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Issue 1783 (PDF)
The student newspaper of Imperial College London

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Waterstones Book of the Year 2021 Shortlist

For nearly a decade now, the UK’s favourite bookseller has taken upon itself the task of nominating a so-called ‘Book of the Year’. Many British bookworms view this list as a benchmark of literary value, or at the very least a straightforward way to know which novels are worth their time. We hereby present you with the ‘Book of the Year 2021’ Shortlist, as decreed by Waterstones:

Around The World In 80 Plants Cover


in Issue 1783

1) Around the World in 80 Plants by Jonathan Drori

Beautiful illustrations by Lucille Clerc accompany this volume, that is part coffee table book, part short story collection. Biographies of 80 different plants take the reader on a journey across the globe, through history, and into the intricacies of how the environment shapes cultures and folklore.

2) The Appeal by Janice Hallett

Easily in my personal top 5 ‘books of the year’, The Appeal is a classic murder mystery told entirely through emails, text messages, and other correspondence. Epistolary novels have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their innovative storytelling approach. Hallett combines this technique with charming twists and suspense that will keep you reading into the late hours of the night.

3) Julia and the Shark by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Although a children’s book at heart, this illustrated novel touches on mature themes of mental health, generational trauma, and environmental awareness. Its prose also has a lovely lyrical nature, which adds to the whimsical feel of the book.

4) Greek Myths by Charlotte Higgins

Higgins follows in Stephen Fry’s footsteps, by retelling ancient Greek myths to a contemporary audience. Her innovation comes in the decision to put female goddesses and heroines at the heart of each story, bringing a new perspective to a classic collection of tales.

5) Klara and the Sun Kazuo Ishiguro

Admitting on the Adam Buxton Podcast that he knows nothing about science, Ishiguro’s work focuses more on the ‘Fi’ aspect of Sci-Fi – and in the case of Klara and the Sun, on the human aspect of the AI revolution. The novel explores themes such as the relationship between humanity and technology, and the concept of ‘soul’, in a way that feels fresh yet familiar.

6) Storyland: A New Mythology of Britain by Amy Jeffs

It seems Waterstones is partial to an illustrated book. Instead of Greek, Roman, or Norse, Amy Jeffs chooses British mythology as her subject matter. From prehistoric times to the Middle Ages, she reimagines stories that are deeply ingrained into British culture and argues their significance in the present day.

7) The Lyrics by Paul McCartney

Donning the largest price tag of the list, this series of two hardback books is an intimate look into McCartney’s career. Each song is accompanied by photographs, anecdotes, and self-reflections. A must-have for any Beatles fan if you’re willing to cash out £75.

8) Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson

This debut novel set in Southeast London is very relevant to modern times. A love story about belonging, about race, and about a city that can make or break you; all in a mere 150 pages.

9) You Are A Champion by Marcus Rashford

Self-help books are not for everyone – and even more so when they are written by sportspeople. That being said, Rashford is more than an international football star: he is also an advocate fighting for the rights of disadvantaged children. The aim of his book is to inspire and empower young activists.

10) Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Yet another title following this year’s apparent trend: mythology. The Greek tale of Theseus, Ariadne, and the Minotaur is gorgeously retold by a debut British voice. Oh, and did I mention the stories are once again reimagined from the female perspective?

11) They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

It’s rare for a YA novel to get a Goodreads rating above 4.0. Adam Silvera tells a tender story of love and loss, all while spoiling the ending on the front cover. A bold move.

12) The Amur River by Colin Thubron

One of the greatest British travel writers embarks on a journey following the course of the mysterious Amur river, the natural border between Russia and China. Beautiful storytelling makes the faraway landscapes come to life, as Thubron touches on politics and sociology.

13) British Museum: A History of the World in 25 Cities by Tracey Turner

Yes, yet another illustrated book...Turner’s volume contains gorgeous maps of 25 major cities in the past and present, exploring human civilisation and culture throughout the years. Is the title a dig at how the British Museum mainly contains artefacts stolen from other parts of the world? One can only wonder.

Open Water Cover
Ariadne Cover

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