Gill Books won four awards at the An Post Irish Book Awards 2020 last night – the most ever for the Irish publisher. A Light That Never Goes Out by Keelin Shanley won the RTÉ Radio 1 Listeners’ Choice Award, Never Mind the B#ll*cks, Here’s the Science by Professor Luke O’Neill won the Ireland AM Popular Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award, Midweek Meals by Neven Maguire won the Bookselling Ireland Cookbook of the Year Award, and The Great Irish Farm Book by Darragh McCullough, illustrated by Sally Caulwell, won the Specsavers Children’s Book of the Year (Junior) Award.
Keelin Shanley’s memoir was published posthumously after her untimely death from cancer in February of this year. Her husband Conor Ferguson, who finished the final chapter, said, ‘I am touched that Keelin’s book has won this award. It has been a difficult year in many ways, but given her commitment to the Book Awards over the years, there is a sense of her story gently coming full circle.’ Deirdre Nolan, the book’s commissioning editor, said, ‘We are honoured to have published such a rare and beautiful book. The response has been incredible and winning the book award shows that Keelin’s story has resonated with so many people across the country.’
Professor Luke O’Neill became a household name during the Covid-19 pandemic, as the media and public turned to science to make sense of things. ‘For me it was startling to have my book come out while the Covid-19 pandemic was going on. I’m delighted that I was able to bring in references to it throughout the book, as using science to try and predict what the future will look like is one of my favourite parts of the job. This award means a lot, it was my third time being nominated so I guess the old adage is true!’ Sarah Liddy, Luke’s commissioning editor, said, ‘We are thrilled for Luke on winning the award. His commitment to making science accessible and entertaining is unparalleled, and we are delighted to publish his important work.’
Neven Maguire, like restaurateurs all over Ireland, saw business take a hit this year. He turned to social media during the first lockdown in March and began making home cookery videos from his kitchen in Blacklion, Cavan, all recorded by his wife Amelda. Many of these went viral and further cemented Neven’s place in our hearts as Ireland’s most-trusted chef. On winning the award Neven said, ‘I am over the moon! This is a silver lining towards the close of a very tough year. I am genuinely thrilled that so many people are cooking my recipes at home and discovering the joy that can be found in cooking, even midweek!’
Darragh McCullough and Sally Caulwell got to know each other over Zoom as they passed ideas for The Great Irish Farm Book back and forth in the early months of the year. Darragh said, ‘Farming is all I have ever known. Writing a book, working with Sally, and now winning an award that promotes the importance of Irish farming to children is a dream come true.’ Sally said, ‘Working on this book has opened my eyes to the multifaceted roles that Irish farmers carry out every day across the country. I am thrilled that my illustrations matched Darragh’s thoughts and that the result was a bestselling, award-winning book!’
Gill Books had ten titles in total nominated at this year’s An Post Irish Book Awards. Thirty-Two Words for Field by Manchán Magan, Tell Me the Truth about Loss by Niamh Fitzpatrick, True Colours by Barry Geraghty with Niall Kelly, The Joy of Food by Rory O’Connell, The Daly Dish by Gina and Karol Daly, and The Dead Zoo by Peter Donnelly were also nominated. Gill Books Director Nicki Howard said, ‘In a challenging year where books were made from people’s living rooms and kitchen tables, it is thrilling to receive a record reception to our books from the Irish reading public. It is also particularly heartening to see such strong support for Irish businesses – from publishers to bookshops. We extend our congratulations to all the people – authors, illustrators, agents, publishers, booksellers and journalists – who have worked in difficult circumstances, professionally and personally, to bring you the books that we are celebrating.’