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Prizes Round-Up: Winners of the Booker Prize and Waterstones Prizes of the Year

By Jamie Fowler, Grace Briggs-Jones, Benedetta Giordani, Maria Sadek


For those new to the literary scene, The Booker Prize is one of the pinnacle titles an English fiction writer can achieve during their career, as the shortlist is always filled with striking, breaking-boundaries novels. On the other hand, The Waterstones Prizes of the Year reward books voted by the community for the community.

The winner of this year’s Booker Prize 2023 is Prophet Song by Paul Lynch. Esi Edugyan, Chair of Judges, said “Lynch pulls off feats of language that are stunning to witness. He has the heart of a poet, using repetition and recurring motifs to create a visceral reading experience.” Prophet Song is exhilarating, confrontational and propulsive, offering a devastating vision of a country at war and a deeply human portrait of a mother’s fight to hold her family together in a society on the brink. It has been heralded by Colum McCann, author of Apeirogon, as “a book that has shaken me so intensely…[and] stands entirely on its own.” Others have called it “monumental,” “the work of a master novelist,” and “one of the most important novels of this decade.” If you haven’t read it yet, then what are you waiting for!

The Waterstones Novel of the Year 2023, was awarded to In Memoriam by Alice Winn. This marks two prize wins for Winn’s novel this year from the bookshop chain, as it also took home Waterstones’ Debut Fiction prize in August. By trade, a screenwriter, Winn has brought a cinematic quality and twenty-first-century invigoration to her first foray into novel writing, penning an epic romance that is threatened to be ravaged by the bloodshed of WWI.

In Memoriam sees Henry Gaunt, Sidney Ellwood, and their classmates studying at a boarding school in the English countryside in 1914. Gaunt and Ellwood are grappling with their feelings for one another, not knowing that their love is reciprocated. As war beckons, they find themselves thrust alongside their friends from the safety of their school to the violence of the trenches, where death could take them from each other in an instant. Finding moments of profound solace and beauty that are encroached upon by the horrors and tragedies of war, Winn has begun their novelistic career with a poignant and affecting debut, earning its right to be Waterstones Novel of the Year.

Waterstones has also recently announced Katherine Rundell's Impossible Creatures as Book of the Year for 2023. Chosen by booksellers as the book they enjoyed recommending the most this year, Impossible Creatures is the first instalment in a new fantasy series. The book tells the story of Christopher, a boy who discovers the Archipelago, a cluster of magical islands where mythical creatures live. When the borders between the non-magical world and the Archipelago start to thin out and a girl named Mal comes into Christopher's life, the two children embark on an adventure across the islands to uncover the truth.

Rundell has been compared to Tolkien and Pullman for her inventiveness, and her books are loved by readers of all ages. A fellow of All Souls College in Oxford, she has already won the Waterstones Children's Book Prize in 2014 for her book Rooftoppers and has written several award-winning books for both children and adults, including The Wolf Wilder, The Explorer, and Super Infinite. Her books for children have been translated into more than thirty languages, a testament to her captivating style and appeal to readers around the world.

Waterstones also announced their Gift of the Year Prize, which was awarded to Murdle by G.T. Karber. What started as a viral online game has become a bestselling immersive gift and instant phenomenon that sees players use logic, clues, interviews and illustrations to solve over a hundred crimes from the comfort of their own home! The puzzles are described as utterly addictive and would make a fantastic stocking-stuffer this Christmas for all your friends and family who consider themselves to be the next Hercule Poirot!

Our joy in presenting you these award-winning books is to share some insight stories behind those books, share with you new readings that might have escaped your radar and could fit you, or one of your relatives: we hope that one of these joys will find a warm spot on your bookshelf. Happy New Year of readings!


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