An Post Irish Book Awards 2021: Winners include Fintan O’Toole, Sally Rooney and Aisling authors

Sally Rooney has won the Novel of the Year prize for the second time

Beautiful World, Where Are You, the bestselling and critically acclaimed third novel by Sally Rooney, has been voted Novel of the Year at this year’s An Post Irish Book Awards, repeating the success of her previous novel, Normal People. The competitive shortlist included the highly praised Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan and Colm Tóibín’s The Magician.

Fintan O’Toole won Non-Fiction Book of the Year for We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Ireland Since 1958, emerging from a shortlist that included fellow journalists Richard Chambers, Brian O’Donovan, Susan McKay and Derek Scally and historian Diarmaid Ferriter.

Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen won Popular Fiction Book of the Year for a remarkble third time in four years for Aisling and the City, the fourth in the series and on track to be Ireland’s bestselling book of the year.

The awards, which were held virtually on the RTÉ website this evening in front of a worldwide audience, attracted more than 187,500 votes from the public, up 33 per cent on 2020, weighted equally with those of an academy of 300 booksellers, librarians, authors, reviewers and journalists. Voting is now open here for Irish Book of the Year, which will be announced on RTÉ One on December 8th.


Louise Nealon was voted Newcomer of the Year for Snowflake, ahead of a particularly strong field of debuts by Una Mannion, Fíona Scarlett, Sarah Gilmartin, Jamie O’Connell and Eimear Ryan. Catherine Ryan Howard’s lockdown-set hit 56 Days won Crime Fiction Book of the Year while Keith Earls, fresh from playing his part in an all-conquering Irish rugby team, won Sport Book of the Year for Fight Or Flight: My Life, My Choices.

John Treacy, chairperson of the awards, said: “We really are so lucky to have such marvellous writers in this country. We have so many promising young writers, more women writers than ever, writers representing minority and marginalised Irish communities, and this will only grow in the years to come. I’d like to congratulate all of the winners and also the nominees in every category. It’s been another great year for Irish literature.”

Kennys Bookshop and Art Gallery in Galway was named Bookshop of the Year, a new category designed to acknowledge the significant role played by bookshops in helping their local communities, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. Sebastian Barry, the outgoing Laureate for Irish Fiction, was awarded this year’s Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award.

David McRedmond, CEO of An Post, said: “As we continue to face down the greatest global challenge of our lifetime, the power of books and reading is much more evident, bringing escape, solace and satisfaction. Trusted and appreciated, local bookshops provide the essential human link between author, publisher and reader. We are very pleased to support the new category of Bookshop of the Year in 2021 and we congratulate all the Kenny family on their success this year.”

Last year’s Irish Book of the Year was Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s A Ghost in the Throat.

The full list of winners

Novel of the Year
Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

Crime Fiction Book of the Year
56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard

Sport Book of the Year
Fight Or Flight: My Life, My Choices by Keith Earls, with Tommy Conlon

Newcomer of the Year
Snowflake by Louise Nealon

Non-Fiction Book of the Year
We Don't Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Ireland Since 1958 by Fintan O'Toole

Biography of the Year
Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? by Séamas O'Reilly

Cookbook of the Year
Everyday Cook by Donal Skehan

Popular Fiction Book of the Year
Aisling and the City by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen

Lifestyle Book of the Year
Décor Galore by Laura De Barra

Best Irish Published Book of the Year
The Coastal Atlas of Ireland by Val Cummins, Robert Devoy Barry Brunt, Darius Bartlett, Sarah Kandrot

Children's Book of the Year (Junior)
A Hug for You by David King, illustrated by Rhiannon Archard

Children's Book of the Year (Senior)
The Summer I Robbed a Bank by David O'Doherty, illustrated by Chris Judge

Teen and Young Adult Book of the Year
The New Girl by Sinead Moriarty

RTÉ Audience Choice Award
Your One Wild And Precious Life by Maureen Gaffney

Author of the Year
Marian Keyes

Short Story of the Year
Little Lives by Deirdre Sullivan

Irish Poem of the Year
Longboat at Portaferry by Siobhan Campbell

Irish Language Book of the Year
Madame Lazare by Tadgh Mac Dhonnagain

Bookshop of the Year
Kennys Bookshop and Art Gallery, Galway