Pullman’s new book, La Belle Sauvage (Penguin Random House Children’s and David Fickling Books) earned praise from the chain as “an unmissable journey from one of our greatest authors”. Philip Pullman is also the current President of the UK Society of Authors.
It is accompanied by another YA title on the seven-strong shortlist, from Costa Prize-winning author Frances Hardinge: A Skinful of Shadows (Macmillan) conjures up a dangerous world where ghosts struggle for power against the darkening backdrop of the English Civil War.
Saunders’ debut Lincoln in the Bardo (Bloomsbury), meanwhile, featuring ghosts against the backdrop of the American Civil War, is the only debut novel on the shortlist. Waterstones called it a “striking” book that had been “widely praised for its originality and humanity”.
In non-fiction, economist Yanis Varoufakis’ brief history of capitalism, Talking to My Daughter About the Economy (The Bodley Head), made the cut, as did former Chatto editor Jenny Uglow’s “elegant and rich” biography, Mr Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense (Faber & Faber).
Two children’s picture books round off the shortlist: Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris’ “spell-binding and unique” The Lost Words (Hamish Hamilton) celebrating the natural world, and Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo (Particular Books). The latter reinvents fairy tales with the stories of 100 extraordinary women and was shortlisted after making “an unprecedented impact this year: opening up a dialogue between girls and boys of all ages”, according to Waterstones. It added, “It is a book that will be recommended for generations to come”.
James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones, said the books were all “jewels” in what had been a relatively quiet publishing year.
“This has been a quiet year of publishing, quiet not in quality but in the absence of bestseller thunder,” he said. “This brings out the best in our booksellers who in their magpie way have picked out all manner of jewels. They have given us a shortlist of variety and great quality, and as usual a few real discoveries. Whilst we are not alone this year to find that a vote can spring a surprise, ours is a wholly satisfying result.”
The title named Waterstones Book of the Year will receive the committed backing of Waterstones shops and booksellers across the UK, as well as support online and through its Loyalty Card programme, which reaches one million readers.
The Waterstones Book of the Year 2017 will be chosen by a Waterstones panel headed by James Daunt and will be announced on Thursday 30th November.