The Man Booker longlist

Thanks so much for all your suggestions on 1990s books – I will reply soon, and there are lots I haven’t read. If you thought that was unusually modern for Stuck-in-a-Book, then brace yourself for this: the Man Booker longlist. Granted it was announced some time ago, but I’m not one for keeping my finger on the pulse…

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, Joshua Ferris (Viking)
The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan (Chatto & Windus)
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler (Serpent’s Tail)
The Blazing World, Siri Hustvedt (Sceptre)
J, Howard Jacobson (Jonathan Cape)
The Wake, Paul Kingsnorth (Unbound)
The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell (Sceptre)
The Lives of Others, Neel Mukherjee (Chatto & Windus)
Us, David Nicholls (Hodder & Stoughton)
The Dog, Joseph O’Neill (Fourth Estate)
Orfeo, Richard Powers (Atlantic Books)
How to be Both, Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton)
History of the Rain, Niall Williams (Bloomsbury)

I usually steer clear of Booker winners. I’ve only read three from the past decade, and all of them were underwhelming (The Sense of an Ending, The Finkler Question, and The Line of Beauty) and in fact I gave up halfway through two of them – but sometimes the shortlists and longlists bring up more intriguing titles.

When the longlist was announced, the editors of Shiny New Books had a fun conversation about it – I think you’ll enjoy reading it, especially if you like my cynical moments – and I hadn’t read any of them (unsurprisingly). I had heard of nearly all of the authors, though, which is a sign of what Shiny New Books has done to me.

After that, though, I did read Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, and reviewed it for SNB. It was good. But it wasn’t any better than good. I don’t understand by what criteria it made this list. Intriguing.

Have any of you read any of these, or want to? I’d like to read the Nicholls, and that might be it…

17 thoughts on “The Man Booker longlist

  • August 28, 2014 at 8:10 am
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    I might read a Booker winner – but not because it's a Booker winner, if you see what I mean. I'll read it because it appeals. I've borrowed two from the list from the library – the Fowler books and the Hustvedt one.

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    • August 29, 2014 at 9:29 pm
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      I think winning the prize is more likely to put me off than anything… but I have vaguely intended to read something by Hustvedt.

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  • August 28, 2014 at 8:13 am
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    I think that Siri Hustvedt is always interesting. I rarely read prize winners until years later, if ever, but I'd make an exception for her.

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    • August 29, 2014 at 9:33 pm
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      I had one of her books once, but I think I gave it to a friend… (how intellectual!)

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  • August 28, 2014 at 8:48 am
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    I agree with you, have always much preferred the longlist to what ends up on the shortlist. Have been underwhelmed by many of the winners, but can usually find something interesting in the lists.

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    • August 29, 2014 at 9:34 pm
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      I do think that's where the quirkiest books are – I should trawl through old longlists and see!

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  • August 28, 2014 at 9:36 am
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    Well Simon, although I usually read rather more old books than new/modern books – I do read a few modern books from time to time. Infact I put ne books on my kindle – I tend to buy older books a nd lovely new re-prints. So I have ended up with lots of new books on my kindle – they make it too easy – and so I am making myself read one or two new books each month so my expenditure won't have been in vain. Anyway as I do usually take quite a bit of interest in the Booker longlist and have read all but 9 of all the winning books. This year I put We are all Completley Besides Ourselves and The Blazing World on my kindle. I had high hopes of the Siri Hustvedt as I enjoyed what I loved a very long time ago. I managed 18% and gave up – I rarely do that. The list underwhelms me this year – and it might be the year I don't even read the winner – which will mean I can call a halt to my Booker project and not read those I have left which I don't much fancy anyway.

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    • August 29, 2014 at 9:34 pm
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      All but 9 of them EVER? Wow! That's impressive.
      I can't think of any winners I've read that I really love – but Possession was very good.

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  • August 28, 2014 at 4:14 pm
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    I might consider Howard Jacobson – but I really don't often read modern fiction and if I do it tends to be of the quirky type. So I don't think this list is for me at all……. :s

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    • August 29, 2014 at 9:35 pm
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      The Finkler Question was unfinishable, to my mind… I found it so ordinary and dull, and nothing that made it worth continuing. And also not at all funny, which apparently it was supposed to be!

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    • August 29, 2014 at 11:25 pm
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      The Finkler Question was very tough going, a wonderful sense of place in Jacobson' s London, but really hard work and fairly unlikable.save yourself the bother.

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  • August 28, 2014 at 5:47 pm
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    I read We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves last year and really loved it. I don’t know what makes a “Booker” book, but I highly recommend that one. I thought it was funny, well-paced and very moving ultimately.

    I also read The Blazing World for a reading group last month. It is an impressive book, full of imagination and ideas, but I can’t say I loved it. But I would read more from Hustvedt, for sure.

    I will definitely read the Bone Clocks as soon as it is released in the U.S. I loved Cloud Atlas and I liked Ghostwritten.

    For the other long listed books, I will just wait and see if circumstances put them in my hands (such as multiple recommendations from trusted sources or reading group choices). I have read about a dozen Booker winners, both by accident and design and I have pretty much enjoyed them all with the exception of Amsterdam by Ian McEwen.

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    • August 29, 2014 at 9:36 pm
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      Gosh, that really surprises me, Ruthiella! I don't know what I missed with WAACBO. I didn't dislike it by any means, but would never give it any big accolade.

      I haven't read that McEwan, but I do find him very variable.

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  • August 28, 2014 at 8:56 pm
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    I'm happy to learn that I'm not the only person underwhelmed by the Booker lists! However, I recently read and enjoyed The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Lovely, harrowing novel. Anna

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    • August 29, 2014 at 9:37 pm
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      I know very few book-lovers who aren't a bit dubious about the list, at least! The list in general, I mean, rather than this one specifically.

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  • August 30, 2014 at 8:41 pm
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    I'm not that impressed by the longlist so far, I have to say. I've read the Karen Joy Fowler, and like you, I thought it was good and enjoyable, but worthy of a prize? Definitely not. There was nothing particularly special about it in my mind. To Rise Again at a Decent Hour was abysmal – awful New York pseudo intellectual navel gazing. I did think The Blazing World was very clever and thoughtful and could see why it was nominated, but I didn't love it. I feel like I've done my duty in taking an interest in modern literature so I will stop reading the list now. I can't honestly see there being anything better than a Barbara Pym or a Dorothy Whipple! Last year's shortlist had some good books on it, but nothing I'd want to read again or would treasure forever. I think prizes tend to be a sign of unreadability rather than readability these days!

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  • October 10, 2014 at 5:40 am
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    Underwhelmed over here, but I tend not to like Bookery books. Midnight's Children, Possession and The Sea, The Sea, but haven't read many others as far as I know. No desire to read any of these – I like Jacobson's one about table tennis but otherwise he writes the same book and characters over and over again.

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