The Novel Reader’s Fear of the Booker Prize

Man Booker 2O14 - lilac for facebookI have a confession to make – book prizes terrify me. As the autumn closes in and long-lists crawl out from under the woodwork I start to panic. You see book prize long-lists are like zombified TBR piles and the Booker prize is the worst of the bunch.  Every autumn, the long-list is released – etched out on stone tablets and delivered to the reading population with the good news that ‘these’ are the must-reads of the season.

Great! Except what about last year’s books, I still haven’t worked my way through those yet. Even the Luminaries is still sitting on my shelf unread and unloved. And the year before?  Or the year before that again? I don’t even know where to begin with Hilary Mantel’s doorstops.

The problem for me with the Booker prize is that I know that I will never get through the long-lists (most of the time I won’t even have read even one book) before the winner is announced. Heck, this year several titles on the list had yet to be published. Which leaves me in a conundrum.  I would like to be part of the conversation, just like I will always put my two cents in about whose going to win this years Oscars. I want to be able to discuss the prize and speculate on a winner but I can’t. I feel that if I haven’t read the novels in question, then I’ve no right to an opinion on the matter.  Any thoughts I might have on who’s likely to win becomes based solely on whether or not I’ve read anything else that the authors nominated have written. This is unfair, because it is, after all, a book prize and not an author prize.

Then, of course, it leaves me with the question of whether I should try to tackle these books at all.  Do I look into Booker’s past and create a new master list where I try to read ALL booker nominated novels (and believe me I’m tempted to try) or do I only try to tackle those novels that grab my attention – booker or not.

I recognize that these are silly little first world book worm problems but it does bother me. I often feel left out of the conversation when it comes to book prizes but I’m not ready (and let’s face it, not willing) to clear some space to read nothing but booker nominated novels between August and October.

Anyone else feel like this? Or is it just me?

For the curious, the Booker Prize short-listed nominees for 2014 are:

Joshua Ferris – To Rise Again at a Decent Hour

Richard Flanagan – The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Karen Joy Fowler – We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Howard Jacobson – J

Neel Mukherjee – The Lives of Others

Ali Smith – How To Be Both

The winner will be announced tomorrow (14th October) at 21:30 BST.

4 Comment

  1. Reading all the Booker nominated books ever would be EPIC – just thinking about how big that would make your TBR pile gives me hives.

    Every year I get really excited about the Booker prize – I think it speaks to my parochial side because it’s one of the few times that Aussie authors get lots of international exposure (and I’m always not-so-secretly rooting for any Aussie books on the list). I always say I’m going to read the whole shortlist, but I invariably only ever get to the winner. For this year, I already have The Narrow Road to the Deep North on my shelf, so that one is definitely getting read – and I’m very intrigued by the Karen Joy Fowler book – but not sure about the others.

    1. thenovelprojectchronicle says: Reply

      Lol. Just thinking about it breaks me out in a rash 🙂

      I understand the parochial side where you want ‘your’ team to win. I think Irish writers often hit above their weight in literature but we have a very small island mentality too where we’ll all get behind even a tiny Irish success – so I completely relate.

      I’m curious about Karen Joy Fowler too – Lord knows when I’ll get to it though 🙂

      1. I did a little patriotic happy dance when I saw the news this morning! Doubly happy because The Narrow Road is already on my TBR, so the winning book hasn’t affected my pile – winning! 😉

        1. thenovelprojectchronicle says: Reply

          I thought of you last night when Flanagan won. Result!!! 🙂

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