The Booker long list has been subjected to a lot of criticism this year. I was under the impression that it gets attacked every year, but a bit of research revealed that people may get upset that a favourite book hasn’t made the cut (eg Solar in 2010) or criticise the inclusion of an individual book (eg Me Cheeta in 2009) but they don’t seem to attack the entire list in the way they have this year.
When announced this week, the general reaction was bemusement, both by its inclusions and its omissions. Telegraph 2011
Much has been made of the fact that several of the judges have written thrillers in the past:
This Booker prize is too much of a thriller. Guardian 2011
But the long list doesn’t include anything I’d recognise as a thriller. In fact I wish that a complex, multi-layered thriller had made the cut as I haven’t been thrilled by anything I’ve read on the long list so far this year.
I think the main reason people are upset about the 2011 long list is because many of the choices lack any “literary” element. The judges have a more populist taste than in previous years and chair of the judges, Stella Rimington, admitted on Radio 4’s Front Row, that their aim was to choose books:
“that people would both read and enjoy reading”
This sounds like a good plan, but the problem is that the publishers won’t have submitted their most enjoyable, readable books. The Booker is about finding the best quality books published each year - the ones that will stand the test of time and reveal more with each re-read.
Waverton Good Read Award
If you want to find the best fiction of the year, the perfect book to take away on holiday with you this Summer, then I highly recommend browsing the selections made by the Waverton Good Read Award. This award is judged by a whole community of ordinary readers and year after year they select a wonderful range of intelligent, but gripping reads. They haven’t put a foot wrong with their 2011 short list and the only book I hadn’t heard of (The Breaking of Eggs by Jim Powell) has just gone straight on my wish list. The point is that none of these books are likely to have been submitted for the Booker and so they will have been looking for enjoyable books amongst a pile of miserable, but worthy selections.
What should the Booker do?
The Booker should provide lots of food for thought. The long list should be packed with books that question the way we see the world, create lively debate and have so many layers that Professors can spend years analysing every paragraph. I’ve attempted to read half the long list and so far the greatest success has only managed to mildly entertain me. I hope that the remaining books have more depth and that they can select a winning book that does more than just entertain the reader for a few days on their Summer holiday.
Do you think the Booker should be enjoyable?