Waterstones chooses books of the year 'for a better, kinder world'

Greta Thunberg’s speeches and surprise hit The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse have together defined 2019, say booksellers

With the UK in the throes of a divisive election campaign and scientists warning that we are in a “planetary emergency”, Waterstones has chosen two titles that “call for a better and kinder world” as its books of the year.

After nominations from staff, a panel at the country’s largest book chain picked Charlie Mackesy’s illustrated call for love, friendship and kindness, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, as book of the year, and Greta Thunberg, author of No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference, as author of the year. Both choices, said bookseller Kate McHale, are “testament to the extraordinary power of books to move and shape us”.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse follows the titular characters as they explore the meaning of the important things in life. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” asks the mole. “Kind,” replies the boy. “What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever said?” asks the boy. “Help,” says the horse.

Mackesy’s publishers originally planned to print 10,000 copies but increased the print run to more than 200,000 within two weeks when it became a surprise Christmas hit.

Kurde, a bookseller at Waterstones Horsham, called it “beautiful in sentiment and look, the type of book you buy, then think who to give it to and end up keeping yourself”, while Nia at Waterstones Cardiff said that it “shows that love towards yourself and others is the only thing that truly matters in our hectic world”.

Greta Thunberg sits next to a placard reading “school strike for climate” at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in January 2019.
Greta Thunberg at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in January 2019. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

Thunberg’s collection of speeches was called a “rallying cry for the protection of our planet” and “one of the most influential books of 2019” by the chain. Bookseller Anna, from the Putney branch, said she didn’t think “there is a more important or powerful book than this one this year”, while Dave at Exeter felt it was “inspiring young people to change the world for the better”.

The shortlisted titles also included Candice Carty-Williams’s Costa-shortlisted debut novel Queenie, Margaret Atwood’s Booker-winning The Testaments, and Robert Macfarlane’s Underland. Waterstones said that nominations for both winners had been “singularly passionate, reflecting the strength of feeling towards two quite different books that have together defined 2019”.

“On the one hand we have the urgent message of No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference, from an author who has encapsulated and magnified the immense public concern over the climate crisis. On the other, the consoling beauty of The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, an exquisite book that captures a yearning for a kinder world,” said the bookseller.

Contributor

Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Black Lives Matter novel wins Waterstones children's book of the year
The Hate U Give, by US author Angie Thomas, has been praised as an extraordinary achievement

Sian Cain

22, Mar, 2018 @8:00 PM

Article image
Waterstones prize winner Elle McNicoll: ‘I never saw autistic girls in books’
The author was repeatedly told that no one wanted to read fun books with disabled heroes. Now she has won the £5,000 Waterstones children’s book prize for her debut, A Kind of Spark

Alison Flood

01, Jul, 2021 @5:01 AM

Article image
‘Utterly joyful’ Look Up! wins Waterstones children's book of the year
Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola’s picture book about a science-mad young black girl trying to distract her brother from his phone takes £5,000 award

Alison Flood

29, Jul, 2020 @11:01 PM

Article image
Waterstones children's book prize goes to 'mesmerising' debut adventure story
Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Girl of Ink and Stars praised for ‘good, old-fashioned storytelling’ that recalls Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials

Danuta Kean

30, Mar, 2017 @7:00 PM

Article image
Waterstones children's prize shortlists reflect readers' search for hope in anxious times
Book awards highlight titles providing optimistic perspectives on tough social problems that experts say are hitting youngsters’ mental health

Danuta Kean

08, Feb, 2017 @2:10 PM

Article image
Maggie O'Farrell's 'wonderful' Hamnet declared Waterstones book of the year
Historical novel depicting the death of Shakespeare’s son from plague has already won this year’s Women’s prize for fiction

Alison Flood

02, Dec, 2020 @12:01 AM

Article image
Waterstones set to open five new branches this year
Managing director James Daunt says company is ‘making good money’ and has plans to open a further 10 to 15 shops in 2018

Alison Flood

27, Nov, 2017 @3:32 PM

Article image
Waterstones defends minimum wage in year of record profits
Bookselling chain’s chief executive James Daunt says he fears ‘going bust’ and that paying entry-level staff more would betray ‘basic principle’ the business runs on

Richard Lea

27, Feb, 2020 @4:16 PM

Article image
Waterstones living-wage protesters leave bookselling
As the UK chain’s owner prepares to take over Barnes & Noble, the staff who had pressed for better pay say they resigned due to low wages

Alison Flood

10, Aug, 2019 @5:00 AM

Article image
La Belle Sauvage chosen as Waterstones book of the year
Managing director James Daunt says staff showed overwhelming enthusiasm for Philip Pullman’s return after 17 years to the world of Northern Lights

Richard Lea

30, Nov, 2017 @6:01 AM