Winner: Young Adult Fiction
Emma Bradshaw, Head of Campaigns at the Booksellers Association, said: “From first time authors to literary giants, this year’s Books Are My Bag Readers Awards winners give an insight into bookseller’s and the public’s top books of the year. It’s hugely exciting to see such a large proportion of new writers on the list, showing just how much brilliant new writing talent readers have to enjoy.”
WINNER: AUDIOBOOK OF THE YEAR
Described as "the best piece of narration I’ve ever heard", the audiobook edition of La Belle Sauvage enthralled this year’s judges thanks to Michael Sheen’s exemplary narratory skills. Pullman himself chose Sheen to read La Belle Sauvage, which returns to the world of the His Dark Materials trilogy, then worked with the actor to ensure the various accents and pronunciations were performed correctly.
...an excellent story, and simply as a tale of flight and pursuit, it’s altogether enjoyable. But there’s more to it, unfortunately...Anyway, the problem with Pullman is that his larger aspiration — to see off Christianity — is an impediment to his storytelling. He has an alternative, incomprehensible metaphysics to the Christian sort, and it’s to do with the concept of Dust, particles that — oh, I don’t know — have something to do with consciousness.
...one of the marks of Pullman’s genius is that he can take the obvious and make it blaze. What could be more obvious than an animal companion – every Disney film has one. But is there a richer, more complex conceit in modern fiction than Pullman’s daemons – animal companions that are both a projection of yourself and a guide, both soul and guardian angel? The force of Pullman’s fantasy comes partly from the precision with which he describes the mundane. La Belle Sauvage may be floating on a supernatural flood but she’s definitely a boat of wood and canvas.
Much mythological material is being brewed: a predestined wonderful foundling, a child snatcher, a few treacherously beguiling spectres and perilous fairylands. Pullman’s immense powers of kinaesthetic visualisation keep the story pulsing on an epic scale as enchanted allegory combines with a full-on retelling of the Biblical story of the flood: defences cave in and banks break under roiling storm clouds, and the familiar world of Oxford and its meadows is drowned
There’s something dreamlike, almost hallucinatory, about La Belle Sauvage’s watery pilgrim’s progress. And as it brushes against the fronds of older mythologies – Albion and Old Father Thames are alluded to – we find ourselves in a mystical garden of forgetting, and there’s a stand-alone encounter with a mournful fairy queen... Pullman is an easeful storyteller and an intricate and inventive world-builder, and everything he has to write is worth reading.