2020 Major Book Awards Winners Recap

Now that all of the major literary and genre awards have been announced (see the calendar here), it’s time for a recap of (some of) the books |and authors that won. One thing I noticed when putting this list together is that there weren’t many books that won multiple awards in 2020.


Things kicked off with the American Library Association Awards announcement of winners on Jan. 26, 2020. There are MANY awards including the Alex Awards which goes to 10 books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults. The winners included The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead – which also won a 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The Pulitzer Prize, awarded for achievements in newspaper, magazine and online journalism, literature, and musical composition in the United States, was presented later in the year, on May 3, 2020.

The Nickel Boys

Another popular ALA Award is the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction. The winners for 2020 were Lost Children Archive, Valeria Luiselli for Fiction and Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster, Adam Higginbothom for Non-Fiction. There are also several ALA Awards for children’s and young adult novels, including the Newberry Medal which was given to New Kid, written and illustrated by Jerry Craft and the Michael L. Printz Award which went to Dig, A.S. King.

Dig (Book)

On Mar. 2, 2020,  Winners of the 2020 PEN America Literary Awards were announced. There are several different awards honoring outstanding voices in translation, fiction, poetry, science writing, essay, sports writing, biography, children’s literature, and drama. Winners this year included The Ten Loves of Nishino for the PEN Translation Prize; Sisters and Rebels: A Struggle for the Soul of America, Jacquelyn Dowd Hall for the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography; The Grave on the Wall, Brandon Shimoda for the PEN Open Book Award; Where Reasons End, Yiyun Li for the PEN/Jein Stein Award.

Also announced on Mar. 2nd was The Audie Awards which recognizes distinction in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment in 29 categories. The 2020 Audie Award Winners include The Only Plane in the Sky, Garrett M. Graff Narrated by a Full 45-Person Cast with Holter Graham, published by Simon & Schuster Audio for Audiobook of the Year; Nothing to See Here, Kevin WilsonNarrated by Marin Ireland for Best Female Narrator; Kingdom of the Blind, Loise PennyNarrated by Robert Bathurst for Best Male Narrator.

But wait … there was more. The National Book Critics Circle Awards were also presented in March. These awards honor the best autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Also added in recent years is the John Leonard Award, a new prize honoring an author’s first book. Winners were announced on Mar. 12, 2020 and included Everything Inside: Stories, Edwidge Danicat for Fiction and  Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, Patrick Radden Keefe for Non-Fiction.

everything inside

In April, we got to some genre award announcements. The Edgar Awards honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television was presented on April 30, 2020. Among the Winners were The Stranger Diaries, Elly Griffiths for Best Novel and Miracle Creek, Angie Kim for Best First Novel.

Miracle Creek

The Stoker Awards for “superior achievement” in dark fantasy and horror writing was announced on April 18th. There are 12 categories, and Winners included Coyote Rage, Owl Goingback forSuperior Achievement in a Novel; The Bone Weaver’s Orchard, Sarah Read for Superior Acievement in a First Novel; and Growing Things and Other Stories, Paul Tremblay for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection.

Moving to May, we’ve already mentioned that the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead, but also presented in May, on the 30th, were the The Nebula Awards for best in Science Fiction and Fantasy. The Best Novel Winner was A Song for a New Day, Sarah Pinsker.

More genre awards followed in June, with the presentation on June 27th to the Winners of the Locus AwardsThe City in the Middle of the Night, Charlie Jane Andrews won for Best Science Fiction Novel; Best Fantasy Novel went to Middlegame, Seanan McGuire and Best Horror Novel to Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Marlon James.

Locus Award Winners 2020

Also in June, on the 20th, the British Book Awards or Nibbies were presented . The literary awards are for the best UK writers and their works. Almost all the prizes went to women this year (here’s a recap of the live streamed event on Publishing Perspective), and among the winners were Queenie, Candice Carty-Williams which won both the Debut Book of the Year and Overall Book of the Year (making her the first black winner of the award). Bernadine Evaristo also came out on top winning for Author of the Year, and her book, Girl Woman Other, won Best Fiction.

More genre awards followed in July and August with the Shirley Jackson Awards presented on Jul. 12th for outstanding achievement in horror, psychological suspense, and dark fantasy fiction. The award for Best Novel went to The Book of X, Sarah Rose Etter. The 2020 Hugo Awards (for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy) were presented on August 1st. A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine won for Best Novel. As usual (or has been usual for the last few years), the Hugo awards had quite a bit of controversy.

The Book of X

(Image Souce)

The Winner of the 2020 International Booker Prize announced on Aug. 26, 2020 was The Discomfort of Evening, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld (Dutch-Netherlands), Translated by Michele Hutchison. This award is for a single book, translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland.

The rest of the year was ruled by popular literary awards. On Sep. 9th, the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction winner was announced –  Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell. The Women’s Prize for Fiction is a UK-based award honoring the best novel of the year written in English by a female author. Since 2020 was it’s 25th year, there was a special “people’s choice” Women’s Prize “Winner of Winners” that was announced on Nov. 11. Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie came out on top.

The winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2020 was announced on Oct. 8th and went to the American poet and essayist Louise Glück “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal”. Read more about her in this piece by The Guardian.

And then we have November – just full to bursting with major book awards! Let’s start of with the last of our genre awards. The Winners of the 2020 World Fantasy Awards were announced on Nov. 1st at the (virtual) World Fantasy Convention. Best Novel went to Queen of the Conquered, Kacen Callender and Best Novella to Silver in the Wood, Emily Tesh.

The Scotiabank Giller Prize, a literary award given to a Canadian author, was live streamed on Nov. 9th. There can be only one winner … and that was How to Pronounce Knife, Souvankham Thammavongsa.

How to Pronounce Knife

(Image Souce)

Then, a little more than a week later, the 2020 winners of the National Book Awards were announced on Nov. 18th. Interior Chinatown, Charles Yu took home the prize for Fiction and The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by Les Payne and Tamara Payne for Non-Fiction.

Just 1 day later, the 2020 Booker Prize winner for Fiction was announced on Nov. 19 to be Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stewart – his first novel! This award goes to the best novel of the year written in English and published in the UK and Ireland.


The announcement of the Booker Prize is the last of the major awards to be announced for the year. In 2020, there was a shift to virtual events for many of the award ceremonies because of the Covid-19 pandemic. There’s no telling what 2021 has in store for us, but we’ll be hosting a 2021 Monthly Book Award Reading Challenge, so check out some of the books above and join us – either here or on the GXO Reading Challenges Goodreads group. Many of the winners announced above have made it to my reading list for next year.

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