Waterstones 11

In the UK the bookstore chain Waterstones is something of a legend, it is also a company that is undergoing some big changes in the time of online shopping and the *cough* e-reader. One initiative that they came up with last year was the ‘Waterstones 11’ which what the eleven top debut authors to look out for in 2011, now they have brought it back for 2012 and it is rather an intriguing list.

I have said that in 2012 I will be reading more of the books from the never ending pile of reading delights that makes up the TBR. In terms of modern fiction I am probably going to steer away from all the prize long lists (and quite possibly the shortlists, we will see) this year, this list however is one I am going to be keeping in mind and on the reading periphery in the main because it is debut novels but also because after having gone off and found out more about them it is a really mixed and varied list. Here it is for you in detail…


The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan (William Heinemann)
Absolution by Patrick Flanery (Atlantic)
Shelter by Frances Greenslade (Virago)


The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (Fourth Estate)
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (Headline Review)
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (Doubleday)


The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen (Chatto & Windus)
Signs of Life by Anna Raverat (Picador)
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan (Virago)


The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (Simon & Schuster)
Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles (Harper Press)

I am certainly not going to say that I am going to read them ALL, for a start The Art of Fielding is a book I have seen everywhere and yet with its baseball theme really doesn’t float my fictional boat at all. Sorry. However, I have three of them already (in italics) and I am certainly intrigued by ‘Shelter’, Iand I think that ‘Care of Wooden Floors’ had me at the title which is odd as I wouldn’t think it was a very me one if I am honest. ‘The Panopticon’ also sounds particularly bonkers and Dan of Dog Ear Discs has raved about ‘The Lifeboat’ which he has got early. I have heard from Novel Insights who was at the event and apparently she has got me a sampler of all of them so I can find out more. I have noticed though lots of them aren’t out right now, or for quite some time, maybe they will be released early?

Have you heard much pre-release mention of any of these? Is there a title which you are particularly looking forward to? Do you like the idea of bookstores promoting books like this? Which debut novel coming out in 2012 would you have popped on the list that may be missing?


Filed under Book Thoughts

47 responses to “Waterstones 11

  1. I can vouch for Age of Miracles, and Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is on my list.

    I urge you to give Art of Fielding a try. I’m not into baseball *at all* but I still loved it. Just go down to your nearest Waterstone’s (can’t bring myself to leave out the apostrophe yet), find a comfy chair andread the first chapter. If it doesn’t grab you, it’s not or you.

    Btw, did you know that for several years I worked for Waterstone’s here in the States? At various points I was the buyer for the Boston location, and then for their airport stores. Waterstone’s will always hold a special place in my heart and during my two trips to the UK I loved hanging out in their stores.

    • Ooh when ever you or Ann comment on here I feel a bit like royalty has arrived! Hahahaha.

      I had no idea that you worked for Waterstones or that it had come to America, I know there is one in Brussels, who knew. Was it a good company to work for?

      I went to Waterstones this lunch on your word (we have two here, I went to the souless one) and slight fail as they didn’t have Art of Fielding for me to try! Whoops! I will try it if I see it.

  2. ‘The Land of Decoration’ sounds fantastic. can’t wait for that one to come out. I’ve also already placed ‘The Snow Child’ on pre-purchase with the good ole’ Book Depository. I left England 8 years ago and I still miss Waterstones. Nice to hear it’s still going strong!

    • I have The Snow Child on the bedside table am debating when just the right mood will overtake me with it. I like the sounds of The Land of Decoration too… Ok I like the sound of pretty much all of them!

  3. I heart Waterstones! There is a HUGE one in Leeds that I always make sure I have a couple of hours to browse and sip coffee and (of course) buy 🙂

    I can heartily recommend The Snow Child – it is an amazing book!

    • The Snow Child keeps getting nearer the top of the bedside table pile so who knows when I am going to read it but it should be soon. We have a great Waterstones in Manchester on Deansgate but a horrid clinical one in the Arndale Centre which I almost (yes note almost) refuse to go into!

      • I used to frequent the Deansgate one. I always started there and then popped round the corner to St. Anne’s Square to pop into Dillons (has that gone now) and The Disney Store! Bumped into Gail Platt there one day (thought I’d share that one with you – she wasn’t carrying a book nor a Waterstones or Dillons bag, so she went down in my estimation at that point!)

  4. gaskella

    I’ve got three in my pile already – Snow Child, about which I’ve only heard big praise, The Land of Decoration, which sounds brilliant, and likewise the Rachel Joyce book. The Will Wiles has a brilliant title, but as I’m only reading from my TBR until the end of March I’ll wait and see with the rest.

    I love the idea of the Waterstones 11, and received a copy of the sampler last year. However with the sampler, I only flicked through it – finding sample chapters too tantalising a thing – I didn’t want to get hooked and then not have the book there to read the rest.

    • Ooh I’m jealous your The Land of Decoration already. Not that I can talk with some of my early ones too ha!

      I am puzzled that they have announced this list but most people can’t get them yet. I was wondering if maybe it is it to build up some hype. I only hope people don’t forget these books as some of them aren’t out for so long.

      • Jon

        Hi there. I work at Waterstones and worked on the Waterstones 11, so can clear up on why the books aren’t out. It’s so any title can be submitted. If we said they had to be out when we announced the list, that would eliminate many titles from consideration, as while I am sure some pub dates may be moveable, most would not, and so our selection would lose its integrity. We will support each title as it is released so people won’t forget!

      • Jon

        Oh, and give The Art of Fielding a go – don’t worry about the baseball stuff (although the baseball stuff is fantastic). It’s a hugely enjoyable read. And don’t miss the Age of Miracles – my personal favourite on the list. Beautiful writing.

      • Thanks Jon for your info, I think Kim has asked a few more questionsa bout the initiative below, so maybe take a gander at that (sorry I can’t reply to your comments personally the feed doesnt let you that many times.

        I get you want any title to be submitted that makes sense, I just think the wait is a bit odd. Its like doing a book club list without the titles being available until a day before each discussion. Thats my only tiny little thing about the list which as I hope you can see overall I am very excited about.

      • Oh and I tried to find a copy of The Art of Fielding yesterday in both Manchester stores, none were available which I thought was a bit odd. Maybe they sold out on the news?

  5. Janet D

    The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan is the one which intrigues me. There is so much out there about The Snow Child that I want to wait for it all to die down and then I will consider whether to buy it.

  6. Yep. I am a big fan of The Lifeboat (thanks for the nod, Simon). My review can’t go live until March but it’s a great book full of tension and suspense. It’s a book that makes you question what you would do in difficult situations. It’s very dark.

    I can also vouch for Harold Fry and The Snow Child. Both are very sweet and wonderfully heartwarming stories.

    I’ve got my eye on Wooden Floors, Land of Decoration, Art of Fielding and Panopticon from the list. I love how varied the list is. Bravo to Waterstones for picking 11 very deserving authors.

    • I have wondered about reading ahead and early reviewing and don’t know what to do about it. Not just with the books I have in the WS11 but also in general. Will I remember them when they come out? Anyways, random ramble over…

      Pleasure to give you a nod for The Lifeboat as you recommended it to me and so it would be unjust not to mention your raving, not ranting… Just raving.

  7. Louise

    The only book from this list that interests me is The Snow Child, and I’ll be following the author too. Last year, Pigeon English, When God Was a Rabbit, and the Tiger thingy (blonde moment) was on it, those three books I didn’t like it at all. I’m really trying to stay clear of lists this year, and stop being so heavily influenced by bookstores and prizes…I looked at my reading last year, and a large percentage of books I had read came from lists etc, so this year I’m doing my own thing (she says while wondering what’s on the Tv Book Club and R&J this year)….

    • Did you not like When God Was A Rabbit? I loved that. I am glad I read Pigeon English but I certainly dont think it deserved all the hype and praise it got. To me it was more a very good YA book than a book that could contend for some major prizes. I have just receiebed In Darkness by Nick Lake which I thinksounds like Pigeon English but set in Haiti. Should be interetsing. The young narrator is definitely back in favour.

      I didn’t likeThe Tigers Wife at all, the whole thing didnt work for me, glad to see i am not completely alone as lots of people loved it, like the Orange Prize judges.

      I like this list and the TV Book Club and R&J lists this year… danger, danger.

  8. David

    Simon, don’t let the baseball theme put you off ‘The Art of Fielding’. I know nothing about baseball and as a rule don’t like sports, but the book is about so much more than that – it’s a big-hearted wonderfully readable character-driven novel and I can’t recommend it enough.
    I already have the Canadian edition of ‘Shelter’, bought last year before I knew there was going to be a UK one, though I haven’t read it yet. The other one I’m very interested by is ‘Absolution’.
    To be honest the ‘Waterstone’s 11’ was something I was only vaguely aware of last year since I seldom go in their stores. My local one is Deansgate in Manchester and it saddens me every time I go in there – so bland and chain-store-ish compared to my student days when Robert Topping was the manager and browsing there was a joy.

    • David

      Hmm… just read the first 30-odd pages of ‘Shelter’ and don’t know whether to continue or not. It’s not bad by any means (very readable in fact) but I don’t feel it is offering anything particularly new and it feels a bit inconsequential. Perhaps I should try it again in a few weeks? Alas, I’m having one of those day where I start several novels but can’t really get into any of them because the book I just finished was so good and is still occupying my thoughts (Alex Miller’s ‘Journey to the Stone Country’, a feast for the mind and senses).

      • Oh we all have those days where books we start aren’t quite right for now. I had this the other week with the latest Ali Shaw novel, I love his writing but I just wasn’t quite at one with it – if that makes sense. I am jealous you have an early copy of ‘Shelter’ what made you get it in advance?

        Alex Miller just doesnt seem to do it for me and I dont know why. I have tried and failed his books twice.

        Oh and I had no idea you were in Manchester, so am I!

    • Hmmm because you, Michael and Jon from Waterstones have told me I should give it a whirl I will endeavour to. I was trying to get a copy in both the Waterstones in Manchester but alas they didnt have any yesterday, maybe they have sold out.

      I have to disagree with you on Deansgate store, I really like it. I am not such a fan of the Arndale one which seems really clinical and souless. I love the Deansgate one it reminds me of the ones I used to go to as a kid when visiting Waterstones was a huge treat!

      • David

        I bought the Canadian edition of ‘Shelter’ as I’m a bit of a CanLit fan (about a quarter of the novels I read last year were Canadian) and Frances Greenslade was one of Random House Canada’s “New Faces of Fiction” for 2011, an initiative that has launched a number of wonderful authors over the years (Alexi Zentner, Mary Lawson, Matthew Hooton, David MacFarlane, Gail Dargatz-Anderson, Anne Marie MacDonald, Yann Martel and many others) so I usually take a chance on them.

        The Alex Miller novel I’d had for about ten years and only dug out as a result of the Australian Literature Month – it was the first time I’d read him and I was just blown away by the sense of place, the poetry of his writing and the depth of the characters and relationships. As a result I’ve ordered three more of his novels and I see he has a new one out in a few months so I think I’ll be reading a lot more of his work this year.

        You’re right of course, Deansgate is far nicer than the Arndale store which is just horrible. As bookstores go it isn’t bad, I just remember going in pretty much every lunchtime when I was at uni (MMU doing illustration/animation) in the mid-late 90s and it was such a treat. What made it special is that it was run very much like an independent (which is I think what got Robert Topping fired) with their own quarterly magazine (Stet) and staff who were vastly more knowledgeable than they seem to be in there now (they seldom looked anything up – they just seemed to know what book you were talking about, no matter how obscure). And they always had a full bookcase of US imports compared to the handful that are dotted around on their shelves now. It’s still a good shop, but with the staff all in their Waterstone’s tops and 3-for-2 offers dominating the tables, it doesn’t seem as unique anymore.
        Then there was Sherratt & Hughes in St Anne’s Square which eventually became another branch of Waterstone’s (then WHSmith, and now I think a mobile phone shop) and had a very different flavour, and Dillons was wonderful too.

  9. Jo

    Another must read of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, from this corner of the UK. I recently reviewed it on my blog. Though the book is not out until March I believe.

    Lists are a good way of sometimes grabbing readers attention to new authors and books, and I am more than happy to give them a go. I think it Is a good thing for Waterstone’s to be doing – hopefully make them slightly less like a supermarket of the book world, if that makes sense. However I always enjoy my trips in their, so does their till as well!

    • I have Harold Fry on the TBR and its is calling to me but I am always a bit funny about reading books a little too far in advance. I have heard a lot of good things about it!

      I agree with what you are saying about lists grabbing books attention and this one has certainly grabbed mine.

  10. I’ll have to look further into Panopticon! The title alone gets my literary/philosophy-loving heart racing.

  11. Quite a few people seem to be urging you to give The Art of Fielding a try. Just to throw in (is that a pun?) a counter-weight, it was given a bit of a slating on Radio 4’s Saturday Review. Not just for the baseball either. One of the panel remarked on a rather over-long description of striking (another pun? is strike a baseball term? ) a cigarette. I wont be rushing out to read it myself, but it’s up to you.

    Also, I thought the Waterstones 11 was about 11 books for 2011, so should there not be 12 books on the list this year? Admittedly that would be a bit awkward if the promotion is still running two decades from now: the “32 for 2032” neither trips off the tongue nor would it be that easy to take from the shop in one go, unless by then … no, I’ll stop there before I mention the “e” word and you get upset!

    • Hmm its nice to hear a differing view on The Art of Fielding. I will simply have to try some of it (and I believe the lovely Polly of Novel Insights has got me one of the sample books) and see how I go.

      I like the oddness of eleven, it seems a good number. Plus like you said 32 books in 2032 might be a bit much, and I do hope that the initiative keeps going until then… and beyond.

  12. I posted about this today… I don’t know how they choose this list — it’s all a bit mysterious. Do publishers pay to be considered? Who chooses? And why is it so white?

    • I have no idea Kim but maybe, just maybe, Jon who commented above can answer some more questions as he seems to have had some involvement.

      I hadn’t noticed the lack of diversity of the list until I just popped and saw your post. I am playing other blog catch up today on and off so will comment more then.

  13. Well I don’t much like Waterstones and have entered and rapidly exited from a number of their large stores in recent months without taking much interest in what is on offer. I am especially cross at the way they took over Dillons in Gower St (London) and in my opinion rather ruined it, particularly in the non-fiction departments (science and computing in particular). Sorry I’m really not a fan!

    • Each to their own DP. I am quite a fan, not of the newer ‘clinical’ ones, more of the ones in old converted buildings (the one in an old bank in Birmingham is great, as is Deansgate in Manchester) so I like them as bookshops when they are more oldy worldy.

      I had forgotten about Dillions. Blast from the past.

      • I have only recently been into branches in London, Oxford & Edinburgh so I am pleased to hear your positive views about the ones you mention in Birmingham and Manchester. The next time I am in those cities I’ll see if they are more to my taste.

  14. The Snow Child, The Snow Child, The Snow Child! Though it has nothing to do with it being listed at Waterstones, to be honest. I just have been wishing to buy this book ever since Ana first mentioned it.

    • Ha, I have put the Rachel Joyce on the bedside table (as you might see from my new post today) but I might swap it for The Snow Child as it is out sooner. We will see, it looks great though I am reading some wonderful, wonderful, wonderful adult fairy stories at the moment in a debut collection by Lucy Wood valled ‘Diving Belles’ which I wouldnt wnat to confuse these with.

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  16. bland too english ,all the best stu

  17. Mimannee

    My book group were lucky enough to get a pre-release copy of ‘The land of decoration’, and having not heard anything about the author or the book we had no idea what to expect and felt as if we were thrown in at the deep end. It was quite refreshing though to read a book having not encountered any hype or reviews!
    We thought it was a great book, parts of it reminded us of ‘When God was a rabbit’, probably becasue it evoked those feelings of childhood. The book was very readable, although quite dark and very sad in places, but there were also some great characters who added some lightness to the novel.
    I can’t wait to see what bloggers and critics have to say about it as we really want to see how far off the mark we were with our review!

    • It’s kind of nice to have that ‘thrown in at the deep end’ feeling with a book isn’t it. Believe it or not that is why I skim blurbs, I just want a vague idea, and avoid reviews of books I might have pulled off the shelves because they ‘look quite me’ because I don’t want to know too much.

      This isn’t always a good thing i grant you but sometimes it really works and adds to a book.

  18. Hello Mr Savidge,

    I used to write for the same blog (www.londonist.com) as Will Wiles and am thrilled to see his debut novel included in this list. He’s a great writer and has one of the sharpest minds I’ve ever encountered. One of the first things he did was this blog: http://thisisntlondon.blogspot.com/ – a collection of untrue facts about London, which is worth a delve – some gems in there.

    • Well hello Mr Dawson, long time no speak.

      I had no idea you knew Mr Wiles or that you had written for a blog with him – how odd!! I shall go and have a gander.

      Hope all is well with you and yours?

  19. Although I am on a year-long book buying ban, I will have to bookmark this page for future reference. Several of the titles have piqued my interest… I am quite taken by the cover of The Panopticon.

    • I feel for you, I really do. I did a year long book buying ban and it was hard, hard, hard work. Good luck with it. Contact me if you ever need some support or words of encouragement… or tips lol.

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