Kazuo Ishiguro, Marcus Rashford and Paul McCartney are among the authors whose titles are shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year 2021.
The 13-strong shortlist has been drawn up by Waterstones booksellers, who each nominate a book they think is outstanding and would recommend to readers. This year it features five non-fiction titles, another four from fiction and four children’s books.
Ishiguro is picked for his Booker-longlisted Klara and the Sun (Faber) which explores the implications of AI for human relationships and the question of what it means to love. Waterstones described it as "a stunning feat of world-building which delivers a powerful emotional gut-punch".
Also on the list is Rashford and Carl Anka's You Are A Champion (Macmillan Children's Books) which stormed the charts this year and was bought up by many schools, charities and community groups to help children unlock their potential. "A standout toolkit for anyone who wants to dream big or find their voice," said the bookseller.
McCartney's The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, edited by Paul Muldoon (Allen Lane), publishes next week, and sees the songwriter trace his life from his childhood to the present day through the lyrics of 154 songs, with never-before-seen photographs, drafts and letters. Waterstones praised the book as "a unique insight into one of the most beloved and influential songwriters of all-time".
In fiction, The Appeal by Janice Hallett (Viper) "stood out for its playfulness, originality, and sheer enjoyability". Ariadne, Jennifer Saint’s debut (Headline), is praised by the bookseller as a "highly immersive read which evokes Ancient Greece with aplomb" while Caleb Azumah Nelson’s debut Open Water (Viking) "skewers what it means to be young and Black in Britain today".
In non-fiction, Amy Jeffs’ Storyland (Quercus) is described as a "beautifully illustrated exploration of Britain’s mythology that makes the past come alive", while Charlotte Higgins' Greek Myths, illustrated by Chris Ofili (Jonathan Cape) is "a tremendously enjoyable reimagining" which places female characters in the centre of the frame. In Around the World in 80 Plants by Jonathan Drori and illustrated by Lucille Clerc (Laurence King), readers go on a botanical journey across the world, exploring the science, history and cultural significance of a fascinating range of plants. Meanwhile The Amur River by Colin Thubron (Chatto & Windus) is a travel narrative which sees Thubron take a dramatic 3,000-mile long journey from the Amur's secret source to its giant mouth.
In children’s fiction, Julia and the Shark by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and illustrator Tom de Freston (Orion Children's Books) is praised as a "mesmerising story of hope, family and finding the courage to face your fears". It is joined on the shortlist by British Museum: History of the World in 25 Cities by Tracey Turner and Andrew Donkin, illustrated by Libby VanderPloeg (Nosy Crow), which charts the story of human civilisation from ancient history to the present day through 25 beautifully illustrated maps. Finally, They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera, (Simon & Schuster) completes the list. It was originally published in 2017 but has recently become a word-of-mouth sensation thanks to TikTok.
Luke Taylor, Waterstones retail director, said: “With such a strong year for publishing it was always going to be an incredible selection of titles that would make up our Book of the Year shortlist and, as in previous years, the nominations from our booksellers are eclectic and diverse. The final 13 that make up this year’s list are a true reflection of our booksellers’ passion for sharing outstanding books with readers. It is an extraordinarily exciting list, and one that should provide many with a welcome relief after the last 18 months.”
The Waterstones Book of the Year 2021 will be chosen by a Waterstones panel and announced on 2nd December.
Last year's winner, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (Tinder Press), saw an uplift in sales of nearly 1,800% after being announced Waterstones Book Of The Year 2020, the retailer said, and went on to be a Christmas bestseller.
- Ishiguro, Wilson and Waters in fresh prison protest
- Ishiguro, Stuart and Evaristo to feature at hybrid Edinburgh International Book Festival
- Rashford and Haig win W H Smith Book and Author of the Year awards
- McCartney's The Lyrics named Waterstones Book of the Year
- Honours for Waterstone, Ishiguro, Beard and Calder