I am skipping my Top of the TBR post again this week, this time because all but one of the books I’ve added to my Goodreads TBR over the last week (and I’ll include that one outlier in next week’s post) have been Booker Prize titles. I’m sure by now everyone who’s interested in following the prize has seen the list, so I’ll try to keep it brief here and just stick to my own plans as far as what I’ll be able to read and review from the list in a timely manner.
I’m not even sure what to say about overall thoughts- my anticipation levels were so high just to see this prize list, and I’ve not read many of the titles or authors yet at all so I’m going to postpone making judgments. But I can say that other than My Sister, the Serial Killer (which I found so easy and fun to read and already appreciated as a nominee for the Women’s Prize earlier this year) none of the titles/authors longlisted this year really surprise me. I really loved the Man Booker longlist last year, as it pushed me to read so many books that I might not have gotten to yet (or at all) otherwise- The Water Cure, From a Low and Quiet Sea, The Mars Room, Everything Under, Normal People, Milkman, even The Overstory (which I didn’t love as a narrative but has forever changed the way that I think about trees)! Sadly, I don’t really expect to find quite as much enjoyment and discovery from the 2019 list, which looks more grave and ponderous to me. So maybe I’ll end up disappointed, but I do want to follow along as best I can anyway, because apparently I choose what I read based on curiosity rather than expectations of enjoyment. And so.
I’ve already read:
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. This was my first 5-star read of the year. It moves at a quick clip and is light and humorous on the surface, with enough thematic depth underneath to give the reader something to sink their teeth into. It’s entertaining, but not a throw-away story to read once and forget. I was delighted to discover how much texture Braithwaite was able to create in such a short novella-length piece; it really is the balance of light-hearted irony and heavier emotional impact (the sister bond! the feminist undertones! the difficult morals!) that so impressed me.
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli. Though clearly well-written, timely, and intellectual from the beginning, this marvel of fiction wasn’t solidified as any sort of favorite for me until I reached the second half of the story. Luiselli’s skill is readily apparent in the section told from the woman’s perspective, but the child’s perspective in the latter half combines that prowess in craft with a level of innocence and tragedy that (again) won me over with its balancing of opposites. I would say this one fits the “grave and ponderous” description for me, though I appreciated it enough that it is the only title I was sincerely hoping to see on this longlist.
On hold from the library:
Both Max Porter’s Lanny and Chigozie Obioma’s An Orchestra of Minorities were on my TBR before the longlist announcement; these two, plus Lanchester’s The Wall, seem to be the only longlisted titles I haven’t read yet that are also readily available in the US at this time. I was able to put library holds on all three books; I expect to read each of them in August. These were all titles that immediately caught my attention on the longlist- I’m not sure if I’ll end up loving the books as much as their synopses, but I’m glad I’ll be able to read them before the shortlist announcement in early September.
Ordered or pre-ordered:
I always enjoy Atwood’s writing, and appreciated The Handmaid’s Tale enough a few years ago that I pre-ordered The Testaments weeks ago; it’s set to release in September, about a week after the shortlist announcement. I’m honestly a bit disgrntled to see so many sequels/modernizations in this year’s longlist, as they sometimes require additional reading. (At least, I usually do prefer to read the original text first.) I am excited about Winterson’s Frankissstein appearing here though; I have already read (and loved!) Shelley’s Frankenstein, so I’m tentatively expecting this will be a good fit for me. Barry’s Night Boat to Tangier also looked too good to miss in its longlisted moment; I should be reading both Barry and Winterson in August, and Atwood in September.
I’m interested in Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, but don’t see any US release date for it (please correct me if I’m wrong, I’d really like to pick this one up!). For now… I have no definite plans of if/when I might pick this one up. Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport was at first a strong NO for me, at 1000+ pages and divided into only a very few sentences (I’ve seen claims for 1, 4, and 8 sentences, I’m no longer sure which is correct) it certainly seems daunting. But the more I consider this, the more intrigued I am to see how Ellmann pulls this off in a way worthy of a Booker Prize nomination, and I’ll almost definitely be picking up a copy upon its September US release to give it a try. I think my interest will hold long enough for this to happen even if it isn’t shortlisted. But the Rushdie, Quichotte, is less certain. Though I’m sure it’s a fine book that I’ll want to read eventually, I (unfairly) hate that it’s here simply because I want to read Don Quixote first and don’t see that happening (much less both books) this fall. Of course if it’s shortlisted or wins the prize I may feel differently, but for now I’m not expecting to read this before the winner announcement.
Levy’s The Man Who Saw Everything and Shafak’s 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in this Strange World sound only vaguely interesting to me right now. Both are authors I would like to read eventually, and if these titles were more readily available in the US I wouldn’t hesitate to pick them up. But I’m not excited enough about their synopses to buy them, and sadly it doesn’t look like they’ll be available in the US prior to the winner announcement so I’m just not sure I’ll be able to pick them up. If they’re shortlisted, I might try harder to get my hands on them, but for now, I’m not making any definite plans.
Right now I’ve read 2 longlisted books, and am planning to read 5 more before the shortlist announcement and 1 after. Barring unforeseen disasters, I’m expecting to read 8 longlisted books for sure. I’m also tentatively hoping to read a 9th (Ducks, Newburyport) during the shortlist stretch, regardless of the shortlist. But I’ll probably post some sort of update around the time of the shortlist announcement, so I’ll check in again with my longlist progress and shortlist plans in early September!
Are you planning to read any of the Booker Prize nominated books?
The Literary Elephant