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A Virtual Celebration: The An Post Irish Book Awards 2020

The move online didn’t affect the 2020 An Post Irish Book Awards celebrations. If anything, Covid only reinforced the nation’s love of reading, with a record number of public votes cast for winners in 16 diverse categories. 
Broadcaster Evelyn O’Rourke hosted the awards, which were streamed via the RTÉ website. This meant that for the first time, a global audience could tune into the live action. And what a ceremony it was! The big winner on the night was Donal Ryan, the Tipperary author who scooped Novel of the Year for his excellent Strange Flowers. Set in 1970s rural Ireland, the book explores themes of grief, loss and exile.
And the standard was incredibly high across all categories. Two inspiring activists were awarded wins for their debut books; 16-year-old environmental campaigner Dara McAnulty for Diary of a Young Naturalist (Newcomer of the Year), while Sinéad Burke impressed with her thoughtful and acclaimed book, Break the Mould (Children’s Book of the Year, Senior).
Fans of Louise O’Neill’s excellent Asking For It will be delighted to hear that her latest page-turner After the Silence scooped Crime Fiction of the Year. Elsewhere, TV host and author Graham Norton’s Home Stretch nabbed Popular Fiction of the Year. A far cry from the star’s outlandish TV persona, this gripping story follows Connor, an Irish teenager whose friends are killed when the car he’s driving crashes. The Non-Fiction of the Year award went to Doireann Ní Ghríofa for her haunting debut, A Ghost in the Throat. Seamlessly weaving through time, this story forges a connection between the poetry of two Irish women, living centuries apart.
It was an emotional night meanwhile for the family of Keelin Shanley. The Irish journalist, who sadly died earlier this year following a lengthy battle with cancer, received the RTÉ Radio 1 Listeners’ Choice Award posthumously for A Light That Never Goes Out.
Which were your favourite books from Awards? As always, join the conversation about Irish books online by using the hashtag #ReadersWanted.
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