Waterstones Book of the Year 2016:
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
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.
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.
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 2016A phenomenal shortlist and one deeply reflective of our reading passions and diversity.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.