. In most instances the likely outcome is a book that is less than it should be. Of course, as with anything, there have been exceptions and some authors have gained by taking up the potential but they are in the minority. There is also the question of whether, despite any money made, they find writing such books fulfilling.

Defining Trends

There are numerous respected book prizes and book of the year selections, which may help identify trends, though, as will be seen, that is not always the case. For this article a few of the 2020 winning titles have been examined to see if there has been a defined trend.

Note: The writer has not read any of these books and the information shared below has been gleaned from retail and internet sites with the sole intent of trying to identify any possible trend(s).

Booker Prize – Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

This novel is based upon the author’s personal experience. It is an account of Scottish poverty and alcoholism.

Genre: Bidungsroman, probably, like the author of this post most readers will not have encountered this genre name before. It is a German word utilised to identify a book that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood. The book is also identified as falling within the Gay Novel genre. Bearing in mind the bases of this story some may consider it also tips over into the memoir category, or at least autobiographical fiction.


Blackwell’s Book of the Year – A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll

This is a novel that has also been designated the Children’s Book of the Year. Again it is set in Scotland and is about an autistic eleven year old.

Genre: Children’s Fiction.


Waterstone’s Book of the Year – Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Set in the British Elizabethan period this is an acclaimed novel that has the death of Shakespeare’s eleven year old son as its basis. Some identify it as a tale about marriage and grief.

Genre: Historical Fiction


Costa Book of the Year – The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey

A novel that is set on an imaginary Caribbean island. It mixes mythical components with realistic life.

Genre: Modern and Contemporary Fiction. It has also been identified as falling into Relationship stories.


Goodreads Readers Choice

Goodreads has multiple categories for its annual reader choice awards. To identify each and every one here would make this resume unwieldy. Therefore, just to provide some idea the Best Fiction winner has been selected.

Best Fiction – The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Genre: Science Fiction and Fantasy Fiction.


Overall Trend

As may be seen from the details shared above, no defined trend has emerged. Disappointing but a clear indicator of how unique human beings are. Something that should always be born in mind. It is foolish to think everyone will like everything. New authors often fall into this trap: that their book is for everyone. But that is another topic.

Does this mean it is impossible to identify whether there is a trend? Not entirely. The books named above are only the overall winners. What about those that were short listed? An examination of some of those lists resulted in the following findings:

Most popular genre

History: Fiction (drawing upon, or based upon, various historic events) and Non-Fiction (actual history).

Temporarily popular genre

Black history; Black culture: Understandable, in view of some of the high profile events of 2020. These became particularly popular in the latter half of the year.

Randomly popular genre

Psychology (mostly non-fiction); Memoir/Biography/Autobiography (probably prompted by some high profile ones e.g. the Obamas’).

Note: It is appreciated some of these genre have been popular throughout the years and will probably remain so, however, the overview in this article is based upon findings for 2020 only.


As may be seen, though there is no overall genre among the winning books, the short lists imply History, in its various forms, was the most popular genre for 2020. Of course, tastes, likes, and dislikes change over time and may even be influenced by so called fashion or, perhaps in these social media dominated times, trends would be a better word. Consequently, which genre or genres become popular in 2021 may be different. It is noticeable, despite their general popularity over the years, romance has no mention in the above resume and memoir only minimal.

Some authors may be tempted to follow the highlighted trends and write books to meet them. However, they are advised not to do so simply for the purpose of seeking profit.

Intentionally, so as not to detract from the primary topic, no book, retailer or author links have been provided above. Anyone interested in learning more about the books mentioned may do so by simply searching against the book title.

Disclaimer: Neither T. R. Robinson Publications nor T. R. Robinson have any affiliation with any of the publishers, authors, or retailers named. Nor do either receive any renumeration for highlighting, mentioning, or otherwise referring to them. Nor are either endorsing or recommending any of the books or authors.

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