Philip Pullman’s first instalment of the Book of Dust has been crowned the Waterstones Book of the Year for 2017.
The first in a companion series to His Dark Materials, La Belle Sauvage, was released to much fanfare and rave reviews in October, earning Pullman his overall first number one in the book chart.
Having already sold 193,572 copies across all editions, also becoming the first children’s title to take the weekly e-ranking number one, the title is now likely to be given an even bigger boost; sales of last year’s Book of the Year winner The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (Serpent’s Tail) shot up 720% across the Waterstones estate following the announcement.
Pullman said he was “very happy” to be given the prize by the retail chain. “Booksellers are an absolutely necessary part of the complex ecology of the book world,” he said. “These days the pressure of so many kinds of digital and social and economic and political change is forcing the world of books, like so many others, to evolve more swiftly than is sometimes comfortable. Where these changes will take us it’s too soon to guess, but I can’t foresee a time—and I wouldn’t wish to—when visiting a bookshop is not one of the greatest pleasures life can give us."
He added that he had “no idea” La Belle Sauvage “would turn out to be so popular”.
“I daresay many of the people who read His Dark Materials as children are now grown up and buying books for themselves, and I’m very grateful to them,” he said. “When I write a book the main thing I’m concerned about is how to make the story work clearly, and I don’t think about the audience in the least. It’s always a privilege to find people reading you at all. To be given a prize is to have cream as well as apple pie.”
The Waterstones Book of the Year 2017 was chosen by a panel of Waterstones staff headed by managing director James Daunt, who said books like La Belle Sauvage “excited” retailers. “Booksellers influence readers, and are guided in turn by the enthusiasms of their customers,” he said. “It is the happy warp and weft of our profession, and very few books indeed excite this process quite like La Belle Sauvage. This is a winner that is going to bring a lot of pleasure to an ever-widening audience and we could not be more pleased to play our part in its success.”
The title triumphed over a shortlist including 100 colourful and captivating tales of extraordinary women, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo (Particular Books), Jenny Uglow’s biography Mr Lear (Faber & Faber); and the Man Booker Prize-winning novel, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Bloomsbury).
Waterstones is selling an exclusive edition of La Belle Sauvage, which features a cloth cover with gold foil and embossed finishes, gold ribbon marker, and bespoke endpapers with six different daemon ex libris and an Oxford and London skyline design.