J K Rowling and Beatrix Potter are among the six authors shortlisted for the Waterstones Book of the Year 2016, chosen by Waterstones booksellers. But Sarah Perry's The Essex Serpent (Profile) was "overwhelmingly" the most nominated title by booksellers, the chain said.
Rowling was nominated for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Little, Brown), “the unexpected addition to the Harry Potter canon” and the only play or “scriptbook” to have ever made the shortlist. The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots (Warne) is described as “vintage Beatrix Potter”. Discovered by chance in the Victoria and Albert museum, Potter’s words are brought “magically to life” by Quentin Blake’s illustrations to create a “classically beautiful” book.
The only novel to make it on to the shortlist, Sarah Perry’s “utterly compulsive” The Essex Serpent (Profile) was “overwhelmingly” the most nominated title by the booksellers, and reviewers have "heaped praise" on the book.
In non-fiction, Paul Kalanithi’s memoir, When Breath Becomes Air (Vintage), written as he faced a terminal cancer diagnosis, is both “heartbreaking and harrowing”. It is an “inspirational” account of family, medicine and literature. Meanwhile Meeting with Remarkable Manuscripts (Allen Lane) is a “visual feast” and a genre-defying mixture of history, memoir, and travelogue held together by the author's “inimitable charm”. Christopher De Hamel has spent a lifetime in the company of rare manuscripts and invites the reader to meet them with him in this “delight of a book”.
The trio of non-fiction shortlisted titles is completed by The Optician of Lampedusa (Allen Lane), which is currently Waterstones’ Book of the Month. Emma-Jane Kirby’s book combines the energy and lyricism of a novel with the discipline and detail of a journalist’s dispatch. It puts “humans and humanity back into the heart of our understanding of the refugee crisis".
James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones, said: “Our booksellers time and again nominate a highly eclectic list. This year only the inclusion of the de factor patron saint of booksellers, J K Rowling, was predictable. Praise be to her, but I encourage all to look closely at the other wonderful books we shortlist. Amongst so much excellent publishing this year, readers may have missed the lightly written, breathtakingly beautiful Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts (Allen Lane); Sarah Perry’s gripping novel; the wise and moving When Breath Becomes Air (Vintage); Quentin Blake’s evergreen magic; and, for me, most arresting of all, the quiet power of The Optician of Lampedusa (Allen Lane). Booksellers have a sharp eye for the exceptional and those at Waterstones have thrown into the hat some absolute gems”.
The title named Waterstones Book of the Year will receive the “full and committed backing” of Waterstones shops and booksellers across the UK, as well as support online and through its Loyalty Card programme which reaches 1.7m readers.
Last year’s winner, The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith (Penguin), saw an increase in sales of over 5000% across the Waterstones estate to make it one of 2015’s best-selling titles, a Waterstones spokesperson said.
The Waterstones Book of the Year 2016 will be chosen by a Waterstones panel headed by James Daunt and will be awarded on Thursday 1st December.