The Waterstones Book of the Year

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The Waterstones Book of the Year

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Proudly Presenting the Waterstones Book of the Year 2016

Sarah Perry’s Gothic Masterpiece The Essex Serpent


The moment Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent fell into our hands we knew what we had. From the off, booksellers eagerly pressed it into each other’s hands; word of its quality, its sense of world-building, language and place swiftly spread. The novel’s later inclusion to our Waterstones Book of the Year 2016 shortlist only naturally reflected our passion for this beautifully-crafted gothic drama.


The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

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We're enormously proud to confirm Sarah Perry’s triumph over this impressive shortlist by announcing The Essex Serpent as the winner of our Waterstones Book of the Year 2016, joining a very select list of previous winners who – by their very quality and independence – define who we are as a bookseller.


'The Essex Serpent blazed as the overwhelming choice by our booksellers to be their Book of the Year. It is one of those novels that takes possession of the reader in a physical embrace; to finish it is to feel released, deeply satisfied at every level. It is a treasure and we recommend this wonderful book to everyone.'

James Daunt - Waterstones Managing Director


Set in the brooding marshes of late Victorian Essex, the recently-widowed Cora Seagrave relinquishes the staid predictability of the capital to pursue rumour of a great, unknown beast, a ‘living fossil’ dwelling in the county’s desolate borderlands. Seagrave’s obsession – the enthusiasms of a new kind of independent woman, brimming with enquiry – bring her into conflict with Ransome, the local vicar seeking an oasis of faith; it’s a quarrel that ultimately kindles a far more personal tension. Beyond, a brilliantly-drawn cast describe a world that is itself at odds, an edgeland where tradition slides inexorably toward the modern.


'I am delighted beyond measure that The Essex Serpent is the Waterstones Book of the Year,” declared Sarah upon the news of her victory. “From the moment The Essex Serpent was released, Waterstones’ booksellers were true friends of the book, and week after week I was moved and astonished by the creativity that went into windows, displays and murals all over the country. No author could hope for better champions of their work, or a more heartfelt introduction to readers, and I could not be more grateful.'

Sarah Perry


It’s a hugely deserved win and one that we hope will only further an impressive writing career that began in 2014 with her noted debut After Me Comes the Flood. Our adoration for Sarah’s second novel is absolute; available now as a gorgeous, re-jacketed special edition, we thoroughly recommend that you too step into the myth that is The Essex Serpent.

Book of the Year Shortlist 2016

A phenomenal shortlist and one deeply reflective of our reading passions and diversity.


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts I & II: (Special Rehearsal Edition) The Official Script Book of the Original West End Production (Hardback)

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts I & II

J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany

It’s impossible to underestimate the number of booksellers who joined our ranks by virtue of J.K. Rowling’s early spell, lending the ‘scriptbook’, as we discover it to be called, of Harry Potter’s return a deep significance.

Our parties at midnight celebrating both the publication of the book and the premiere of the play encapsulated the adoration so many hold for this extraordinary universe, and the phenomenal sales that followed only proved the continuing power of Rowling’s vision.


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The Optician of Lampedusa (Hardback)

The Optician of Lampedusa

Emma-Jane Kirby

A masterpiece of the writer’s craft, The Optician of Lampedusa combines the energy and lyricism of a novel with the discipline and detail of a journalist’s dispatch.

In a little more than one hundred pages, Emma Jane Kirby has succeeded where a thousand headlines have failed, placing humans and humanity back into the heart of our understanding of the Mediterranean refugee crisis. Urgent, haunting, and impossible to put down.


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The Tale of Kitty in Boots (Hardback)

The Tale of Kitty in Boots

Beatrix Potter

If a new Harry Potter seemed unlikely back in January, a new Beatrix Potter story was the stuff of fantasy. Discovered by chance in the Victoria and Albert museum, The Tale of Kitty in Boots is vintage Potter.

This very modern fusion of Beatrix Potter’s words and that master of the pen Quentin Blake’s effervescent illustrations make this book essential reading, not just for fans of Beatrix Potter but for book lovers of all kinds everywhere.


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Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts (Hardback)

Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts

Christopher De Hamel

Christopher De Hamel has spent a lifetime in the company of rare manuscripts and in this delight of a book he invites us to meet them with him.

A visual feast and a genre-defying mixture of history, memoir, and travelogue held together by the author’s inimitable charm, Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts is the book we’re all now feverishly adding to our Christmas lists. A unique slice of publishing and a deeply fascinating read.


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When Breath Becomes Air (Hardback)

When Breath Becomes Air

Paul Kalanithi

Again in non-fiction, Paul Kalanithi’s memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, written as he faced a terminal cancer diagnosis, is both heartbreaking and harrowing.

It is an inspirational account of family, medicine and literature, on publication swiftly finding an audience of booksellers moved by its gradual shift from hope to Kalanithi’s dignified acceptance of life’s end. We strongly recommend the emotional investment to read it.


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The Essex Serpent (Hardback)

The Essex Serpent

Sarah Perry

Although judges of the literary prizes have so far remained unswayed, we all instantly knew this was a book that shared our bookselling DNA. The only novel on the shortlist, the moment you begin The Essex Serpent you’ll know that you’re in safe hands.

One line and we guarantee that you’ll be hooked, excited to discover more and grateful to have such an accomplished novelist as your guide. A murder, a monster, a love story and a heroine to rival the greats of 19th Century literature collide to make this the most deeply satisfying fiction you will read this year.


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Previous Prize Winners