Barnes & Noble Book of the Year 2020


Barnes & Noble, Inc., with bookstores in every state across the United States, today announced that booksellers chose Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments as the winner of Barnes & Noble’s 2020 Book of the Year.

Barnes & Noble asks its booksellers to nominate the book they are most proud to sell. There is no further criteria. Last year, an obscure book called The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by the British author, Charlie Mackesy, was voted for by the booksellers. It became a bestselling book nationwide. One year later, it is still in the bestseller lists and is regarded to be a publishing sensation.

This year, booksellers have again voted for a book with which every reader is sure to fall in love. World of Wonders is published by Milkweed Editions, a nonprofit literary press based in Minneapolis who publishes eighteen to twenty-two new titles each year.

“The magpie eye of the bookseller cares nothing for algorithms or marketing budgets. It cares only for the quality of the book. In a year of brilliant publishing, this luminous and joyous book has been acclaimed by our booksellers,” said CEO James Daunt. “World of Wonders is a captivating book, immensely powerful in the quiet way with which it celebrates the natural world and what it is to love and to belong. The beautiful writing is complimented by lovely illustrations in what is a celebration also of the art of book design. I join the booksellers of Barnes & Noble in recommending unreservedly this very special book.”

In World of Wonders, Aimee Nezhukumatathil writes of the natural world as she remembers, of creatures and things of wonder. In so doing, she illuminates her childhood and creates a form of biography that is lyrical and absorbing. An acclaimed poet, Aimee Nezhukumatathil has crafted a very unusual work that is inspiring and uplifting, a book to be treasured.

Author Aimee Nezhukumatathil had this to say about winning this year’s award: “Having World of Wonders chosen as the Book of the Year is an astonishment for this former hapless chemistry major who wandered the aisles of Barnes & Noble in college in a big city—my first time away from home. Barnes & Noble was a refuge and a place where I could immerse myself in books and get my questions about this planet answered. It is not lost on me that I barely saw any books about the outdoors by someone who looked like me so I’m especially humbled and honored that the booksellers made a space for me at the table.”

“When World of Wonders first arrived in my inbox, I had a strong sense that we were on to something very special,” added Daniel Slager, Publisher & CEO, Milkweed Editions. “The world needs this book now. The world needs Aimee’s inclusive vision and singular light. Kudos to Barnes & Noble for elevating her voice!”

Barnes & Noble booksellers from around the country nominated their top books from 2020, which were then narrowed down to eight titles by a selection committee, including Mr. Daunt. World of Wonders was then voted on by booksellers as the 2020 Book of the Year. Here is what Barnes & Noble booksellers had to say about the winner:

World of Wonders is a love letter to the natural world. At times educational, at others a fervent discussion of the wonders of earth. Poet and essayist Aimee Nezhukumatathil blends both a personal and global account of nature’s beauty—I fell in love with the author’s beautiful language and clear love for the environment.”
Bookseller Laurel Faye, Newnan, Georgia

“A lyrical meditation on the ways the author has learned important life lessons from the astonishing and varied creatures we share our planet with. This book made me feel anchored in the natural world in a really beautiful way.”
Bookseller Margie Harris, Rochester Hills, Michigan

“This isn’t the dry and stuffy nature writing essayist that you were forced to read in college. No, this ecologist’s take on the natural world is more akin to lyrical prose with social commentary and pop culture references laced throughout. Relevant and inspiring Aimee Nezhukumatathil reminds us once again why nature is so absolutely amazing and beautiful.”
Bookseller Mike Otero, Huntersville, North Carolina

The other Book of the Year Finalists were:

  • Accidentally Wes Anderson by Wally Koval
  • Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
  • Pieometry: Modern Tart Art and Pie Design for the Eye and Palate by Lauren Ko
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi
  • Untamed by Glennon Doyle
  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
  • Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May

Customers can find the Book of the Year and Book of the Year Finalists at their local Barnes & Noble and on They can also join the conversation on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook, using hashtag #BookOfTheYear.