ManBooker2016 long list announced.
And so it begins: that annual ordeal when I vow to attempt to read all 13 books before the winner is announced (this year on 25th October – the short list is announced 13 September).
Paul Beatty (US) – The Sellout (Oneworld)
J.M. Coetzee (South African-Australian) – The Schooldays of Jesus (Harvill Secker)
A.L. Kennedy (UK) – Serious Sweet (Jonathan Cape)
Deborah Levy (UK) – Hot Milk (Hamish Hamilton)
Graeme Macrae Burnet (UK) – His Bloody Project (Contraband)
Ian McGuire (UK) – The North Water (Scribner UK)
David Means (US) – Hystopia (Faber & Faber)
Wyl Menmuir (UK) -The Many (Salt)
Ottessa Moshfegh (US) – Eileen (Jonathan Cape)
Virginia Reeves (US) – Work Like Any Other (Scribner UK)
Elizabeth Strout (US) – My Name Is Lucy Barton (Viking)
David Szalay (Canada-UK) – All That Man Is (Jonathan Cape)
Madeleine Thien (Canada) – Do Not Say We Have Nothing (Granta Books)
Some years I’m closer to success than others, and most years you can pretty much guarantee that I’ll have chosen not to – or at least not yet gotten around to reading, the eventual winner. This wouldn’t be so bad, but I have to admit once those thirteen weeks of Booker are up, I got cold turkey and loose all interest in anything Booker. What does that mean? Well it means I have still not read Marlon James – A Brief History of Seven Killings (2015 winner) or Richard Flanagan – The Narrow Road to the Deep North (2014 Winner) – the latter being the ONLY book from the 2014 long list I had not completed before that year’s winner was announced. I took that one personally. I know good friends who have read both and say both were worthy winners but I’ve had no desire to find out (as yet).
In reality it usually means reading quite a few books that are good, without being great. It also means I can be:
- annoyed that doing this exercise meant that I ever had to read and endure, Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh (2008);
- angry that Howard Jacobsen’s – The Finkler Question won in 2010. It shouldn’t even have made shortlist in my opinion (but I say that whilst at the same time championing his wonderful 2014’s shortlisted J);
- perplexed as to how Donal Ryan’s The Spinning Heart failed to make the 2013 shortlist;
- thankful that I got to read Paul Kingsnorth challenging, inventive (and occasionally annoying) The Wake (2014)
I do actually look forward to this time of the year and feel that level of anticipation that just around the corner is a book to take my breath away.
On the task of actually trying to get through the long list I have often said my ideal long list would feature be books of no more than 300 pages max, ideally around 250 pages. This would make the reading challenge reasonable. Clearly this never happens, and there are usually at least a couple of 700 pages plus books in the list, and there is a temptation to try and get those out of the way first – not always a wise move, as if these books drag on it can drain you of the will to continue with the whole challenge.
But wait. This year’s longest book… AL Kennedy 528 pages … average number of pages per book for the long list … 318 pages …
That is close enough to the top end of my magic number page scale to make this year’s challenge more than doable. Maybe work our way in easily and start with the mino, and the 160 pages of The Many by Wyl Menmuir?