by Katherine Cowdrey
The shortlist for the Waterstones Book of the Year 2015 has been revealed, featuring a list that would “not have been produced by an algorithm,” the chain’s m.d. James Daunt has said.
The eight-strong selection nominated by Waterstones booksellers across the UK encompasses four novels, three non-fiction titles and one children’s book – the shortlist has been expanded from six to eight titles this year to encompass the “strength of publishing”.
Of the four novels shortlisted, Paul Hawkins’ dark thriller Girl on the Train (Doubleday), which is currently being made into a film in New York by Dreamworks, and holds the record for highest number of non-consecutive number ones for Original Fiction (Nielsen BookScan) and the Waterstones Thriller of the Year accolade, makes the shortlist.Go Set a Watchman (William Heinemann) also features, as the ‘sequel’ – or “an insightful first draft” – to Harper Lee’sTo Kill a Mockingbird. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Picador), a favourite for the 2015 Man Booker Prize, also appears as “undoubtedly one of the most talked about novels of the year”. And the only translated book on the shortlist is Elena Ferrante’s tale of two friends in an Italian neighbourhood, My Brilliant Friend (Europa Editions), which developed “from a bookseller favourite to word of mouth hit to thumping bestseller in the course of one year,” according to the company.
In non-fiction, classicist Mary Beard’s “Magnum Opus” SPQR (Profile) features on the Book of the Year shortlist, which delivers an account of over one thousand years of the Roman Empire; while Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig (Canongate) has been nominated as “a joyously open exploration of depression and recovery”. James Rebanks’ The Shepherd’s Life (Allen Lane), meanwhile, makes the list for painting “a season-by-season picture of life for those who work off the land in one of the wilder regions of the UK”.
Finally, the sole children’s book on the shortlist, The Fox and the Star, is a debut picture book by Penguin cover designer Coralie Bickford-Smith (Particular Books), praised for its “unparalleled elegant design”.
Daunt, who is heading the Waterstones panel that will choose the eventual winner, said: “The richly diverse shortlist for our Book of the Year exemplifies both the strength of publishing in 2015 and the confidence of our booksellers. In a watershed year, during which e-book sales have stalled and those of real books increased for the first time in many years, these wonderful titles have caught their imaginations. I commend them with equal enthusiasm: it is not a list that would have been produced by an algorithm.”
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 the chain says reaches 1.7 million readers. Last year’s winner, The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton saw an increase in sales of “over 1000%”, according to Waterstones across its estate, to make it one of 2014’s best-selling titles.
The Waterstones Book of the Year 2015 will be announced on 1st December. The full shortlist is consolidated, in order of author surname, as below:
SPQR by Mary Beard (Profile)
The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith (Particular Books)
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (Europa Editions)
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig (Canongate)
Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Doubleday)
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (William Heinemann)
The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks (Allen Lane)
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Picador)