Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Booker Prize shortlist 2008

The Man Booker Awards shortlist for fiction

Aravind Adiga for The White Tiger

Sebastian Barry for The Secret Scripture

Amitav Ghosh for Sea of Poppies

Linda Grant for The Clothes on Their Backs

Philip Hensher for The Northern Clemency

Steve Tolz for A Fraction of the Whole

I am half way through A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Tolz and it's one of a kind I must say. And a first novel. I still plan to read the Sebastian Barry book and Linda Grant's The Clothes on Their Backs. From the longlist I have read A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif and The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser, both excellent stories. I will read From A to X because I fell in love with John Berger's writing the first time I read him. Then Joseph O'Neill's Netherland, and possibly the rest of them.

Quoted from The International Herald Tribune:

John Sutherland, who has twice been a judge for the Man Booker literary prize, wrote in The Financial Times that "If The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie doesn't win this year's Man Booker I'll curry my proof copy and eat it."

Oh oh.

The first chapter of Rushie's book is available to read online at the New York Times

The Man Booker Prize winner will be announced on October 14th, 2008.

I follow all books awards for the kind of fiction I read simply because it alerts me to books I might not hear about otherwise. So many novels come out each month that it's hard to keep up. Some get a lot more press than others too, those are the ones you hear about constantly. I never relinquish my own instincts though because who knows better than me what I like. In writing reviews my own tendency is toward shortness, almost a brief synopsis and a rating. Unless it's a reviewer's copy because publicity agents expect more. But I enjoy not knowing about anything that's going to happen in a story when I read. I want all the little shocks, twists, and heartbreaks to surprise me, like life itself. The problem with that is you can't waste time reading anything and everything and you can't totally trust a review. Reviewers can be paid to do it, may know the author, have an agenda of their own, such as advancing their reputations, (or blogs), or even have books of their own to promote. They can be uninformed about some subjects or elements of a story or about the author's body of work and the kind of writing they're reviewing. And like all of us reviewers are imperfect and have biases, for or against certain subjects, styles etc.

I judge by who wrote it, what else have they written, where does the story take place, what time period, which culture etc. In other words, will it interest me. Until my personal alarm goes off. Terms such as "bestselling" ,"gritty", "saga", "romance", "sexual obsession", or blurbs with exclamation marks are warning signs for me. They may not mean absolutely not but they give me serious pause. I'm sure we all have some and they'll be different for each one of us. I have read novels when all I knew was " it's about elephants","Vanessa Redgrave really liked it", or "it's written by a medical doctor". I was not disappointed. " The critics tore it apart" will make me more curious. A close friend who knows your tastes is nice to have but not always available to read and screen out the dreck for you.Ultimately any review, or blurb, is still only "one man's opinion". The trick is to find reviewers with similar tastes, keep an open mind, then trust yourself.

If you have any opinions on any of these books, we'd like to hear from you.


  1. I have not read any of the books but enjoyed reading your opinion on reviews and reviewers. At work we read a lot of audio books and I get them from the library and its so weird to hear the different reactions to the same book. Some loved it. Some hated it. Some wont read English authors.Some dont like books that are funny... [Spinster]

  2. Hey, I really like your blog (came via a comment you left on Kristine's blog)! So what's your favourite Booker book so far? I'd like to hear your thoughts, I'm trying to decide which books I'll read this autumn...
    I'd love to read 'A case of exploding mangoes' but it didn't enter the shortlist... :(

  3. Fancy meeting you here, Stefania. :-)

    I still loved "A Case of Exploding Mangoes," though I can't get my hands on many of the other shortlisted books.

    Loved your comment about the keywords that turn you off of books. I hear the movie guy's voice in my head when I see those words: "best-selling," "world-renowned author," "romance," and "James Patterson." If I see "banned book," I'm on it.

    Thanks for being a new visitor to my blog... you and your opinions are most welcome.



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