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Waterstones calls on 25-year-old booksellers to champion shortlist for Winner of Winners Award

27 April 2023

To mark the 25th anniversary of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, six young Waterstones booksellers are championing the Winner of Winners Award shortlist ahead of the winner announcement on Thursday 27 April.

The Winner of Winners Award is a one-off award which marks 25 years of the prize. As part of the anniversary celebrations, the prize in collaboration with Waterstones has called on booksellers who are around the same age as the prize to champion the shortlisted works and make a case for reading non-fiction.

With subjects ranging from Shakespeare to The Beatles, the Paris Peace Conference and the Sackler Dynasty, to North Korea and climbing Everest; the shortlisted works from former prize winners Craig brown, Wade Davis, Barbara Demick, Patrick Radden Keefe, Margaret MacMillan and James Shapiro showcase the best of the prize’s 25-year history.

The young booksellers, each assigned a title from the Winner of Winners shortlist, were asked about their lives, connection to Waterstones, and non-fiction favourites.


Craig Brown (UK) - One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time (4th estate, HarperCollins) - 2020

Hope, 25, grew up in Rugby, Warwickshire. She worked at her local library and studied English at Royal Holloway, University of London before joining the Waterstones head office Fiction and Non-Fiction teams. Now a ‘big fan of non-fiction’ Hope explained how The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson was the first non-fiction book that made an impression on her. This text, which she read at university, made her realise ‘that non-fiction could be as propulsive and creative as fiction’.


Patrick Radden Keefe (US) - Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty (Picador, Pan Macmillan) - 2021

Elizabeth, 25, was born in Birmingham and grew up in Halesowen. She is a junior bookseller at Waterstones – Merry Hill, where she has worked since 2019. She explained that she recently ‘got into’ non-fiction, and likes anything ‘about plants, mushrooms and insects, as well as medical memoirs, feminist topics and on-edge missions’. The non-fiction text that got her into the genre was Madhouse at the End of the Earth by Julian Sancton, which she described as ‘engaging and story-like to read’.


Margaret MacMillan (Canada) - Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed The World (formerly Peacemakers: Six Months That Changed The World) (John Murray Press, Hachette) - 2002

Siena, 23, grew up in Hampshire and works as a bookseller in Hatchards. A self-proclaimed ‘fan of non-fiction’, Siena studied International Politics at university and spent much of her time reading political and historical texts. On graduating, she’s been ‘reading non-fiction to “catch-up” on what [she’s] missed’ and is starting to ‘reintroduce and enjoy reading non-fiction again’. The first non-fiction book to leave an impression on her was In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, which she read when she was 17. She explained how ‘it shifted [her] perception of non-fiction genres’ and is book she goes back to ‘again and again’.


Barbara Demick (US) - Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea (Granta) - 2010

Ben, 25, grew up in a small village near the Cotswolds and is an Area Commercial Support and Events Coordinator at the Waterstones Oxford branch. He has been reading non-fiction ‘for as long as [he] can remember reading books’, which he says was due to the proximity of a great library, which he visited every week. The earliest non-fiction book to make an impression on him was the DK Encyclopaedia he read as a child (‘if reference counts as non-fiction writing’), of which he remembers being ‘overwhelmed by how much information there was to learn about such a variety of topics’.


James Shapiro (US) - 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare (Faber & Faber) - 2006

Eve, 25, joined Waterstones in 2014 as a bookseller and now works as Commercial Strategy Support at the head office, where she supports the wider team with key titles and seasonal campaigns. She has always had an interest in non-fiction but ‘found a real love for it’ whilst studying for her degree. The Romanovs by Simon Sebag Montefiore, which at the time was Waterstones book of the month, was the first book to make her ‘fully appreciate the power of non-fiction writing’. She described how the book ‘made [her] realise that the real world could be as exciting as the fictional stories [she] had grown up with’.


Wide Davis (Canada) - Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest (The Bodley Head, Vintage, Penguin Random House UK) – 2012

Beatrice, 25, grew up in Malvern and now lives in Cheltenham where she works as a Senior Bookseller at Hatchards. She is currently undertaking a PhD in Ecolinguistics, enjoys a range of non-fiction, ‘especially nature writing’, and describes herself as a ‘multi-book-at-once type of gal’. She describes how as a child she spent ‘hours and hours reading the Horrible Histories/Horrible Science collections and got intensely fascinated by fungi and lichen’, but that the first ‘proper non-fic literature’ text to make an impression on her was The Fat of the Land by John Seymour, which has ‘always occupied an enormous place in [her] heart and mind’.

While the judges Jason Cowley, Shahidha Bari, Sarah Churchwell and Frances Wilson re-read the shortlist ahead of the final meeting, followers of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction will be hearing from these young readers about what makes these books compelling reads.