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Doctor's diary This is Going to Hurt wins public vote for book of the year

Adam Kay’s firsthand account, first published as a rebuke to the health secretary during the dispute with junior doctors, takes readers’ choice award

A doctor’s irreverent and heartbreaking diaries, published as a rebuke to the government in the pay dispute with junior doctors, has been voted the nation’s favourite book of the year. Adam Kay’s This Is Going to Hurt came top in a poll of readers to win the Books Are My Bag readers’ choice award.

Voted for by 40,000 members of the public through bookshops, Kay’s book saw off competition from 2017 Man Booker prize winner George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo and Philip Pullman’s hotly anticipated La Belle Sauvage.

The diaries, written between 2005 and 2010 when Kay worked as a junior doctor specialising in obstetrics and gynaecology, show him tackling horrific injuries (a man with a “degloved penis” after sliding down a lamppost), elderly drinkers and life-threatening birth complications.

Kay decided to go public with them amid the war of words between health secretary Jeremy Hunt and junior doctors over pay and conditions. Initially, they formed the basis of a one-man show at the Edinburgh festival, but the medic-turned-screenwriter was then commissioned by Picador to turn them into a book.

“The government was promoting the message that the junior doctors were being greedy, which was a dagger to my heart, because they really weren’t – they were worried about working conditions and patient safety,” he told Psychologies magazine earlier this year, explaining why he went public.

Although the book revels in the dark comedy of hospital life, it builds up to a career-ending incident that left the author fearful of making decisions about patients’ treatment and ultimately forced him to ditch his chosen career.

In the interview with Psychologies, Kay said: “I won’t be able to change Jeremy Hunt’s mind … but I can reach members of the public, and the next time doctors come under attack, the public will think: ‘Yes, that’s nonsense, why would doctors be in it for the money? They’re in it to help people, to save lives.’”

Alan Staton, head of marketing and communications at the Booksellers Association, which runs the awards, said: “Last year’s readers’ choice was The Good Immigrant, which was very much the book of the moment, and Adam Kay’s is very much the same this year, igniting conversations [about the NHS], and so it is no surprise it has won.”

It was a double win for Kay, who also scooped the non-fiction category of the awards, which are in their second year and are supported by National Book Tokens.

Last year’s winner of the non-fiction award, Matt Haig, swapped categories this year to take the BAMB popular fiction award with his novel How to Stop Time, a film of which Benedict Cumberbatch is set to produce and star in.

Of the remaining five awards, the shortlists for which are chosen by booksellers, Kate Tempest was voted breakthrough author of the year for her debut novel The Bricks That Built the Houses, while Colson Whitehead scooped the novel award with The Underground Railroad.

Robert Macfarlane’s and Jackie Morris’s sumptuously illustrated guide to the fading vocabulary of childhood, The Lost Words, was chosen by booksellers as the most beautiful book of the year .

For the first time, children were allowed to vote for the young adult and middle-grade awards, which were taken respectively by Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give and Emma Carroll’s Letters from the Lighthouse.

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