Douglas Stuart’s Booker Prize-winning debut novel has been garlanded with praise – and rightly so. Shuggie Bain took Stuart 10 years to write and was turned down by more than 30 publishers but it’s an exceptional book that will stand the test of time. Margaret Busby, chair of the Booker judges, said the book is “destined to be a classic – a moving, immersive and nuanced portrait of a tight-knit social world, its people and its values.” Set in Glasgow, it’s the heartbreaking tale of Agnes Bain, a proud, beautiful mother-of-three and her youngest son Shuggie, who desperately tries to save her as she descends into alcoholism.
With pubs, restaurants and cinemas closed for a large part of 2020, many of us turned to reading in our spare time.
A survey published by The Reading Agency found that nearly a third of the population read more than ever during the first lockdown, with seven out of 10 choosing fiction.
Crime and classic literature proved particularly popular and books about fictional epidemics, such as The Plague by Albert Camus and The Viral Storm by Nathan Wolfe saw a boost in sales too.
So what other types of fiction did we snap up this year? All sorts, it seems.
Waterstones’ bestselling hardback novel of 2020 (as of 17 December) was Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club, followed by The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel, Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling), Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, The Sentinel by Lee Child and his younger brother Andrew, The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin, Troy by Stephen Fry and Ghosts by Dolly Alderton.
But whatever your literary tastes, there’s no doubt that 2020 has been a vintage year for new hardback fiction. From The Lying Life of Adults, Elena Ferrante’s first novel since her dazzling Neapolitan Quartet, to Douglas Stuart’s brilliant Shuggie Bain, there’s been something for all tastes. Choosing fiction is highly subjective but here’s our own cream of the 2020 crop.
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