Books from writers including Man Booker-longlisted author Sally Rooney, former Sunday Times dating columnist Dolly Alderton and Penguin editor Henry Eliot have made the shortlist for the Waterstones Book of the Year 2018.
The eight-strong selection was arrived at after Waterstones booksellers were called on to nominate a title they find "truly outstanding". It comprises five works of non-fiction, two novels and one illustrated poetry book for children. Five of the eight books are published by independent publishers.
In fiction, Rooney is shortlisted for her "exemplary" second novel, Normal People (Faber). This year the coming-of-age love story was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and it is currently set to be adapted for television by BBC Three. The retailer refered to it as "fiction at its brightest and most inclusive in a universally relatable modern romance. Clever yet unpretentious, literary yet highly approachable, it is that rare gift of a novel which can be enjoyed by readers of all tastes". Orange prizewinner Madeline Miller's novel Circe (Bloomsbury) also appears, praised for breathing new life into the Greek myths and for putting "a welcome feminist spin on old narratives".
In non-fiction, booksellers chose titles spanning a range of topics, including law, politics, photography, literary history and the minefield of dating. Books that made the cut are journalist Isabel Hardman’s Why We Get The Wrong Politicians (Atlantic Books), described as "an even-handed look at life inside the UK’s halls of power"; coffee table book The Colour of Time: A New History of the World, 1850-1960 (Head of Zeus), in which the book's authors, British historian Dan Jones and Brazilian artist Marina Amaral, take 200 black-and-white photographs and inject with them with colour; and The Secret Barrister (Pan Macmillan), by the anonymous legal blogger of the same name, The Secret Barrister.
Joining them Alderton is in the running for her "frank and achingly funny" debut Everything I Know About Love (Penguin). And Eliot, Penguin Classics editor, is recognised for The Penguin Classics Book (Penguin). While researching the reader's companion to the Black Classics collection, Eliot handled more than 1,200 first editions, spending weeks at a time in the Penguin archives. Waterstones said the end product, published last week, was "beautifully presented and packed with inspiration for those suffering from reader’s block" and "an essential for every book lover and bookseller".
Rounding off the list is I Am The Seed That Grew The Tree, selected by Fiona Waters and illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow). The sole children's book up for the award, it takes the concept of a poem for every day and turns it into a "breath-taking compendium of words and pictures that beg to be read and cherished," Waterstones said.
James Daunt, m.d. of Waterstones, commented: "There is not a comb-over in sight on our Book of the Year shortlist in a year when Trump blockbusters have dominated the bestseller lists. Our booksellers chose instead a quieter, intelligent analysis of domestic politics. This epitomises the nature of the Waterstones Book of the Year: the eye of the bookseller is caught by the exceptional, offering up books that provoke, amuse or inspire without regard for category or algorithm."
The title named Waterstones Book of the Year will receive the "full and committed backing" of its stores and booksellers across the UK, as well as support online and through its loyalty card programme, Waterstones Plus, which reaches over 500,000 readers. Last year’s winner was La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman, which saw an increase in sales of over 350% across the Waterstones estate following its win, the company said.
The Waterstones Book of the Year 2018 will be chosen by a Waterstones panel headed by Daunt and will be announced on 29th November.
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