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Barnes & Noble Names Their 2021 Book of the Year

Kelly Jensen


Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

Barnes & Noble named eight books as their finalists for Book of the Year in October. The third annual “Book of the Year” award is given to a book by the booksellers working across company stores, and they’ve announced this year’s winner: The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present (Two Volume Set) by Paul McCartney.

“The Lyrics is an extraordinary book. It is stunningly beautiful and a masterpiece of book design,” said Barnes & Noble CEO, James Daunt. “Paul McCartney has fashioned, through the explorations of his songs with the poet Paul Muldoon, a fascinating insight into his life and creative genius. No wonder the booksellers of Barnes & Noble have hailed this magnificent and deeply original book.”

Green image featuring the cover for The Lyrics, as well as a few open page spreads. there is gold text on the left side reading "Barnes & Noble Book of the Year."

Through the lens of 154 songs across all of the stages of his career, the collection showcases McCartney’s art and life in a way never seen before. It’s an insight into who he is as a person and his creative process over the last 65 years. Readers who love the Beatles will want to pick this book up, as will anyone with an interest in music history or pop culture since the 1960s.

“I’m beyond honored to receive this recognition. My team and I are extremely proud of The Lyrics and it means so much to us that you all like it as much as we do,” said Paul McCartney to Barnes & Noble officials.

The “Book of the Year” designation launched in 2019, is a chance for those working with books and readers to highlight favorites of the year that may or may not be seeing the same honors elsewhere. The first winner of the “Book of the Year” honor was Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and The Horse, which was an otherwise little-known title. The book launched its way to the top of the bestsellers list, where it has remained since, and it’s sold over 400,000 copies and Barnes & Noble alone.

World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil was the 2020 winner of the award, a huge win both for the book and its small press, Milkweed.

“We are ecstatic and extremely honored that The Lyrics has been selected as the 2021 Barnes & Noble Book of the Year. It’s a magical match of a legendary songwriter, who has cherished the written word his entire life, and a great bookseller that is devoted to serving America’s thriving book culture” said Robert Weil, Editor-in-Chief and Publishing Director of Liveright Publishing.

under the whispering door book cover

This year, in addition to naming Lyrics as the Book of the Year, Barnes & Noble employees also chose to honor a book as the Speculative Fiction Book of the Year. The honor goes to TJ Klune’s Under The Whispering Door.

“We are this year also naming a Speculative Fiction Book of the Year, in celebration of the massive bookseller and customer enthusiasm for the category and especially this year for TJ Klune’s Under the Whispering Door,” said Shannon Devito, Director of Books, Barnes & Noble. “Championed passionately by our booksellers since its September publication, Under the Whispering Door is a charming, big-hearted book with a little comfort and a lot of hope making it the must-read book this year. We find ourselves in the wonderful position of honoring them both.”

Though both of the winners this year are by white men, the slate of finalists offers a much broader array of outstanding, bookseller-approved inclusive books across genres and formats.

Want to hear more about The Lyrics from McCartney? Tune in tonight, November 18, 2021, to Barnes & Noble’s YouTube channel for a live discussion between McCartney and CEO Daunt at 7 pm Eastern.