Philip Pullman’s return to the world of the ‘His Dark Materials’ has topped the bookselling chain’s Book of the Year shortlist to win its first award since its release in October.
Waterstones have said they chose books that they found “truly outstanding and which they have felt most pride in recommending and selling”. The full shortlist was as follows:
- Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo
- A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge
- The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris
- La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One by Philip Pullman
- Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Winner of the Man Booker Prize)
- Mr Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense by Jenny Uglow
- Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: A Brief History of Capitalism by Yanis Varoufakis
Although the award does not come with any prize money, it gives the book a committed space in the front-of-store display throughout the festive period. For last year’s winner, Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent, this meant a 720% leap in sales throughout the chain’s 280 stores. For Coralie Bickford-Smith, who won in 2015 for her debut The Fox and the Star, this meant an impressive 5000% increase in sales.
“Commercially, I sit there thinking: ‘Can we give the prize to something else? because we’re going to sell lots of this book anyway,’” said James Daunt, Managing Director of Waterstones, noting that the book has already sold almost 200,000 copies in the UK. “But when just about every bookseller in the business says it’s first Pullman and then something else, you end up saying ‘Well, the booksellers have spoken.’ It is the book of the year.”
Daunt also commented on the excitement stirred up by Pullman’s return to the world of daemons and Dust, 17 years after The Amber Spyglass’ release: “Sometimes when the anticipation is so much, there’s a slight let-down when it turns up and it isn’t quite what you expect. But this manages to be both a tremendously good read, so young people can read it and enjoy it, and also a sophisticated, challenging and thoughtful book that any reader of any age will benefit from.”
Pullman, on receiving the book’s first, and almost certainly not last, award, praised booksellers as “an absolutely necessary part of the complex ecology of the book world.”
“Writers are at one end of a complicated network that includes editors, reviewers, designers, printers, and many other real people – as well as phantoms such as the writer the readers imagine and the readers the book seems to expect,” he said. “Part of this great living network or ecology of the book world is the ancient and distinguished profession of bookselling, which I respect and value very much.”
And although he admitted that the world of books has been forced into evolving at an uncomfortable speed through “so many kinds of digital and social and economic and political change”, he also said he “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.”
See Pullman talk about La Belle Sauvage in an interview with Penguin Books UK below: