2020 Shortlist for Waterstones Book of the Year

Waterstones, the UK Bookseller, released their yearly shortlist of this year’s best books of the year. The shortlist and award is selected by booksellers.

If you are not looking to add more books to add to your TBR shelf, then reading this shortlist is highly unadvisable, you ‘ll have a hard time tearing your eyes away from these interesting blurbs:

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect? (Credit: Dialogue Books)

Love in Colour: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalola

Bolu Babalola finds the most beautiful love stories from history and mythology and rewrites them with incredible new detail and vivacity in this debut collection. Focusing on the magical folktales of West Africa, Babalola also reimagines iconic Greek myths, ancient legends from the Middle East, and stories from countries that no longer exist in our world.

A high-born Nigerian goddess feels beaten down and unappreciated by her gregarious lover and longs to be truly seen.

A young businesswoman attempts to make a great leap in her company, and an even greater one in her love life.

A powerful Ghanaian spokeswoman is forced to decide whether to uphold her family’s politics, or to be true to her heart.

Whether captured in the passion of love at first sight, or realising that self-love takes precedent over the latter, the characters in these vibrant stories try to navigate this most complex human emotion and understand why it holds them hostage.

Moving exhilaratingly across perspectives, continents and genres, from the historic to the vividly current, Love in Colour is a celebration of romance in all of its forms. (Credit: Dialogue Books)

One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time by Craig Brown

One Two Three Four traces the chance fusion of the four key elements that made up The Beatles: fire (John), water (Paul), air (George) and earth (Ringo). It also tells the bizarre and often unfortunate tales of the disparate and colourful people within their orbit, among them Fred Lennon, Yoko Ono, the Maharishi, Aunt Mimi, Helen Shapiro, the con artist Magic Alex, Phil Spector, their psychedelic dentist John Riley and their failed nemesis, Det Sgt Norman Pilcher.

From the bestselling author of Ma’am Darling comes a kaleidoscopic mixture of history, etymology, diaries, autobiography, fan letters, essays, parallel lives, party lists, charts, interviews, announcements and stories. One Two Three Four joyfully echoes the frenetic hurly-burly of an era. (Credit: HaprerCollins)

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan

Ava, newly arrived in Hong Kong from Dublin, spends her days teaching English to rich children.

Julian is a banker. A banker who likes to spend money on Ava, to have sex and discuss fluctuating currencies with her. But when she asks whether he loves her, he cannot say more than ‘I like you a great deal’.

Enter Edith, a lawyer. Refreshingly enthusiastic and unapologetically earnest, Edith takes Ava to the theatre when Julian leaves Hong Kong for work. Quickly, she becomes something Ava looks forward to.

And then Julian writes to tell Ava he is coming back to Hong Kong… Should Ava return to the easy compatibility of her life with Julian or take a leap into the unknown with Edith?

Politically alert, heartbreakingly raw, and dryly funny, Exciting Times is thrillingly attuned to the great freedoms and greater uncertainties of modern love. In stylish, uncluttered prose, Naoise Dolan dissects the personal and financial transactions that make up a life-and announces herself as a singular new voice. (Credit: Orion Publishing Co)

Ex Libris: 100+ Books to Read and Reread by Michiko Kakutani

For legendary literary critic Michiko Kakutani, books have always been an escape and a sanctuary, the characters of some novels feeling so real to her childhood self that she worried they might leap out of the pages at night if she left the book cover open. In Ex Libris, she offers a personal selection of over 100 works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry, with passionate essays on why each has had a profound effect on her life.

From Homer’s The Odyssey to The Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale to Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, Ex Libris covers a rich and vast range of classics, old and new, that will help build a well-rounded reader and citizen of the world. With gorgeous illustrations by lettering artist Dana Tanamachi that evoke vintage bookplates leafed between Kakutani’s inspiring essays, Ex Libris points us to our next great read – and proves an unmissable reminder of why we fell in love with reading in the first place. (Credit: HarperCollins)

The Book of Hopes: Words and Pictures to Comfort, Inspire and Entertain edited by Katherine Rundell

In difficult times, what children really need is hope. And in that spirit, bestselling author Katherine Rundell emailed some of the children’s writers and artists whose work she loved most:

‘I asked them to write something very short, fiction or non-fiction, or draw something that would make the children reading it feel like possibility-ists: something that would make them laugh or wonder or snort or smile. The response was magnificent, which shouldn’t have surprised me, because children’s writers and illustrators are professional hunters of hope… I hope that the imagination can be a place of shelter for children and that The Book of Hopes might be useful in that, even if only a little.’
This collection, packed with short stories, poems and pictures from the very best children’s authors and illustrators, aims to provide just that. Within its pages you’ll find animal friends from insects to elephants, high-flying grandmas, a homesick sprite, the tooth fairy, and even extra-terrestrial life.

There are 133 contributions from authors and illustrators, including Anthony Horowitz, Axel Scheffler, Catherine Johnson, Jacqueline Wilson, Katherine Rundell, Lauren Child, Michael Morpurgo and Onjali Q. Rauf. A donation from the sale of each book will go to NHS Charities Together, in gratitude for the incredible efforts of all those who worked in hospitals over the quarantine period. (Credit: Bloomsbury Children’s Publsihing)

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty

Diary of a Young Naturalist chronicles the turning of 15-year-old Dara McAnulty’s world. From spring and through a year in his home patch in Northern Ireland, Dara spent the seasons writing. These vivid, evocative and moving diary entries about his connection to wildlife and the way he sees the world are raw in their telling. (Credit: Little Toller Books )

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

On a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.

Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a kestrel and its mistress; a flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker’s son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written. (Credit: Headline Publishing)

Black and British: A short, essential history by David Olusoga

A short, essential introduction to Black British history

When did Africans first come to Britain?

Who are the well-dressed black children in Georgian paintings?

Why did the American Civil War disrupt the Industrial Revolution?

These and many other questions are answered in this essential introduction to 1800 years of the Black British history: from the Roman Africans who guarded Hadrian’s Wall right up to the present day.

This new children’s version of the bestseller Black and British by award-winning historian and broadcaster David Olusoga is Illustrated with maps, photos and portraits. (Credit: Macmillan Children’s Books)

The Ratline: Love, Lies and Justice on the Trail of a Nazi Fugitive by Phillippe Sands

In The Ratline Philippe Sands offers a unique account of the daily life of a Nazi fugitive, the love between Wachter and his wife Charlotte, who continued to write regularly to each other while he was on the run, and a fascinating insight into life in Rome and among American and Soviet spies active at the start of the Cold War. Using modern medical expertise, the door is unlocked to a mystery that haunts Wachter’s youngest child, who believes his father was a good man – what was Wachter doing while in hiding, and what exactly caused his death? (Credit: Orion Publishing Co) 

Island Dreams: Mapping an Obsession by Gavin Francis

In Island Dreams, Gavin Francis examines our collective fascination with islands. He blends stories of his own travels with psychology, philosophy and great voyages from literature, shedding new light on the importance of islands and isolation in our collective consciousness.

Comparing the life of freedom of thirty years of extraordinary travel from the Faroe Islands to the Aegean, from the Galapagos to the Andaman Islands with a life of responsibility as a doctor, community member and parent approaching middle age, Island Dreams riffs on the twinned poles of rest and motion, independence and attachment, never more relevant than in today’s perennially connected world.

Illustrated with maps throughout, this is a celebration of human adventures in the world and within our minds. (Credit: Canongate Books Ltd)

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! – An Animal Poem for Every Day of the Year illustrated by Britta Teckentrup

This lavishly illustrated gift book treasury of 366 animal poems – one for every day of the year – ranges from unforgettable classics to contemporary works from around the world, including poetry in translation. The spectacular range of poems for children includes work by Roger McGough, William Blake, Dick King-Smith, Ted Hughes, Grace Nichols, Lewis Carroll, Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson.

Britta Teckentrup’s breathtaking illustrations bring together all the richness and wonder of the animal kingdom, making this poetry anthology a perfect gift that will be treasured by generations. With sumptuous finishes including cloth binding, full colour illustrations throughout, textured paper jacket, ribbon marker, and head and tail bands. The perfect gift for any child or adult to treasure.

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