Booker Prize Other

Who will be longlisted for the 2014 Booker Prize?

The longlist for the 2014 Booker Prize will be announced on Wednesday 23rd July 2014. This year the rules have been changed to allow American authors to enter for the first time. No-one knows quite how this will affect the longlist, but I’m sure it will change the dynamics a bit. It also means that a wider pool of books are eligible, making a prediction of the longlist even harder.

For the past few months I’ve been scouring the Internet for signs of Booker potential and have chosen 13 books which I think are strong enough to make the grade.

My predictions for the 2014 Booker longlist:

Dept. of SpeculationThe Narrow Road to the Deep NorthThe Blazing World

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt

The Bone ClocksThe Paying GuestsThe Goldfinch

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Signature of All ThingsThe OrendaEvery Day is for the Thief

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole

The Emperor WaltzArctic SummerBoy, Snow, BirdFourth of July Creek

The Emperor Waltz by Philip Hensher

Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

What do you think of my prediction?

Which books would you like to see on the longlist?

Update 21st July: I’ve just realised that The Shock of the Fall was originally published under a different title, earlier than the Booker cut off date, so have swapped it for Fourth of July Creek in my prediction. 

Booker Prize Uncategorized

Eleanor Catton wins the 2013 Booker Prize!

The Luminaries

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton has just won the 2013 Booker Prize!

I’m very pleased. It wasn’t quite to my taste, but it deserved to win and I correctly predicted it would last week. It is always wonderful when the best book wins…I only wish I’d put a bet on!

Booker Prize Other

Who will win the 2013 Booker Prize?

This year’s Booker prize has been different from previous years. There were no literary heavy weights guaranteed a place on the shortlist; no book that stood out above the rest before the longlist was announced (mainly because the best books hadn’t even been published then!) I especially enjoyed the pre-longlist discussions as no-one could agree who deserved a place on the list. This meant that the debates were far more interesting than in previous years when the choices seemed obvious. It also meant there was none of the vicious “It’s a travesty that (insert name of well known author)  wasn’t longlisted!” Anyone could win and trying to decide who should was an interesting and rewarding experience.

I have now sampled all the books on the Booker shortlist and am impressed by the literary talent on display. They weren’t all to my taste, but the judges have done a fantastic job of selecting books that really are among the best published in the last 12 months.

Here are my brief thoughts on the shortlisted books:

We Need New Names

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

Five words from the blurb: shanty, Zimbabwe, mischeif, dreams, challenges

We Need New Names begins with a compelling account of a child growing up in a Zimbabwean shanty town. The voice was distinctive, believable and heartbreaking. Unfortunately I found the book deteriorated as it continued. The second half was good, but lacked the originality and the magic spark of the opening. I can’t see this winning the Booker, but NoViolet Bulawayo is an author to watch and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.



Harvest by Jim Crace

Five words from the blurb: village, outsiders, fire, witchcraft, scattered

Harvest is a beautifully written book that vividly depicts life in a small 18th century English village. It contains themes of belonging and power; weaving them with biblical symbolism to create an impressive, but frequently slow narrative. The plot was too meandering for me, but it had literary depth hiding beneath its deceptively simple plot. I suspect this one will be in the top two and the judges will have an interesting debate about whether or not to award it the title. In the end I suspect it will be pipped at the post.


The Lowland

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Five words from the blurb: Calcutta, childhood, tragedy, rebellion, transformed

The Lowland is the story of two brothers who grow up in Calcutta. One becomes politically active, whilst the other moves to America to pursue a career in science. The book is beautifully written and contains some poignant scenes, but it failed to hold my attention. I think it would benefit from being shorter, but perhaps I’m just tired of immigration stories? I don’t think this book is bold or original enough to justify a Booker win, but judging panels sometimes work in mysterious ways!


A Tale for the Time Being

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Five words from the blurb: diary, girl, tsunami, change, life

A Tale for the Time Being is an ambitious novel that combines Japanese surrealism with atmospheric Canadian fiction and quantum physics. It didn’t quite work at the end, but I admired the ambition and found the reading experience very enjoyable. I don’t think this book is polished enough to win the Booker, but it was the shortlisted book that I most enjoyed reading and it deserves a wider reading audience than it has had so far.


The Testament of Mary

The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín

Five words from the blurb: grief, lost, myth, religion, lifetime

The Testament of Mary is a novella about the mother of Jesus Christ. It is a bold, powerful and angry account of Mary’s life after Jesus’ crucifixion. I normally love this sort of dark, emotional writing, but unfortunately I couldn’t connect with Mary and so didn’t care about her story. This book appears to divide opinion so I think it is unlikely to get unanimous agreement from the judges. I see it sitting comfortably in the middle of the list.


The Luminaries

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Five words from the blurb: New Zealand, crimes, vanished, historical, mystery

The Luminaries is a massive book, both in terms of scope and size. It is a beautifully written story of murder and intrigue set during New Zealand’s gold rush. Unfortunately it was too slow for me, but I think the writing quality and vision of this book mean that it is heads and shoulders above the other contenders. I would be surprised if The Luminaries didn’t win the Booker Prize this year.

logo_book_peopleAll six books from the Booker Shortlist can be bought as a set from The Book People for just £30 – a saving of £65.94 on buying them individually!*



*Full Disclosure: I love The Book People and frequently buy books from them. It is for this reason that I agreed to promote the above set in exchange for a book from their site. 

Who do you think will win the Booker Prize?

Do you agree with my prediction?




1990s Booker Prize

How Late It Was, How Late – James Kelman

 Winner of the 1994 Booker Prize   

How Late It Was, How Late is set in Glasgow and follows Sammy, who wakes up in the gutter after a night of heavy drinking to discover that his shoes have been stolen. He gets into a fight with some plainclothes policemen (“sodjers”) and ends up in a police cell. Badly beaten, he wakes to discover that he is blind and so begins the difficult task of learning to live without his sight whilst also trying to avoid being blamed for a crime he knows nothing about.  

I started off hating this book. The stream of consciousness writing style combined with frequent swearing and the Glaswegian dialect meant that I had trouble connecting with it, but I persevered and slowly became used to the writing style. I found that if I read it in large chunks then I could immerse myself in the Glaswegian dialect and the bad language became a natural part of the conversation.   

Plus ye couldnay quite predict what they were up to, the sodjers. So he was gony have to go careful. So fuck the drink there was nay time, nay time, he had to be compos mentis. Whatever brains he had man he had to use them. Nay fuck-ups. The things in yer control and the things out yer control. Ye watch the detail. Nay bolts-from-the-blue. Nayn of these flukey things ye never think about. Total concentration. 

After about 50 pages I was amazed to find that I started to like Sammy – I began to feel sorry for him and even found some of the book funny.   

It wasn’t an easy read – the book flipped forwards and backwards in time and sentences were often left without an end. It took me a long time to read this book and there were several points at which I nearly gave up. Very little happens and the middle dragged. I think that if the book had been 200 pages shorter then I’d have appreciated it a lot more.

This book is packed with symbolism and I’m sure it could benefit from multiple re-reads. I’m glad I glimpsed Sammy’s life, but I’m not sure I’d want to read about him again.

Recommended to fans of literary fiction who enjoy reading about the darker areas of society.

Did you enjoy How Late It Was, How Late?

Do you recommend any of Kelman’s other books?

2010 Booker Prize

C – Tom McCarthy

Short listed for 2010 Booker Prize

C begins in 1898 with the birth of Serge Carrefax on an estate in Southern England. Serge’s father runs a school for deaf children, but also has a passion for radio communication. This leads Serge to become a wireless radio operator, initially working on spotter planes in WWI and after the war on an archaeological dig in Egypt.

The book initially felt like a piece of historical fiction, but it quickly became much more than that. The text contained layers of philosophy and symbolism that added to the richness of the story, but also left me feeling as though I was constantly missing out on relevant snippets of information.

The book was packed with fascinating details about everything from radio communication to silk production:

The transmitter itself is made of standard brass, a four inch tapper arm keeping Serge’s finger a safe distance from the spark gap. The spark gap flashes blue each time he taps; it makes a spitting noise, so loud he’s had to build a silence box around his desk to isolate his little RX station from the sleeping household – or, as it becomes more obvious to him with every session, to maintain the household’s fantasy of isolation from the vast sea of transmission roaring all around it.

I loved most of these details, but there were times when I felt that too many were included and the book lost its emotional connection to me.

The plot was quite simple and easy to read on a sentence-by-sentence level, but there were points when I completely lost interest – it was a real chore to read some of the chapters. Luckily the book always seemed to pick up again and I was especially impressed by the WWI section – the descriptions of life in a spotter plane were particularly vivid.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book, but I think fans of literary fiction who like re-reading/studying books will love discovering all those extra layers of symbolism. For this reason I think it has a very high chance of winning the Booker prize, but then yesterday I was saying David Mitchell would win – so what do I know?!!

Literary blogs love this book:

C is the best novel I’ve read in a long time… Biblioklept

It teems with relevance and reference… Asylum

….but I could not help feeling that academics would be paying a lot more attention to this novel than most readers do. Kevin From Canada

…the multiple ideas and the play go on throughout the book and tie together with satisfying insights. The Mookse and the Gripes

Booker Prize Other

The Booker longlist 2009

The standard of writing on the longlist this year was outstanding. I was very impressed with the books chosen, and although I enjoyed some more than others, I felt that every single one deserved it’s place on the list.

Unlike in previous years, when I have occasionally wondered what on Earth those Booker judges were doing, this year I have enormous respect for them. They have chosen an amazing selection of books and I was very pleased to discover some wonderful new authors.

The 2009 Booker longlist, ranked by my rating
(Note: This is no reflection of the writing quality, just how much I enjoyed reading them)

The Wilderness – Samantha Harvey stars51

Heliopolis – James Scudamore stars4h

How to Paint a Dead Man – Sarah Hall stars4h

The Glass Room – Simon Mawer stars4h

The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters stars4

Brooklyn – Colm Tóibín stars3h

Not Untrue and Not Unkind – Ed O’Loughlin stars3h

The Quickening Maze – Adam Foulds stars3h

The Children’s Book – A. S. Byatt stars3h

Summertime – J.M. Coetzee stars3

Love and Summer – William Trevor stars3

Me Cheeta – James Lever stars1 (DNF)

Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel stars1 (DNF)

Deciding which books to put on the short list is going to be a very hard decision for the judges this year. The standard of the writing is incredibly high.

There were four books that stood out for me though. I am certain these four will make it onto the short list:


The final two places are harder to decide. I think it will come down to a choice between these four:


I really don’t know how the judges will make up their minds, but if I had to guess then I think the Booker short list will look like this:


The Booker short list is announced on 8th September.

Do you think my predictions will come true?

Which books do you think will make it onto the short list?

Which book from the long list was your favourite?