By Brodie Mckenzie, Grace Briggs-Jones and Emma Baigey
Waterstones have released their winners for Book, Author and Children’s Book of the Year 2022. With a shortlist featuring amazing reads like Babel, Heartstopper Volume 1, The Marriage Portrait and Otherlands, there was much speculation about which one could boast being Book of the Year 2022. This article we take a look at the winners, including Debut Novel of the Year announced earlier this year, and why you should definitely pick up a copy of each – as soon as possible!
Waterstones awarded Katy Hessel’s The Story of Art Without Men the coveted title of Book of the Year 2022. Previous winners include Sally Rooney’s monumentally successful Normal People, as well as Greta Thunberg’s thought-provoking, history-making collection of speeches, No One Is Too Small to Make A Difference. Recounting a female-focused global art history, The Story of Art Without Men is an essential work of literature: informative, ground-breaking and clever. What’s more, the look of the book itself is just as good as its content – the beautifully crafted hardback has a wonderfully intelligent cover that just blew us away. A signed special edition is also available now. Kate Skipper, COO (Chief Operating Officer) of Waterstones, says: “Our booksellers championed The Story of Art Without Men from the start. It is a must-have for any booklover’s shelf: as essential as it is enjoyable. Written with wit and ease [and] packed full of beautiful illustrations, [it] can be devoured in one-sitting or dipped into at a whim. This is a book which will be prized for years to come; a feast for the senses, as well as the mind.”
Snagging Author of the Year is Bonnie Garmus, whose debut novel Lessons in Chemistry was published in April 2022 when Garmus herself was sixty-four. Garmus is a Creative Director and Copywriter, hailing from California and living in London. Lessons in Chemistry introduces a zany protagonist, Elizabeth Zott, who is a frustrated scientist living in a conservative 1960s America. Throughout the novel, Elizabeth leads a subtle but powerful feminist revolution through her television cookery show. The work is an astounding, hilarious piece of art. Well deserved, Bonnie.
Children’s Book of the Year goes to the hotly anticipated Skandar and the Unicorn Thief, a magical world full of courageous heroes and warrior unicorns. This is the first book in the Skandar fantasy adventure world, perfect for fans of Percy Jackson and Amari. The story revolves around thirteen-year-old Skandar Smith who must hatch, train and bond with a unicorn in order to fight a dark and twisted enemy who steals the island’s most powerful unicorn. With an abundance of five star reviews and people describing it as "enthralling" and "compulsively readable" it is easy to see how this book has taken the top spot and the coveted Children’s Book of the Year award. The sequel, Skandar and the Phantom Rider, is already available to pre-order and will be available in April 2023.
Last but by no means least, Waterstones awarded the Debut Fiction Prize 2022 to Tess Gunty for her bewitching novel The Rabbit Hutch. Sarah Ditum summarised it as “a story of love, told without sentimentality; a story of cruelty, told without gratuitousness.” Gunty has mastered the art of writing a compulsive page-turner with true depth; the narrative is revolving around an affordable housing complex in a post-industrial town in Indiana. Both the town and its unique characters are neglected by the state and bear the brunt of gentrification and poverty; Gunty herself heralded books as a way of spotlighting those "neglected" and otherwise invisible in her acceptance speech. The novel lays bare the dark consequences that this can have on those most vulnerable and the endless cycle of destruction it can lead to. Yet, amidst the hardships and dereliction, we follow one tenacious teenage girl overcoming all of the obstacles thrown in her way. With keen observation and understated wit, The Rabbit Hutch confirms that there is hope, and that it lies in honest human connection, or as Gunty puts it: "Attention is the most sacred resource we have." Waterstones’ Head of Fiction, Bea Carvalho, summed up the novel as “an exquisite, triumphant book which at once recalls the very best of the contemporary canon, while remaining fiercely original and innovative.”
With strong competition the winners of this year’s Waterstones awards have really made their mark, each for varying different reasons. Whether you want to dive into an insightful women filled art book, take a peek at 1960s relationships through the eyes of a single mother, get lost in a fantasy land full of unicorns and death-defying battles or become gripped by a story of love, poverty and resilience; this year’s winners have a little bit of something for everyone and are truly deserving of their titles.